Remembering Mort Casson

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[From the Church Hill Association Newsletter; August, 2011]

Ann and Mort Casson while on a trip to Costa Rica (photo courtesy of Gayle and Jerry Casson).

The night of June 6th, the Church Hill Association lost an outstanding member, the community lost an important supporter, and many lost a valuable friend when Mort Casson died peacefully at home on Libby Terrace.

Mort, and his wife Ann, who died in 2002, were fixtures at CHA meetings for years. When he spoke, Mort’s comments were intelligent, empirical and insightful. He was a member of the CHA Board for two terms and Chairman of the Zoning Committee for several years. As Zoning Secretary I attended zoning meetings in his home. He conducted business with fairness and equity for all sides while heeding the committee’s responsibility to facilitate useful and appropriate projects within Historic Districts and on their borders.

In the 1970’s, Mort and Ann moved to Richmond from King of Prussia, Pennsylvania where Mort had built a career in the addiction sciences. Mort was the first Assistant Commissioner for Substance Abuse in Virginia and helped build a statewide public sector treatment network working with the State Departments of Mental Health and Health. Highly regarded in his field, Mort later certified programs around the country for the Joint Commission. Mort and Ann lived for years in the near West End a mile or so from the Village Shopping Center where they raised their son Jerry. There they experienced the cordial disconnectedness that characterizes most American neighborhoods.

After Jerry graduated from UVa they sought a new neighborhood—one with a sense of community. A year later they moved to Church Hill overlooking the river.

In 2002, the Reed Square Foundation, of which I’m a member, announced it was raising money to save Reed Square from development. Shortly thereafter Mort spoke to me at High on the Hog and asked how things were going with the Foundation. I answered as best I could for a young charitable organization getting its bearings. Mort wrote a check and handed it to me saying, “This will help get you get started.” The donation was munificent. I will always remember and be grateful to Mort Casson for his generosity to the Foundation and for the personal friendship and trust it expressed to me. I have since learned that Mort was similarly generous and supportive of many groups in Richmond: the Richmond Ballet, Rubicon, The Daily Planet and others.

The last months of Mort’s life were spent planning a move to Seattle to be with Jerry and his wife Gayle. He was in the process of selling his house to neighbors and had bought into a high rise retirement development in Seattle with a fine view of Mt. Rainier. He almost made it.

Mort was one of the finest men I’ve every known. I’ll think of him often and miss him greatly.

Submitted by Tom Sanders
 

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