George Casey Dies in 1957

The Casey Family

The anticipation of the company’s golden anniversary in 1957 was overshadowed by the death of another partner. George W. Casey died of natural causes in February 1957, two weeks shy of his 64th birthday and six months before the 50'th anniversary of UPS.

Upon his death, it was said that George was “one of the greatest contributors in the fashioning of UPS character….he helped give the company a reputation for integrity and dignity in all its dealings.”

George Casey, the younger brother of Jim, was himself an achiever and certainly contributed to the success of UPS. Joining the company as a youngster, he originally worked part-time as a messenger and solicited business the rest of the time. He was paid 15 cents an hour plus commission.

After WW I George Casey returned from the U. S. Navy to join the other three partners (Jim Casey, Evert McCabe and Charlie Soderstrom) in their expansion plans. In 1930, when Jim and Mac went to New York, George assumed control of all of the operations in California, Oregon and Washington, in effect becoming the first region manager. His original title was President of UPS West Coast. Under his experience and meticulous management the West Coast operations prospered. 

George was an exacting taskmaster with the highest possible standards. He was a detailed planner who inscribed upon the company the uppermost levels of service and operations. He was a confirmed perfectionist with a natural disposition toward neatness and order.  

A 1942 Big Idea article said about George Casey, “His knowledge of the delivery business is basic. His many years of continuous service, dealing with problems of all kinds, have given him a breadth of delivery experience hard to match. He is known for his sound judgment in making important decisions, and has had a leading part in formulating the general policies which have made the company successful.”

Late in life, George Casey married Verle Sheehan, his mother’s brother’s child. Because of the fact that they were first cousins and were Cathholic, they had to get a special dispensation by the Pope to marry. Also because of the relationship, the pair decided against having children and they didn’t.

George looked frail, always wore glasses, was soft-spoken, and sported a full head of wavy brown hair. He was a modest and retiring person and one who shunned publicity. He disliked pretentiousness and could be candidly honest. George Casey had an ability to quickly judge the true nature of people.

He set an example in the maintenance of equipment and in the selection and training of people. His reputation for integrity helped give UPS character, depth and substance.

A 50th Anniversary brochure revealed,  “Those who have known his loyalty and encouragement and who have gained confidence in themselves from the confidence he placed in them will feel most keenly this loss in their lives.”  From then on Jim Casey was on his own—with the help of many new partners in the business.  


Jim’s family relationships

Jim Casey never married, although in his later years he had a friend who served many roles for Jim. She was a typical New Yorker and had seldom, if ever, driven a car, yet in addition to being a private secretary and companion, she learned to drive Jim around.  

          Jim Casey’s mother was an integral influence on him. He never forgot her inspiration and encouragement. He commented that she was very prudent and frugal, attributes that became part of Jim Casey’s heritage. He vividly recalled how his mother always kept her children’s clothes clean and mended even when money was scarce, setting an example for neatness that became a Casey hallmark. He also credited his mother with instilling a code of ethics in her children.

          In 1948, Jim, Harry, George and Marguerite honored their mother by establishing the Annie E. Casey Foundation. After about that time, Annie spent her remaining years in her Seattle home in  Broadmoor, where she had lived since it was built in 1927. She suffered a stroke in 1959 and was put in a hospital bed with 24 hour nursing care and died in October of 1962. Henry’s widow lived to see her husband’s dreams materialize in the next generation, notably through the efforts of their son Jim.

Being in New York a good percentage of his life, Jim Casey did not have family close by and used his old friend, the telephone, to maintain contact. He talked to George in Los Angeles (when he was president of the West Coast operations) almost daily. He called his brother Harry in Portland frequently, and his mother and sister in Seattle quite regularly.

Jim used to go to Seattle to visit his mother and sister two or three times a year, one of those times always being Christmas, and that was a chance for the family to get together, setting the stage for future Casey family Christmas gatherings that continued for years.


Jim’s family

          Of the four Casey siblings, only Harry had children. Jim and Marguerite never married. Marguerite lived in a large old home in Seattle and worshiped her older brother Jim. She attended Washington district open houses, such as when they moved into a new building in 1972 and on the company’s 70th anniversary in 1977.

          She called upon Washington district UPSers from time to time to help her with various and mundane chores, jobs they respectfully and willingly obliged. One manager told me that when he was a driver he used to go to her house on a regular basis to back her car out of the narrow driveway. He  mentioned that she treated the drivers with respect.

          Marguerite Casey, the youngest sibling, died in 1987 at the age of 87. 

          As mentioned, late in life George Casey married his first cousin, Verle Sheehan, his mother’s brother’s child.


Harry Casey and family

          Henry Joseph (Harry) Casey, the number two son, was born in July, 1890. Called H.J. by his family and friends, he quit school at the age of 12 to go to work to help support the family. He initially earned $2.50 a week as a cash-boy at Bon Marché. In 1909, the year he turned 19, he married the local grocer’s daughter, Christina May Paul. In 1910, the young couple moved to Portland, Oregon.

