When people start naming their kids after the teachers who changed their lives, you know that teacher was more than just some guy.
At Clover High School, choral teacher Jay Forrest's third son is Daniel Casey Forrest, but has always been called "Casey."
The name came from Jess Casey, Winthrop University's dean of music for three decades, who was known both for his music teaching and his tall, dashing figure on campus.
Casey ran the music department at the school from 1958 until he retired in 1989. He taught piano to hundreds of students who moved on to teach others around the country in some of America's most prestigious schools.
Casey died Saturday in Myrtle Beach. He was 84.
"Dr. Casey was a great teacher, and he had a profound effect on my life," said Forrest. "He wouldn't hover. He would listen, look at the window, and teach. A great man."
Casey hired quality faculty and strengthened the music department at Winthrop as it turned into a School of Music during his time at the school, said Don Rodgers, current chairman of music at Winthrop.
Casey brought to Winthrop and Rock Hill in his era, top music performers and singers, including world-renowned opera singer Joan Sutherland.
"Jess Casey really put Winthrop University on the music map," said Rodgers, who was hired by Casey in 1975. "And around the campus, he was a tall, towering man, an imposing figure."
Casey, a widower who has an endowed scholarship in his wife's name for a graduate music student at Winthrop, lived at the coast for many years after his retirement.
"Jess was a man who epitomized lifelong dedication to both learning and giving back to future generations," Winthrop President Anthony DiGiorgio said. "Even after his retirement, he continued to support music at Winthrop, setting up multiple scholarships for music students, another one honoring his son for physical education students, and supporting restoration of the D.B. Johnson Memorial Organ in Byrnes Auditorium. He will be long remembered by the multiple generations of students he served and all who knew him at Winthrop."
While in Rock Hill, Casey's impact on the community spread past the Winthrop campus. He was one of the forces behind the creation of the York County Choral Society, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.
And at the heart of it all, Casey was an exemplary musician, a pianist who started out with Swing bands after World War II and an Army hitch. His Christmas concerts, ending with jazzy versions of Christmas carols, were very popular in Rock Hill for years.
"Jess Casey was a marvelous musician who had a great impact on Winthrop and the Rock Hill community," said David Lowry, an organist who was hired by Casey to join the Winthrop faculty in 1965, which started a friendship that lasted a lifetime.
Memorial service Friday
Casey will be honored at 2 p.m. Friday in a memorial service at the Episcopal Church of Our Saviour in Rock Hill.
The service will be filled with musicians and singers. Lowry, the longtime colleague, will play organ, but not all mournful tunes.
"Jess Casey loved music," Lowry said, "and this service will celebrate his life dedicated to music and the students he taught.
"A fitting tribute to a musical man."