Dr. Clifford H. Casey

Dr. Clifford H. Casey, Voorheesville, obituary

Dr. Clifford H. Casey

VOORHEESVILLE — Dr. Clifford H. Casey would often answer the phone by asking, “Hey, what’s busted?”

He liked to fix things — tinkering with broken lawnmowers or chainsaws in his workshop or listening in his office to patients with broken hearts or setting broken arms.

“He was a guy who always wanted to help with a problem,” said his son, Charlie Casey.

With his wife, Shirley, Dr. Casey attended to the medical needs of friends and neighbors in Voorheesville for nearly five decades. He died at home on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016, of an apparent heart attack. He was 89.

Born in 1927, he was the son of the late Horace and Edith (née Herber) Casey of Elsmere. His father was a lawyer and his mother taught in a one-room schoolhouse before she married and stayed home to raise her two sons.

“He was well connected,” said Charlie Casey of his father. “He would tell us stories about the friends he had in the little community of Elsmere, mostly about the trouble they got in.”

Many of those boys were his friends for life. “That was a pattern he had,” said his son. “He made friends wherever he went, and he kept them.”

He spent summers with his family in Maine and decided to become a doctor one summer when he was 11 or 12.

That summer, he fell ill with appendicitis. “This was before they had laparoscopic surgery, and they used ether for anesthesia,” said his son. “He was in a little coastal hospital in Maine for three weeks. He noticed how the doctors were helping him — and he noticed a lot of nurses. He got interested in the healing arts, and a career with all those pretty nurses.”

Later, he would marry one.

He graduated from Bethlehem High School in 1944 as class president, and went on to earn a degree in biology from Union College in 1949. His college education was interrupted by service in United States Navy hospitals in Bainbridge, Maryland, and St. Albans, New York.

He met Shirley Atkins, a nurse from Westerlo, on a blind date. They dated for four years and were married on June 27, 1953.

Dr. Casey earned his medical degree from Albany Medical College in 1955. He did a one-year internship at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, Maine, and then a three-year residency in internal medicine at Albany Medical Center Hospital.

Since 1959, he and his wife ran their “mom and pop” medical practice out of their home at 6 Voorheesville Ave.

“My Mom and Dad were a team,” said Mr. Casey. “Dad was from Elsmere. Mom was from Westerlo. They picked Voorheesville. They wanted to do small-town medicine — where you know everybody and their kids.”

Active in the Voorheesville community, Dr. Casey was a 32-year member of the village’s volunteer fire department, and he helped build the original garage for the Voorheesville ambulance. He was the physician for Voorheesville schools and a fixture on the sidelines at Blackbirds football games.

Most mornings — while Mrs. Casey set appointments and ran the office — the doctor made rounds at Albany Medical Center and local nursing homes, sometimes with his two sons in tow.

Dr. Casey was a longtime member of the house staff at Albany Medical Center. He was also a professor at Albany Medical College, and he mentored a number of interns in family medicine.

Charlie Casey remembers how he and his brother would “raid the candy at the nurses’ station” in Albany Medical Center. And, at the Guilderland Center nursing home, he recalled, “I would buzz up and down the hall on an electric cart.”

He described Dr. Casey as a “phenomenal” father. “Even though he was working, he was always here,” he said.

Charlie Casey recalled coming home from school to a waiting room full of patients. If one of his friends was there for a shot, the boys would play until it was time for the shot.

The doctor was always available to those in need. “People would knock on the door in the middle of the night,” said Mr. Casey. “He’d be mowing the lawn, and someone would come by with a bad reaction to a bee sting or with a bleeding cut. He’d fix people up in the driveway or garage.”

And, his son said, “If you had an appointment, you’d better bring a book. He’d take a lot of time with everyone who came in…The exam was the short part; the rest of it was social — talking about families, about where the kids are, about what they do for work. He spent time to get to know people…Someone who lost a loved one would come to the office and talk it over… Medicine was as much social as medical.”

Many family excursions included impromptu house calls, his son said.

Dr. Casey retired in 2004 with a community party that celebrated his connection to Voorheesville and the disappearing profession of small-town family medicine.