          Later, Harry admitted, “I didn’t want to work at American Messenger Company. I didn’t see any future in it. That shows you what I know, how wrong I was.”

          Harry established himself in Portland and went to work for Ford. He suggested to a co-worker named Talbot that “Instead of making these cars, why don’t we sell them?” Thus in 1917, Talbot and Casey Ford became the first Ford dealership on Portland’s east side.

In 1919, Harry and May bought a house on Sandy Boulevard in Portland where they raised their three children: Harriett (1915-1981), Elva May (1917-1992), and Paul Henry (1928-).  

          Harry Casey, the last surviving member of the four children of Henry and Annie Casey, lived to the ripe old age of 101, dying in 1992, in that same home he bought in 1919

Daughter Harriett married Edward Schreiber and they had two children, Heather and Edward Jr.

          Elva May married a man named George R. Brooks and they raised four children, Eileen, Patrick, and the twins Gretchen and Rebecca.

          Paul Casey was a student at Oregon State University when he met Shirley Gaffers on a trip to the Los Angeles area. They married, settled in southern California, and raised three children, Timothy, Michael, and Maureen.

          Today Paul lives in Washington state across the river from the family’s original home in Portland, Oregon. He still owns Harry’s old 1922 Leland Lincoln which has only 28,000 miles on it. Paul has since restored the vehicle and it is resting comfortably in his son’s garage. 

          Paul became a teacher, but is retired now and enjoys frequent traveling. He owns a large ranch in South Africa and has become a world-class hunter. His home is filled with trophy heads and horns. He also has been awarded a barony in Ireland, the ancestral home. He still maintains frequent contact with top executives of United Parcel Service, the company founded by his uncles. 


Family gatherings

          For years, beginning about 1946 and continuing to 1957 when George died, the Casey family’s annual Christmas gathering moved from Seattle to Palm Springs, California, where Annie and Marguerite spent a good deal of the winter. They stayed at The Desert Inn, a famous desert resort established by pioneer innkeeper Nellie Coffman. Coffman later even wrote that the Casey family were honored guests.

          Jim Casey would generally just fly out west for a few days and join the others: his mother Annie, and sister Marguerite, Harry and May, and Verle and George. Harry’s son Paul reported that he was always included, and later his wife as well. 

For the close-knit adult Casey family members, it was a time for relaxation. Jim enjoyed being with the family, but even on those days, he would find a quiet spot in the afternoon, open his briefcase, and go to work writing on yellow legal pads in pencil.

Jim also often took  precious family time to personally read all of his Christmas cards on Christmas Day. “He had a whole box of them,” one family member related, “And he would spend hours going through that big box. He told us that if those people cared enough to send Christmas greetings that they were meant to be read at Christmas time.” He would also personally address and send his own Christmas cards with a personal inscription.

          While not obsessively religious, the Casey family members were, as were most Irish immigrants, good Catholics. During his life, Jim had made several donations to Seattle University, a college established by the Catholic Jesuit Order.


A Thrifty idea

          Some of the family members were also puzzled by what they considered Jim’s thrift. While he was anything but cheap, and was a giving and caring person, he still watched where the money went. One said, “He would even wait until night to make telephone calls because the rates were cheaper.”

          In fact, part of the Casey family lore—which is probably true—is that Jim Casey was responsible for the phone companies offering reduced telephone rates at night. It seems he knew the president of AT&T and suggested to him that as the telephone lines weren’t used as much at night, that the company should offer reduced rates. The rest is history and Jim Casey was one of millions who benefited from the suggestion. 

          Most of the younger generations were kids during those family gatherings and their recollections were more of a big friendly gathering. Even the kids, however, knew to respect Jim, the family patriarch. He was not a real warm and cuddly uncle or great uncle, but he was a friendly, polite, gentle, extremely caring, and ethical one.

          Tim Casey said one of the lessons he learned from his great uncle Jim is his work ethic. “I try to emulate him,” he said, “And I really have to thank him for his ethics and integrity. They’re hard to live up to.” 

The younger Caseys all feel that the biggest factor for the success of UPS was the management ownership concept, a real innovation at the time. “I was surprised when UPS went public in 1999,” said Tim, “but I suppose it was unavoidable.”   

          Casey family members are very private people. They now have their own family gatherings in Cabo San Lucas,  Ireland, South Africa, Portland, or elsewhere. They retain a lot of pride in the company that was founded by Jim Casey, yet are very low key about it. Many of their best friends do not even know of their association with United Parcel Service. And they’d like to keep it that way.

          While the close-knit family enjoys their privacy, they all stay abreast of the happenings of one of America’s largest companies, and not without a small amount of pride. It’s seeing something built by one of their own that has grown to gargantuan proportions, a bit awesome and a whole lot proprietary. It’s like a “pinch me to see if it’s real” story of success.   

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