Saturday, May 30, 2015

The LuLac Edition #2920, May 30th, 2015

Ellen and Robert Casey. (Photo: Pittsburgh Post Gazette).
15 years ago today the Commonwealth lost a great Pennsylvanian. On this day the 42nd Governor of the State died at the age of 68. If any public official can serve as an inspiration to us all, it was Robert Patrick Casey Senior.
Casey served as State Senator in the 22nd Senatorial District and then for two terms as Auditor General. He ran for Governor in 1966, 70, 78 and 1986 before winning the job he truly wanted. Casey had ample opportunities to do other things politically but doggedly kept his eye on the prize he wanted.
After winning a hard fought race against fellow Scrantonian Bill Scranton III, Casey took the helm. During his administration he was a strong advocate for Pro Life believers, a stance which put him in conflict with national Democrats.
Casey worked expanding health care services for women, introducing reforms to the state's welfare system, and introducing an insurance program for uninsured children (which became a model for the successful SCHIP program later adopted nationwide). Today the CHIP program still is in place and has helped scores of young people who got health care that they might not have been able to afford. To be blunt, this program saved lives.
Remember the "Capital for a Day" program? Casey started a mechanism where the state's official business was conducted from eighteen different communities throughout the state. In effect the executive government came into a town and conducted its business for all to see. Thousands of people were inspired to get into government because of that innovation.
The job he sought for so long came with a few bumps in the road. Casey had open heart surgery his first year in office and was later diagnosed with hereditary amyloidosis, an inherited condition characterized by the deposition of insoluble proteins in organs and tissues. Though rare, the disease had also claimed the lives of Pittsburgh Mayor Richard Caliguiri and Erie Mayor Louis Tullio in 1988 and 1990, respectively. To combat the disease, he underwent an extremely rare heart-liver transplant on the morning of June 14, 1993 at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. That day WARM had a full news team in Pittsburgh reporting on Casey’ progress.
Casey made history by naming Lt. Governor Mark Singel as the first Acting Governor in the history of the Commonwealth. Singel held that office until Dec. 13th when Casey returned to his job with a rousing capitol rotunda nearly shaking with thunderous applause..
Following his operation, Casey strongly supported legislation that encouraged organ transplants by guaranteeing access to the families of potential organ donors by organ recovery organizations, providing drivers' license identification of potential donors, and establishing an organ donation trust fund from voluntary donations to promote the benefits of organ donation. Today the organ donation trust fund is named in his honor.
My interactions with Casey were few but memorable. As a high school Democrat I followed Casey’s campaigns in 1966 and 1970. I also passed out flyers for him at the polls in 1968 when he ran for Auditor General. Casey served two terms before leaving office in 1977.
Casey had an apartment in Lemoyne, Pennsylvania. A friend of mine who got a job with the Navy base there in the 80s invited me to his new digs away from Wilkes Barre. It turned out to be the same place Casey stayed at while he was Auditor General. At least that’s the legend.
Casey was extremely kind to me in 1977 when as a very young broadcaster I had the opportunity to interview him on Channel 44. I was way too young to realize what a big deal it was and in hindsight I should have been terrified. What I do remember most is how Casey answered the questions and was very respectful and even helpful. With any other politician I’m sure there would have been a big meeting after that broadcast at the station but it went without incident because he was just that good on TV.
During a meeting when he was Governor I had the chance to say hello and chat with Mr. Casey. Our subjects were the budget and his upcoming plans for social service funding. 
My final encounter came on St. Patrick’s Day 1997. I was working at Rock 107 and as company policy mandated had to march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Afterward the staff made their way to Whistles and The Liedenkrantz. I made appearances but walked down to The Steamtown Mall where the former Governor was holding a book signing. His book, “Fighting For Life” had just come out and I wanted it signed. With his wife Ellen, Casey was dressed in a green sweater (befitting the day) and because there was no line we spoke about all of his campaigns. The ’66 campaign came up and Casey seemed surprised I was old enough to be part of that. I shrugged my shoulders and explained my entire family of Democrats were with him from the start. He said, “All supporters are appreciated but the ones right there from the start……….those are the best”. I got my book and went on my way very happy that I made the event.
Casey died on May 30th, 2000. He lived to see his son Bob Casey elected Auditor General, a position he once held. He had struggled health wise with the side effects of his disease and subsequent recovery. However he was seen about town at church and at Russell’s never leaving the confines of the place he loved, Scranton. He was waked at Marywood College and was laid to rest after a wonderful Mass that celebrated his truly wonderful life at St. Peter’s Cathedral.
The legacy of Robert Casey the Governor, the politician, and the public servant can be summed up in one question he kept asking over and over again when he was interviewed by former Scranton Mayor Jim McNulty on WYOU TV. Casey said the true measure of any person involved in public service should be measured by one standard. “What did you do when you had the power?” If only the politicians of today embraced that question!
If you take a look at Casey’s administration, his personal conduct and his legacy both public and personal…it is evident that Bob Casey Senior used his power well.
That’s why we remember him today, 15 years to the day after his passing. 

Casey met more than a few Kennedys. Here he is with the late Senator Robert Kennedy in 1964 when RFK gave keynote address at the Scranton St. Patrick's Day Dinner. (Photo: Times Tribune).
Here is Mr. Casey with Congressman Joe McDade and Edward Kennedy. (Photo: Times Tribune).
During the 1968 campaign Mr. Casey was seen with Hubert Humphrey and 14th District Senator Martin L. Murray. (Photo: Sunday Independent).
Here are a few brochure pieces from the 1970 campaign. (LuLac archives).

Then there were these 2 ads from the 1990 re-election campaign. (Note: The Dole Clinton debate for whatever reason is attached to these two commercials.)


At 11:15 AM, Blogger David DeCosmo said...

Great memories of a truly great man. On a personal note, it was so great to cover any event at which Governor Casey was present. There was always a..."Hello Dave. Hello Bob" from him when he saw me and my late cameraman Bob Dennis. Bob actually knew Ellen Casey before the Governor met her. The Governor never forgot where he came from and I treasure his memory.

At 8:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also have a personal touch with Gov Bob Casey. When the Greater Pittston friendly Son's of St Patrick was celebrating its 75th anniversary. Gov Casey stopped by the Mayfair for a quick appearance. That year, in celebrating the milestone of our 75th year, each officer and past president was presented with a gold tie tack in the form of a shamrock with a small diamond in the center. We also gave one to Gov. Casey. As he was leaving, he stopped, handed me his tie tack and said keep this as my thank you for all your help. I still have the one he gave me and I'm sure if I look long enough and hard enough I will find mine own. Probably still on one of my ties.
Wil Toole
76th Presdient
Gr Pit Friendly Sons of St Patrick


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