Outside of his medical practice, Dr. Casey’s interests were wide and constant. He was centered with his family.

“Clif and Shirley, constant companions for 63 years, enjoyed car rides and dining out,” Charlie Casey wrote in a tribute. “Hours before he died, they had lunch in Duanesburg and took a drive through the fall foliage of the Helderbergs.

“He was well known to ‘score a few points’ by stopping along roadsides to cut flowers for his wife, and he knew the locations of a variety of species. He led his children and grandchildren on explorations that invariably included stops for ice cream, candy, and doughnuts.”

Throughout his life, he continued the practice of his youth —spending summers with his family at their lake camp in Surry, Maine, where the nighttime call of loons reminded him of the train whistles in Voorheesville. “In August, during his last visit to Maine, he spent the month reconnecting with friends, enjoying his grandchildren, and supervising the restoration of a childhood boat,” his son wrote. “He also delighted in playing one last time with his friends in the Fletcher’s Landing Philharmonic Orchestra, a Dixieland ensemble, and the Ellsworth City Band.”

A musician who came of age in the Big Band era, Dr. Casey played clarinet and saxophones in bands in the Capital Region and in Maine. He played in the Delmar Orchestra and Dixieland bands — “for whoever would take him,” said Mr. Casey.

“Glenn Miller for him was like the Beatles,” said his son. “Back in the day, you’d play clarinet or saxophone and join a band. In Maine, where he spent summers, when he was 15, his parents would let him go out and play gigs and sleep overnight in the attic of a musician’s house.”

The son of a band director from Dr. Casey’s youth in Maine now runs a band of his own, which Dr. Casey played in.

He was also a ham radio operator, starting when he was in medical school. “In those days, with no internet and no cell phones, it was exotic to tune in somebody in Burma,” said his son.

For years he would use the radios — one in his car and one at home — to communicate with his wife as he visited nursing homes and made hospital rounds.

He and his wife loved to travel. A favorite destination was Hawaii, where their family joined them for a 50th wedding anniversary celebration. Holland was a favorite in their European travels. “They loved the tulips,” said Mr. Casey. They also went on safari in Africa and rode a hot-air balloon over the savannah.

Wherever he went, Dr. Casey was interested in people.

He taught his sons to “always learn from meeting people,” said Mr. Casey. “No matter who they are or what they do, he gave us that inquisitive nature to get to know people.”

Dr. Casey kept his inquisitive nature until the end. “He was in great health for an 89-year-old,” said his son. Dr. Casey had rebounded from a heart valve replacement. “He did not slow down.”

On the day he died, his son said, “He was watching football one minute and not with us the next. He said that was the way he wanted to go.”

Mr. Casey described his father as “wildly self-deprecating.”

“In the late ’70s, when Herb and Sue Reilly opened a funeral home just about across the street from his office, he said, ‘How convenient,’” Mr. Casey recalled.

One of Dr. Casey’s consistent jokes was, when someone learned he was a doctor and asked, “What kind of doctor are you?” he would answer, “So-so.”

On Saturday night, in the emergency room, when a doctor told Mr. Casey his father had died, he inquired what kind of doctor he had been.

“I had to say it one last time — ‘So-so,’” said Mr. Casey.

****

Dr. Clifford H. Casey is survived by his wife, Shirley (née Atkins) Casey; his two sons, Art Casey and his wife, Sue, of Canton, Connecticut, and Charlie Casey and his wife, Barb, of Alplaus; his brother, Arthur Casey, of Clifton Park; his niece, Ann Bullock of Saratoga Springs; his nephew, David Casey of Burlington, Vermont; and six grandchildren, Matt, Brian, Sarah, Megan, Jillian, and Andy.

Calling hours will be Friday, Oct. 14, from 4 to 8 p.m. at Reilly & Son Funeral Home at 9 Voorheesville Ave. in Voorheesville. A memorial service is planned for Saturday at 1 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church of Voorheesville at 68 Maple Ave.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Voorheesville Volunteer Fire Department, 12 Altamont Rd., Voorheesville, N.Y. 12186

—   Melissa Hale-Spencer

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