“Progress is man’s ability to complicate simplicity”
If you’ve never lived in a small town, its allure can be hard to understand. Living in a rural environment gives one a sense of security and familiarity. The love of rural life speaks volumes in country songs and poems.
There was a time when growing up in Richmond Hill meant one could name everyone in his or her graduation class. If you decided to walk home after basketball practice, several people stopped to ask if you needed a ride. When giving directions, the Crossroads was always used as a point of reference.
Before teenagers got their driver’s licenses, they drove around the neighborhood in their mom’s car. The people accepted it as proof the children were growing up and had to learn to drive safely. Surely, Richmond Hill adopted an old African proverb “It takes a community to raise a child.”
Russ Carpenter and Leanne Rogers Lovell believe at least two people took that proverb to heart. The many teenagers they nurtured will always remember Mike and Dorita Casey. They had two children, Tim and Tina, who share their parents way of making everyone welcome. Russ and Leanne recall poignant memories of the Casey’s hospitality:
“There was always something going on at the Casey’s," Russ said. "It didn’t matter if it was a party or a dozen teenagers playing video games, riding four-wheelers or playing basketball… you were always welcome. There was always food and a lot of it…especially seafood. It was as if Dorita’s mission was to cook.”
Although it’s been years ago, Leanne remembers, “Mike would be sitting on the couch and Dorita cooking crab stew to die for! It wasn’t just any house…it was ‘The Casey House,’ where we were safe and could still be silly teenagers.”
Dorita commented, “I can remember when there were 15 teenagers sitting at my dinner table. Our house was always full. I believe love grows in small spaces. In larger homes, there’s usually a TV in every room…no one talks to each other much.”
Dorita Casey is a special woman. When her parents divorced, she was a young girl with four younger siblings. It was then she learned and accepted responsibility. Without a lot of relatives nearby, she yearned for the closeness of family. At 17 she and Mike married and once again found herself in a position of enormous responsibility. Mike’s mother, Ann, became very ill and needed help. Dorita and Mike’s sister Karen shared responsibility until Ann died.
Speaking barely above a whisper, Dorita revealed, “I grew up with very little and appreciated someone sharing with me. I’m glad I can now help others. Many kids shared the love in our house. Their last name may not have been Casey, but they were family to us.” To name a few:
Ashley and Robert Anderson; Michael Barnett; Robin Brown; Russ Carpenter; Tara Hibbs Casey; Trey Coursey; Lisa and Sherry Cox; Dean and Chris Davis; Diane, Earl and Gary Futch; Doug, Melanie and Mindy Galbreath; Liz Grizzard; Monty Groover; Mark Harrison; Keevin Henderson; Kenny Jones; Adam Keller; Krenson Kniffer; Tina Lee; Derick Meadows; Candace Neesmith; Larry and Tanyah Phillips; Randy Poole; Audrey Proman; Donna Pye; Frank Rushing; Leanne and Lloyd Rogers; Lori and Michael Sauls; Deanne Shuman; Leslie Smith; Damon and Scott Stafford; Johnny and Steven Strickland; Ashley Ward; Tanyah Williams; and Little Deb Williamson.
Big Charlie Anderson rode by the Casey’s house one evening and saw a lot of cars there. When he got home, he called Dorita and said, “I hate to call you, but I have to ask who died?” Laughingly, Dorita told him no one died, it was just some of Tina and Tim’s friends visiting.
Then, the Casey’s had no way of knowing how important they were to those young people. In one of my conversations with Dorita, I talked about how generous she was to constantly cook for so many.
In her gracious manner, she replied, “It was all Mike’s doing. He made it possible by bringing food into the house. I just cooked it.” Today, Tim and Tina’s kids and their friends hang out at Mike and Dorita’s…it begins again.
"The Casey House" on Ford Avenue has just been torn down. It was where former Mayor Bud Casey and Ann raised four children over 50 years ago…where many teenagers found solace and happiness. Saddened by the destruction of an icon of their youth, the dismantling of the house is reminiscent of innocence lost. A piece of their childhood has been torn away. Russ sums it up, “To see the house torn down depresses me. I know this is progress, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.”
The house is gone…but the memories live on.
Hiers was born and raised in Richmond Hill. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.