Jerry Casale, Co-Founder of Philadelphia Cycling Championship, Father, Friend, Mentor, “Main Man”, Dies at 71
- Categorized in: 2012 American Cycling Group
The cycling world will miss Jerry Casale who passed away on Wednesday night.
Jerry is probably best known for co-founding the Philadelphia Cycling Championship with Jack Simes and me in 1985 and serving as its operations director for 25 years. And for the over 200 races around the country that he directed operations for, including the 1996 Olympic cycling events in Atlanta. But this is only part of the legacy Jerry leaves to the family, friends and fans to whom he meant so much.
Jerry was a mentor to countless cyclists in the Philadelphia area during his reign over the legendary Hill Cycle Shop in Chestnut Hill. I was 13 when I first met Jerry, a happy 21 year old just back from serving in Korea. He fixed my 8 speed Raleigh bike, he gave me my first pair of bike shoes and he introduced me to the sport that has become my life. He did the same for many others like John Eustice and Bruce Donaghy who went on to become champions but also to embrace the unique culture of cycling, something that Jerry, with his Italian roots, both understood and uniquely imparted.
Those early years with Jerry “at the shop” are some of my fondest memories. Assembling and delivering bikes for the neighborhood kids at Christmas, opening the latest shipment of wool jerseys from Italy, ordering knickers for what we thought should be the well-turned out winter cyclist (I saw an unsold box of them just a year ago) and marveling at the bank of slide-out drawers neatly storing the latest Campagnolo parts and equipment.
From that start we became friends, business partners and as close to brothers as any non-family member could become. I loved Jerry for his heart, his optimism, his loyalty and his character. He always said to me “We can do it, Hornet” one of his favorite phrases when we faced difficult business challenges trying to pitch world class cycling events to the many people who were skeptical.
The only times I recall Jerry being upset or angry were when people did not measure up to his standards of character. Intelligence, education, world titles, none of that mattered as much as being honest, fair and loyal.
Over the last several days I’ve thought a lot about Jerry, what a great impact he had on my life and how his values helped shape so many people. He was a born leader. He had that innate ability to win people over, make them feel important and to motivate them to set goals, work hard and remain loyal. He was always reminding me to relax, take it easy, don’t get upset if things didn’t go the way we wanted.
These were the things that Jerry and I discussed nearly every morning for some 20 years. We were both early risers and looked forward to meeting in the office before anyone got there (except Cookie, of course). We talked family, friends, business, old times and new challenges. Although in many ways very different, we enjoyed each other’s company immensely.
I loved Jerry Casale and I will miss him terribly.
March 9, 2012
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