Foundation set up to honor memory of Springfield graduate
Casey Feldman’s family establishes network where friends can share memories or volunteer time or money for one of many charities
Published: Sunday, November 15, 2009
By TIMOTHY LOGUE
While sitting in the family shorehouse in Sea Isle City, N.J. last summer, Joel Feldman turned to his daughter and asked if she was happy.
“What do you mean, dad — today or in life?” 21-year-old Casey Feldman said.
“Both,” her father said.
After a few seconds, his first born smiled and said, “Yes … and yes.”
The short back-and-forth occurred on the evening of July 16. The following afternoon, while walking to her waitressing job at Bob’s Grill on the Ocean City boardwalk, Casey was struck by a passing motorist.
She died five hours later in the trauma unit of the Atlantic City Medical Center.
Joel Feldman and Dianne Anderson’s daughter was growing up to be everything they could have hoped for and had cornered the market on qualities that make parents proud.
Casey was smart, beautiful, hard-working, thoughtful, focused and funny. She was also a good listener and absolutely fearless, traits that helped the rising Fordham University senior become an award-winning reporter and editor of her school newspaper, The Observer.
“She liked to listen and she was patient with people, letting them tell their story,” Joel said. “She knew that if you are an open and honest person, and value what people have to say, they are probably going to talk to you.
“Along with being a little pushy and a little assertive, those are great qualities for a reporter to have. And a great quality for a friend to have.”
In addition to her schoolwork and hours spent on The Observer, Casey devoted her time to several causes in New York City, a metropolis she fell in love with as a young teenager during shopping excursions with her mother.
Casey also volunteered at the West End homeless shelter, Momentum Soup Kitchen, Animal Haven Shelter and, closer to home, the German Shepherd Rescue of Southeastern Pennsylvania.
She tackled internships at KYW News Radio, CBS Channel 3, The News of Delaware County, AM New York and Philadelphia Style and was to have begun an internship with the Manhattan-based television station NY-1 this fall.
“Every time I see a news anchor, I look and think, ‘Gosh, that could have been, or should be, Casey,’” Joel said. “Consequently, I don’t really watch the news. I’ll listen but it’s tough to watch.”
To keep her spirit alive, the family has created The Casey Feldman Network and the Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation (information on both, along with recollections, photos and Casey’s writings, can be found by visiting www.caseyfeldman.com).
“You can’t bring Casey back but each day you can make a decision about how to live each day and help other people,” Joel said.
The network is where people who were inspired by Casey’s life can volunteer their time, money or sweat equity to inspire others.
“After the accident, we received so many kind notes and emails from people who were so inspired by Casey and how much she was able to accomplish in her 21 years. They told us how, because of Casey, they were going to volunteer for a cause, work harder, be a better daughter or son … I started thinking, ‘You know, let’s collect this stuff and maybe we can inspire other people to do better things.’”
The network asks visitors to finish the sentence, “Because of Casey, I will ….” Members have created animal rights and pedestrian safety groups, pledged to strengthen relationships, and volunteered to support local theater or run or walk for a cause.
The foundation was set up to provide financial support to individuals, groups, and institutions that share Casey’s interests, qualities and goals.
Endowed memorial funds have been created through the foundation at Fordham University — Lincoln Center and the University of Colorado at Boulder, where Casey’s younger brother, Brett, is a sophomore. The awards are intended to help students support themselves while they pursue unpaid internships in the field of mass media or with a non-profit or some governmental agency.
Melissa Zirolli, a 2005 graduate of Springfield High, said the family has found the perfect way to honor and remember her departed friend.
“I like that it’s not just preserving Casey’s memory but also moving forward with Casey in mind,” said Zirolli, who performed with Casey as a member of the Springfield High School Student Theater Workshop.
“I know her death has changed me immensely. I had never dealt with a death like this before and it shocked me. … I am trying to become a better friend because Casey always made time for every single person in her life.”
Zirolli will be among a group of former cast mates on hand for a reception and dedication of a plaque and $3,000 Casey Feldman Scholarship prior to theater workshop’s Nov. 20 production of the Laramie Project.
“Casey insisted on nothing but perfection,” said Springfield High School English teacher and theater director John Gildea. “She worked diligently to make sure her lines were mesmerized — she was always the first to memorize — and asked questions whenever she felt uneasy or unsure about something.”
Gildea has photos of Casey displayed on his wall and has told his current students about his former pupil, who was named “Best Actress” her senior year at Springfield.
“Her unfortunate death has changed me in the manner of being a better teacher,” Gildea said. “I’ve made it a point become more engaged and tried to get to know my students as individuals who each have something unique to offer.”
While very appreciative of the cards, emails and recollections of his daughter that continue to be posted at www.caseyfeldmanmemories.org, Joel Feldman said he is most thankful for a tradition that began shortly after Casey’s death.
“Every single week between four and 10 of Casey’s friends have come over to our house one night for dinner,” he said. “We eat and laugh and cry and tell stories about Casey. They would probably say it’s been very helpful for them but I think we are getting more out it.”
Zirolli said the dinners have been great therapy.
“It makes is easier to mourn when you are around people who loved and cared about Casey as much as we did,” she said.
“We want her parents to know that they there not alone and, at the same time, they are there for us.”
A hearing for the driver of the van that struck Casey is scheduled for early December in Ocean City. Anthony LoMonaco, 58, of Cape May Court House, N.J. is facing charges of failing to yield to a pedestrian and careless driving, according to Feldman, who expects the punishment to be fines.
“We have not heard from him, which is something that has really troubled us,” he said. “Even if you are facing criminal prosecution of a lawsuit, you can still say you’re sorry for what happened without admitting fault.”
Though he plans to be in Ocean City for the court case, Feldman has no plans to visit the intersection of 14th Street and Central Avenue where the accident occurred.
“A part of me doesn’t want to see it,” he said. “I’ll probably go straight to the municipal court.”
Feldman said the best tribute he can give his daughter is to treat each day as an opportunity to do something positive for someone else.
“I am trying to be a better husband, father, uncle, brother, grandson and friend,” he said. “I am also trying to have better balance in my life.
“That’s definitely the way Casey lived and I feel fortunate to have had a 21-year-old daughter that I and others can learn so much from.”