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Tuesday June 30, 2015 Edition
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Celebrating Martin Casey And His Generation

photo by Photo Provided

photo by Photo Provided

photo by Photo Provided

Tuesday June 30, 2015

By Cookie Steponaitis

It was on Sunday, June 20, 2015 when Little City icon Martin Casey closed his eyes for the last time and left this earth to be with his wife Sylvia. Martin left behind a legacy that connected people, organizations, family and friends and bound together a community with thousands of visible and tangible threads of service. No one who knew Martin Casey was ever shortchanged and in his life and dealings with others Martin was a man of integrity, generosity, boundless energy and tenacity. He found joy in everyday living and good in all the people he met. He encouraged with a word, stepped forward without being asked, gave of himself and his talents and most importantly was present in the lives of so many. As another of the ‘Greatest Generation’ leaves us and they are continuing to do so at an alarming rate of 1200 a day nationwide, it behooves all of us to stop and remember Martin Casey and the experiences, messages and legacies of his generation.
    The America that Martin Casey and his generation were born into was in the midst of the largest economic crisis in American history. People did not feel singled out because as Martin put it ‘no one had any money.’ People worked hard and the Great Depression was evident in the Little City with the needs of the poor increasing and people traveling less and fixing more.  Martin grew up learning how to grow food, help neighbors and find small ways to make people’s lives better. He was a talented musician, electrician and a master at getting people on board with new projects. Martin and many of his generation are the founding members of such local organizations and clubs as Lions Club, Rotary, American Legion and civic projects involving pools, streets, water systems and restoration. Hard work was their way of changing the situation and their handshake was the legal document of the time. A person’s word was their bond and the way most business dealings were conducted.
    The generation that gave us Martin Casey and others also gave America its position in the world which was ranked fifteenth in production and economic prosperity when America entered World War Two and emerged from the conflict as a world power in 1945. The people left at home while Martin and the other men were away turned America into an industrial giant where the words ‘Made In America’ carried pride and a superb level of craftsmanship. Those Americans fixed their tractors, plows, toasters and many other items we today discard and replace. The products produced in America were sought after around the world not only for their new appeal but for the level of work and skill that created them.
    Martin’s generation was savers and planners and took the same dollar bill we see today and did more with it. They invested heavily in the future of their children and community and seemed to live by the ancient Greek proverb that wise men plant trees whose shade they know they will never sit in. They looked at paying cash as the best way to do business and if a loan was secured so was the way to pay it off as quickly as possible. They sold, traded, bargained and made a living but not a killing at the expense of their neighbors. They created cooperatives and sold collectively to benefit the local economy, while keeping well educated on the national news, landscape and events.
    As community members they were fiercely independent but still tightly connected. At card parties, dances, community bonfires and family parties and gatherings, they kept up with their neighbors and if they needed help the community responded. Barns were raised, donations made and food and clothing brought when the need arose. The churches were the backbone of a quiet communication network linking all parts of the county and when the word needed to get out, it was through these community connections that action took place.
    Faith in God, family and the future were also anchor points of Martin’s generation. They looked at their success in their life by the family they raised and the joy that came from their interactions and journeys. Most interviewed for this paper were not only humble but flabbergasted that their lives would be interesting to people today. Some mastered the computer and others passed. Others shared experiences of war and travel, but 95% focused on their families, marriages often spanning sixty or more years and their involvement in local churches, road work, civic organizations and schools.
    So as the Color Guard presents the honors at Martin’s funeral and his children step forward to receive their father’s flag for his service to America, a community will be close at hand to share stories, remembrances and thanks for a man who never stopped smiling and serving. This year’s Memorial Day Parade was one of Martin’s last community appearances and although he was feeling very ill greeted all with a smile and got his photo taken by many.  At a recent American Legion Fish Fry Martin was eating upstairs and the room was full of people. Most stopped in to see and eat but everyone seemed to make their way to the table of a man who had a smile for everyone, a quick joke and a way of making you feel important in a crowded room. The Little City mourns the passing of a man, but with his legacy firmly in place, celebrates all that he did and his generation gave. While some people feel history is simply a recording of the past in the case of Martin Casey and his generation it is so much more. It is the chronicle of a generation that defined America and passed on a foundation of freedom, civic pride and resourcefulness that is still alive and well in the Champlain Valley. Rest easy, Mr. Casey for we were blessed to have you in our lives and know very well that you simply handed off to all of us and the next generation a torch you held high.    

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