Jack's grandson, Ryan Casey (left), is a great bagpiper from
Iona College and now a Port Authority cop

A wake on a dreary and wet autumn Monday evening is a lousy way to start off a week.

But we do our duty willingly, especially for the good ones. Thankfully, we have a fair few in our ranks.

With cold Irish weather pouring down outside, we said our good-byes to John Thomas Casey inside the funeral home in Clark, New Jersey.

Jack Casey was a good man.

With the good ones, you almost fool yourself they’ll be around forever. You are pleasantly used to them. Their presence is comforting. Without question, they will always be there doing what they do while making all the lives they touch a bit better.

Jack was the loving husband of Ellie, a devoted father and grandfather. He was a Navy veteran and a retired Union County cop who wore his pride on his sleeve about it all.

His grandson Ryan Casey is a great bagpiper from Iona College and now a Port Authority cop. Jack was always thrilled when Ryan played at our local Irish events. Watching him listen to his grandson, you could see the pride on his face.

For many long years, Jack was president of the Union County Emerald Society. That’s where I got to know him.

In my mind, Jack ran the best meeting of any Irish organization. He would present an issue to all gathered, there would be lively discussion and debate and, in the end, Jack would pretty much do whatever he suggested in the first place. And hardly anyone had a problem with it.

At his wake, after a quiet prayer at his side, it was handshakes, hugs and Jack stories with the family and friends.

Honey Badger nudged me to look down at one collection of flowers near the casket. They were from the Shannon Town Council in Ireland. Jack was instrumental in bringing over the Shannon officials each year to the Union County St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Jersey. It became a brilliant friendship. Whenever one of our lot happens through Shannon we are more than welcome and well looked after.

At the wake, there was Monsignor Hugh O’Donnell and scores from every Irish organization and police department around. Everyone’s words were the same.

“He was a good man.”

When you leave this world and all say you were a “good man” you did all right. And Jack did brilliant for 82 years.

Works stuff prevented me from making the funeral but the reports from the funeral Mass were only moving.
Jack’s grandson Ryan performed a solo start of “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes before all the others pipers joined in with a powerful, emotional sound that almost shook the church’s walls. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house, they tell me.

Jack’s wife, I am told, didn’t want the service to end on down note. On his way out of the church for his last time, a soloist sang “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.”

Jack was a good man and will be missed and remembered.

And remembered he was, in grand style, not a week after his wake.

The Union County Emerald Society’s annual pub night was dedicated to Jack on Saturday. We hoped he’d make it one last time but it wasn’t to be. So, we celebrated Jack instead, in joyous style. The night was dedicated in his honor.

Eamonn Ryan and his band had the joint swinging as the Emeralds honored Rev. George Gillen as Irishman of the Year and Barbara Mahon as Irishwoman of the Year. And Jack was in everyone’s thoughts.

His grandson Ryan led the assembled pipers in “Amazing Grace” once more for his grandfather.

The night wasn’t the same without Jack and we sure let him know it.