Joan M. Casey

1934 - 2019
Joan M. Casey Notice
A daughter of New England whose persistent search for light, warmth, and favorable tennis weather led her to relocate to Florida, Joan M. Casey (née Jane Martha Redman) passed away peacefully on September 29, in Boca Raton. She was 85 years old; the cause was heart failure. Born on March 24, 1934, in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, she was the daughter of Charles E. Redman and Mary Jane Viens. Joan married Edward F. Casey of Attleboro, Massachusetts, in 1953. The couple had four children: Edward Joseph of North Attleboro, Jane of Bangkok, Thailand and Blenheim, New Zealand, John of North Attleboro, and Jennifer of Los Angeles, California.

As a young wife in a conservative town at a conventional time, Joan devoted herself to raising her family while Ed held down a day job and attended law school at night. As her husband's practice and the children grew, Joan, who revered education, attended occasional classes at Providence College. This love of learning is among the most enduring of her legacies to her children, who all have advanced degrees. Edward, John, and Jennifer took JDs; Jane earned a PhD in Fine Arts. Joan's pride in their accomplishments was evident to all who knew her. Edward practices law and maintains a robust civic engagement in his hometown; Jane is an independent scholar and collector of Asian art; John is Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Probate and Family Courts; Jennifer is Director of Operations at Avenue Interior Design in Los Angeles.

After her marriage of nearly three decades ended, Joan found strength and solace in study, taking a degree in Philosophy at Providence College. A member of the class of 1976, she graduated summa cum laude, with the highest commendation in her major. The next year Joan approached Sr. Mary Faith Harding, R.S.M., principal of Bishop Feehan High School in Attleboro, offering to teach a course that she had designed. Her argument must have been persuasive, because, although the academic year was already underway, a small cadre of honors students was pulled from various classes-in-progress to be the first to take the new "Humanities" course. Feehan had nothing like this wide-ranging seminar on Western culture from the Greeks through the Existentialists (in a Catholic high school!) with stops at Goethe and Tolstoy along the way.

In the classroom, she was like The Tempest's Ariel-she "flamed amazement." As she lectured, her diminutive frame barely contained an intensity that gave off not only light but heat; she sparked her students' intellects and lit the dimmer corners of their curiosity. There are natural teachers, and Joan Casey was one. Though this was something any of her children could have told her, she only came to believe it of herself at Feehan. And while her devotion to and deep, abiding love for her family described the arc of her life, teaching marked a major turning point for Joan. It gave her a new identity, a new way in the world. Her son John has said that "in many ways the opportunity to teach, motivate, and not unimportantly, support herself financially, saved her life."

After finishing her master's degree at Salve Regina in Newport, Rhode Island, Joan returned to her beloved Providence College as a faculty member. One evening in 1985 while she and a friend were having a drink at Providence's Biltmore Hotel, she caught the eye of a distinguished gentleman. Able to wear her erudition lightly and so talk to anyone on almost any subject with intelligence and wit, Joan was also lovely, petite, and charming. Soon James F. Morrill, CEO of Rhode Island Forging Steel Company, was completely smitten. He would be the companion of the rest of her life.

Together they soon headed south for Delray Beach, Florida, a place in the sun where Joan thrived on a regimen of tennis, shoreline strolls, and dining al fresco. It was a perfect home base from which they could travel for pleasure, James' business, or to visit her growing clan. In addition to James, her children and their spouses, she is survived by five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. She will be much missed by them, numerous friends, and former students.

Such a vivid presence as Joan M. Casey possessed seems to promise what it can only perform in acts of memory and rituals of mourning: an evergreen permanence. That she has gone is inconceivable, because it is not true. She has merely forsaken the Sunshine State to take up residence in the brighter chambers of her loved ones' hearts. The home they make for her there will keep her warm, indeed. Funeral and burial arrangements are private; a memorial service in Florida is being planned.

Donations may be made in Joan's name to the Excelsior Fund payable to Bishop Feehan High School, 70 Holcott Drive, Attleboro, MA 02703.
Published in Sun Chronicle on Oct. 26, 2019
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