Former Clay supervisor passes away

"He was one of the founders of Clay as it is now," said Art Fennhahn. "You look around at modern Clay, and Ernie made it what it is."

A mentor to all

In addition to his own service, Casale encouraged others to help the town of Clay.

"He was wonderful for the town," said Clarence Rycraft, who has served on the town board since 1977. "He got me into town government."

Indeed, all of the current board members said Casale had inspired and mentored them.

"He was a grandfatherly mentor to the rest of us," said board member Damien Ulatowski. "He was to me when I first started. He was a great asset -- any question you had, he was the guy you'd go to."

Casale was certainly a mentor to his successor, Pat DiDomenico, who held the supervisor's office from December of 1982 until his death in February of 2003.

"He inspired Pat so much," DiDomenico's widow Trish recalled. "[Pat] was his best friend, his brother, his son -- he was everything. Every time he had questions or doubts, he'd talk to Ernie and he'd be so reassured."

Indeed, Casale was a wellspring of knowledge.

"He was a walking encyclopedia," recalled former town clerk Sally Drago. "He just knew everything. Any question you ever had, he could give you an answer, whether it was history or government or whatever.

Though he was seen by many as a teacher or guide, Casale never made anyone feel he thought he was better than them.

"He never talked down to anybody," said current town clerk Vivian Mason. "He always spoke to everyone like an equal. When I first started with the town, I'd say some absurd things. He'd laugh, but he'd never put me down."

All of those qualities combined to make Casale a great leader, one current leaders should emulate, committee member Bonnie Nash said.

"The best way to carry on his legacy," Nash said, "is to be a great community and to lead this community the way he would want us to."

Current Supervisor James Rowley said he'll do his best to make Casale proud.

"In my estimation, he was one of the best supervisors the town ever had," Rowley said. "His are big shoes to fill. If I can be half the supervisor he was, the people of Clay will be very well-served."

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