March 15, 2008

BLAST FROM THE PAST!

St. Patrick's Day was Mr. Casey's favorite holiday, so we honor him, our class sponsor, with a remembrance from his son, Tom.

A Tribute To A Father

      Joseph Raymond Casey was raised in Urbana, Ohio. Amid humble surroundings and hard working parents, he and his two brothers and sister (may all four rest in peace), thrived and adopted the Midwestern ethic of humility and kindness to fellow man. Deeply religious, he intended to join the priesthood. Somehow he managed to attend the University of Cincinnati, where two events changed his life. First he met Frances Schellhaus, a devout Catholic girl from Dayton, who herself was intent on joining the sisterhood. Love won them over, but their beliefs never wavered.

     Second, World War Two erupted, and Joe had already enrolled in the draft under the status of conscientious objector, which meant he would willingly serve his country in a non combat role. He was sent to California, and trained as a medic. While there he wrote some beautiful prose of love for Frances, and the glory of the Monterrey Coast. Although he served in Iwo Jima, and other horrific battle arenas, he never mentioned his experiences there to any of his four children that he would eventually bring into the world with Frances.

     Following the war, and completing his degree at Cincinnati, he moved for some reason to Wallace, Idaho, where the first born, Joseph P. Casey, and the second born, Thomas Aquinas Casey, arrived.

     This is son Tom writing. Mom once told me, when Dad taught school in Wallace, a small mining town, on his long walk  home the miners and townsfolk impeded his way, offering food for the family and thanks for making their children suddenly appreciate reading, poetry, classical music, and most of all, self respect. She did utter with some disdain, that on Fridays these same townsfolk would give him a glass of beer, and she always knew he would be home an hour late. 

     From there, he and Frances moved little Joe and Tom to Pueolpe, Washington, where Julia arrived. Soon thereafter, somehow he found his way to Winchester, Indiana. How, and why, remains a mystery. But he bought a big ol' house on East Franklin Street, on a thirty year contract, in 1953. Joe was a teacher, and the school had offered him a job. He could easily walk to work, (this was convenient, he didn't have a car for years). In Winchester, Maggie arrived. Maggie still lives in the big ol' house with Joe Brown. I think the house will forever be part of the family.

     Joe taught for years, and directed the local pageants at the park, writing, starring, and directing his own plays. Myriads of Winchester children became men and women under his tutelage. Stern and loving, you just had to learn something, he refused to allow a failure among his students. Fear and respect, and yes love, surrounded his presence in the classroom and in the hallways. A common comment among students heading to the next year, when they had scheduled Speech or College Grammar, was "I just hope I survive". A common comment of graduates was "I survived Speech and College Grammar, I can survive anything in life."

     For those of you in the Class of 1967, I hope you appreciate your senior play was Mr. Casey's proudest moment as a teacher. He wrote the script himself, directed it, and cajoled student participation.  He was even able to enlist those too "cool" to take part in the theater arts, as the evil Greek chorus. "Prometheus Unbound" became his shining glory. Whether anyone in the community understood it was not important. If I recall, the whole dang senior class was either gladly involved, or somehow persuaded to join the cast. Togas, ropes swinging from the rafters, good chorus vs. evil chorus, Dad was ever so proud. I remember sitting in the old Driver gym, on the old wooden bleachers, and thinking, my Dad is nuts. How did he get all these kids to be in his play?

     One small man, one beautiful heart, by force or tears or pleading, he reached deep into the souls of his students. I visit his gravesite every time I am home, resting with his beloved Frances. I always remind him: They still talk about you, Dad.

Sincerely,

Thomas Aquinas Casey