dranthonysblog

April 24, 2011

A life…

The boy was visiting his mother in a sanatorium in southern California when a family friend asked if he could deliver a message for him.  The friend was a young army officer from Peru who like the boy’s mother was also being treated for tuberculosis.  The boy agreed and soon hopped on the blue line headed for the Chilean consulate in Los Angeles.  After a brief ride, he entered the imposing building and was asked to sit and wait.  In a few moments a distinguished looking lady emerged and he gave her the note. The lady thanked the boy and offered him some cookies and cocoa.  While he enjoyed the snack she talked to him for a few minutes.  When he was finished, she walked the boy to the door, and told him to “always work hard, keep up your studies, and take care of your family.”

It was the early 1940’s and the world was in the midst of a second great war.  The lady was Lucila Godoy y Alcayaga, also known as Gabriela Mistral.  She was a diplomat, educator, feminist and writer who later was the first Hispanic to receive a Nobel Prize in literature.  The boy later said that he never forgot the conversation nor the simple advice he received during that brief meeting early on in his life.

The boy’s mother recovered thanks to cutting edge treatment that she received paid for by the boy and his father working long hours at multiple jobs during her treatment.  His mother and father were immigrants to the country and, though you would never know it from listening to him speak, his first language was not English. His parents believed in education and hard work, and they provided their son with music lessons from an early age.  He quickly excelled and was able to literally play the piano by ear.  He had his own band by the time he was in junior high and played throughout southern California.  He later said that music saved him from getting more involved in gangs that were prevalent in southern California, even in those days.

In college, he worked for the school paper and met and wrote about many people, including American jazz performer and composer, Gene Krupa.  One of his early teachers was a visiting anthropology professor named Margaret Mead.  He was the first in his family to complete both high school and college, graduating with an associate’s degree in science.

The young man enlisted in the Air Force after completing his studies with the hope of becoming a pilot.  He finished his training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas and was assigned to work at Eglin Air Force Base, in Pensacola, Florida.  His boss, then Colonel, and later General, Paul Tibbets, was the base commander.  Several years earlier, Tibbets was commissioned by President Roosevelt to fly the plane that dropped the bomb that helped to end the Second World War.  He was then the supervisor who allowed the young airman to moonlight after hours, where he played jazz from Fort Walton Beach to New Orleans.

It was in Florida where the young man met the love of his life, a 20-year-old, former cheerleader from Boise, Idaho. She, unlike many young women in those days, joined the service to see the world.  They married in 1955 and shortly afterwards both were honorably discharged from the military.  The young man later said that this period in his life was among the best years, no doubt due in part at least to the sunny beaches, youthful diversions, and many lasting friendships that he made there.

The man and his wife moved to southern California where they established a restaurant in Anaheim.  Soon after, an amusement park opened across the street from their business.  The restaurant unfortunately did not last long, but the amusement park is still entertaining millions of visitors each year, many sporting now iconic mouse ears.

The man went back to college and in a couple of years he completed a bachelor’s degree in Political Science.  He soon landed a position working for the state as a parole agent.  Promotions came quickly and less than 10 years later he was selected to head a first of its kind task force made up of FBI, local police agencies, and federal border officials who worked closely with the Mexican government to crack down on crime across the border.  Later he wrote, produced, and gave a highly acclaimed film, Basta, to the state of California.  The work provided much-needed training about prison gangs, a topic that up to that time was not given serious consideration.  He was eventually appointed as California’s first Latino, Deputy Director of the State Department of Corrections, by the then governor, Jerry Brown, who interestingly holds the same position again today.

Before retiring, the man now a grandfather was credited with helping to thwart a prison break at San Quentin State Prison that was being planned by Charles Manson.  At San Quentin, he also met Carlos Santana, who he later “jammed” with.  He was also interviewed on the popular news television show 60 Minutes about his career and expertise with prison gangs which in part due to his ground breaking work was now recognized as an important problem that plagues prisons across the U.S.

After retiring the grandfather moved to the desert and worked for Sonny Bono’s city administration in Palm Springs.  He was hired as the youth court coordinator through an innovative program that employed peers to hear and sentence youth offenders.  During this time, he also consulted for Paramount Studios on the making of “American Me” which was a movie produced by Edward James Olmos.  He later obtained his private investigator’s license and founded a consulting firm that specialized in working on cases that involved the death penalty.

During his life he traveled from Europe to Asia, helped to raise 5 children, had 7 grandchildren, and was married over 50 years.  He also published articles, taught, mentored many, and had more friends, famous, infamous, and regular, than most of us will ever know.  He worked almost up to the end of his life writing and consulting before finally passing on.

Shortly before he died, I asked him if he had any regrets.  He looked at me with tired but alert eyes and said quite simply that he really had none and that he felt he was blessed with a wonderful life to which I responded, “Yes Dad you were!”

My father, Anthony Casas, Sr. (1929 – 2006), has been gone 5 years yesterday, and I feel fortunate to have known him and now you know a little about his life as well.  As dad often said, because he was a musician at heart, “be cool!”

