The first time I met Jim Casey, we were angling for the same job. What an awkward introduction. I’d been at the Sequim Gazette for eight years or so and thought I could run the newspaper from the editor’s chair. It turns out management — wisely, it turns out — wanted a more experienced hand. In walked Jim.
Still a bit hurt from not getting the job, I held on to some bitterness in our first face-to-face. As he talked, all of that dissipated in about 45 seconds. I quickly came to appreciate Jim — his journalistic knowledge, his wisdom and most of all, his heart. His empathy knew no bounds. Somehow, just five minutes after I met the guy, I knew I was going to enjoy working for him.
A few months into his tenure here, Jim and I met for a couple of drinks. Over the span of two hours or so, we talked about everything under the sun — and a few things on the far side of the moon. We had different belief systems, to be sure, but we also had a mutual respect for each other that I can only describe as spiritual kinship.
His tenure (January 2009-May 2010) at the Gazette, like a lot of things in life, ended rather abruptly and unceremoniously. Jim left the area for a number of years as I assumed the title we had both been up for about 15 months prior.
We kept in sparse contact over the years. I figured he would go into semi-retirement and perhaps write a book or two. So I was surprised to see him back in action not too long ago when he re-assumed a reporter role briefly with our sister paper, the Peninsula Daily News. As he recounted to me not long after that, his second stint at the PDN, he realized that he simply couldn’t do the job any longer. That broke his heart, it seemed, but only a little bit.
We caught up in late July at a Celebration of Life service for Walter Johnson, whom I knew as a Sequim School Board director but had his hands in about two-dozen community groups here and there. Jim spoke eloquently at Walter’s service, describing him as a “mensch” — a stand-up guy, someone who always had your back. As he was saying the words, I realized Jim — though he wouldn’t ever do it — could have been describing himself.
I always felt Jim had my back. I still do. Though Jim died on Aug. 9, I still will carry — or hope to, anyway — some of his empathy, his wisdom, his love of the craft of reporting into my work and my everyday life.
Michael Dashiell is editor of the Sequim Gazette. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.