Senior Says: Moments of adversity create keys tests for personal belief

Dick Casey was 6 years old. He rubbed his eyes and took a breath of cool morning air. The atmosphere was crisp and dew spotted the fields. Yawning, he made his way over to the family barn. Pulling out a stool, he sat down, prepped a bucket and began milking the cow. With an entire family infected with smallpox, it was up to the six year old to do all of the dirty work.

“I remember I was milking the cows, and every so often I’d kind of nod off, and then the cow would go and kick me,” Dick laughed, his eyes crinkling at the corners.

Maurice Paul Casey, most commonly known as Dick Casey, is a 92-year-old resident at Windhaven in Cedar Falls. Casey was born in Alta Vista, Iowa, and raised on a farm in New Haven by his mother and father. He had four brothers and one sister.

The family had many values, but one of the things they valued most was faith. Church was an integral part of the Casey family. Dick and his brother were altar servers at mass since the time they were knee high.

A family rooted deeply in the church and its beliefs, Dick’s parents decided to send their children to a Catholic school in New Haven. “I was the fourth smartest kid in my class,” Dick said smiling. “Of course, that’s only because there were only four of us.” He winked, laughing at his own joke.

In 1943, Dick took basic training and went into the service. A member of the 4th infantry division in Europe, he was shipped overseas in 1944 and arrived in England on his 20th birthday. Throughout his deployment, he went through France, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and ended his outfit in the southern part of Germany when the war ended in 1945.

“I saw thousands of guys get killed, and I still pray for the guys that I was with, and the German soldiers too because someone talked them into going,” his voice broke, “and that was just the way it was.”

There weren’t many places for Dick to go to mass while deployed, so many times throughout his service he attended mass in cow barns. However, after his troops recaptured Paris, Dick and his fellow soldiers were able to attend mass at the Notre Dame cathedral.

“Even with all of the bombing and all that, the only damage on the cathedral was one section the size of a softball,” he described in awe. He closed his eyes and pictured the grand church.

Dick arrived home in October of 1945, and a few short months after, he met his wife, Jean Dillavou.

“We met in a tavern in ’46, and then we got married in ’47 on May the 24th.” He smiled softly and looked up at a picture of her hanging on the wall. “That’s a picture of when she graduated from high school.”

Dick and Jean were married for 67 years. The two lived in Waterloo, and Dick worked as a mail carrier for 35 years. They had two sons and three grandchildren.

Over the years, Dick has been graced with countless blessings, and a fair share of hardships, but among all of it he hasn’t lost his humor.

He shared what his experiences have taught him. “This life is not for sissies,” he said with a laugh. “They’re always saying old age is not for sissies, but life is not for sissies either.”

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