7 Comments »

  1. He WAS cool…:*)

    Comment by wittybizgal — April 26, 2011 @ 4:35 pm | Reply

  2. What a heartfelt story.thank you for sharing it

    Comment by michelle boles — April 28, 2011 @ 11:27 pm | Reply

  3. JR., YOUR FATHER AND I WERE VERY CLOSE, AS WERE DORTHORY AND MY WIFE BELIA. (BELIA PASSED AWAY LAST JULY 20. WE VISITED YOUR DAD A FEW TIMES IN THE DESERT AND HAD A FINE TIME. TO ME, TONY WAS THE EPITOME OF A GREAT MAN. I WILL CHERISH THE TIMES WE HAD TOGETHER, AND NOT FORGET THEM. IT IS NICE TO KNOW THAT YOU APPRECIATED HIM AS MUCH AS A CIRCLE OF CLOSE FRIENDS. TONY AND I HAVE A VERY CLOSE FRIEND BY THE NAME OF FRANK “PACO” MARCELL. I WILL FORWARD THIS EMAIL TO HIM AND HE WILL MORE THAN NOT SEND YOU AN EMAIL. THANKS FOR TAKING THE TIME TO WRITE.FEEL FREE TO SEND AN EMAIL WHENEVER YOU HAVE THE TIME…MOCO

    Comment by Robert "Moco" Morrill — February 22, 2012 @ 1:09 pm | Reply

  4. I will always cherish the long conversations I had with your dad about prison gangs. In my book he was the guy!——“Paco”

    Comment by Frank "Paco" Marcell — February 22, 2012 @ 2:08 pm | Reply

  5. Those dastardly mice.

    Comment by Russel Ray Photos — May 1, 2012 @ 5:24 am | Reply

  6. Your thought process is wonderful.The way you tell about things is awesome.

    Comment by Meridith Rapacki — October 23, 2012 @ 7:27 pm | Reply

  7. I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was great. I do not know who you are but certainly you’re going to a famous blogger if you are not already 😉 Cheers!

    Comment by home ventilation replace newton corner ma — November 15, 2012 @ 11:43 pm | Reply


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

CBS Denver

Find Denver news, Colorado news, Colorado weather forecasts and sports reports including Denver Broncos at CBSDenver.com.

CBS Sacramento

News, Sports, Weather, Traffic and the Best of Sacramento

CBS Chicago

Chicago News, Sports, Weather, Traffic, and the Best of Chicago - CBS 2 TV | WBBM Newsradio 780 | 670 The Score

CBS San Francisco

News, Sports, Weather, Traffic and the Best of SF

Michelle Muldoon's Blog and Website

I love to write. I love to film. I love to write about film.

Confessions of a Job Seeker

Musings on my job search journey

Whimsical Corner

Poetry of Love and Life written By Kathy Cammisuli

The Travel Wench

A woman with a serious case of wanderlust!

Little by Listen

Breakin' it down one tune at a time

thisGIRLjen

names used in stories are not real.. you decide if the stories are.

Hiking Photography

Beautiful photos of hiking and other outdoor adventures.

Brenda Stonehouse Fine Art

My artistic journey

Average Us

Real Hope ✣ From God ✣ Through Christ ✣ For Us

Rudraksha Yoga

The Highest Knowledge - that reality knowing which everything else becomes known!

A Wilderness of Words

a good place to get lost

Jackprimus's Stalwart Chronicles

Just another WordPress.com weblog

The Illustrated Adventures

Chronicaling the adventures of a South African illustrator living in Barcelona

Boring Cape Town Chick

Let's Celebrate the Good Stuff.

BeezusKiddo

Adventures in Pittsburgh

Phunny News

Funny News and Daily Updates of Funny Stories, Crime and Fails!

Deus Nexus

Messages for an Entangled Universe

monsterminions

They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To

Survival At Its Worst

The Misadventures Of Ryan DiG

Dodge City McKinney Texas

Where Our People Make The Difference!!

Old school - NEW world

Bridging the gap . . .

Barroom Gamer

Rants and Reviews while drinking brews!

Flying Here in the Middle of Somewhere...

...or random thoughts of an almost-closed mind.

The Unseen World

bigfoot, ghost, UFOs and more!

jevningresearch

Smile! You’re at the best WordPress.com site ever

Miss White Hat

too many thoughts in one small head

Raisin' the Signal Flag

Rogues, Rebels & Rakes

Todd Alan Benevides - Artist

Illustrations. Comic Pages. Anything and Everything.

shooting stuff

by Becca Gulliver

The Ready Center Blog

Informing and Equipping for What May Come...

Preservation and Place

Presenting preservation-related issues in an approachable way

The Home Security Superstore Blog

Affordable Security Solutions

Steele's Wheelhouse

Alan Steele's Blog

Notes From The Underground

Emerging Brands In Music x Art x Film x Fashion

Lost in the 21st Century

The 21st Century from a 20th Century Perspective

Entertainment Division for Adults only

main blog is at http://angloamerica101.wordpress.com/

The Cooking Dailies

a spanglish blog for the love of food

nicoletasaucristina

despre nimicuri simple, complicate, absolute

Aussie Bookworm

Book reviews from Australia

Meadefischer's Blog

Just another WordPress.com weblog