Special friend's death brings thoughts of another life
And you will end up not knowing much of anything for sure. That’s why I refused to believe what I read in the Cleveland paper a couple weeks ago.
The headline said: “Paul W. Cassidy, 94, dies, was Parma Heights mayor.”
My reaction was: I find that hard to believe, because I was sure he was going to live forever.
He was just a fledgling mayor when I met him. We became very close friends. He was one of the nicest, most genuine people a newspaper guy could ever hope to know. But the story of his death said he was mayor for 43 years (almost as long as Art Baldwin was mayor of Waite Hill), so I guess it was not in the Ultimate Plan for him to live or to be mayor forever.
I know what you are wondering: What in the world was I doing in Parma Heights? You can’t even get there from here.
Well, there was a reason for my being there. And actually it was Parma where I lived for 15 months. But Parma Heights was surrounded by Parma, and it was easy to confuse the two.
The year was 1959. Bolton Publications consisted of two daily papers, The News-Herald and the Dover Daily Reporter, plus two weekly papers, the Parma News and the Brooklyn News.
There was a shake-up in the leadership here, with people being shuffled back and forth between Willoughby and Parma, and one of our best people ending up in Columbus as a “corespondent.”
It was decided that I was needed at the Brooklyn-Parma News to take charge of that operation. And boy, was I in charge! I was the editor, reporter, sports editor, society editor, copy boy, photographer and film developer.
Yes, I was a one-man staff. There was a secretary, an office manager and two or three ad salesmen, but I was the only person on the news side.
Our offices were upstairs over the Parma Hardware store at the corner of Ridge and Pearl roads. We had no printing press. That was located in Dover, where I drove every Wednesday to put the paper together, as it were.
My arrival in Parma was trumpeted on the front page of the two weeklies, taking note of the success I enjoyed building up membership in the Willoughby Jaycees to award-winning proportions.
That immediately led to a visit by dignitaries from the Parma Jaycees asking me to hold a similar membership drive for that organization — which I did.
But the first official visitor to enter my “office” over the hardware store was Paul Cassidy.
He said he was the mayor of Parma Heights, and added he would appreciate good coverage of his city and its activities.
I assured him I could do that. (There was indeed nobody else on the premises who could give that assurance.)
“I’d like you to have lunch at Pete’s Wayside Inn,” Paul said. I jumped at the chance. I was to have lunch there many times afterward. It turned out to be the venue of choice for Paul and those of his political persuasion.
“How many kids do you have?” Paul asked. “Two,” I replied. (That would be true until the following February, when No. 3 arrived.)
“Here,” he said, “are four passes (good for all year) at the city swimming pool.” It was a truly nice gesture.
There were citywide elections coming up that November (1959), and at some point Paul said, “come over to our house on election night and watch the returns with Elise and me and a few friends.”
What a party! The “few friends” turned out to be a few hundred!
Here’s what I remember most vividly. I went into a bedroom to get rid of my coat and the only occupant of the room was a very well-known businessman who was head of a huge company (Forest City, you would recognize his name) and he was sprawled on the bed, surrounded by papers, legal pads and other paraphernalia and he was on the phone. The only phone. There were no cell phones in those days.
I asked Paul what he was doing. “Checking on election results,” the mayor said. It seems there were a number of zoning issues on ballots across Cuyahoga County in which he was interested.
“They must be important issues,” I said. Paul said they were.
That’s the way I remember Paul Cassidy — a great guy, a good friend and a fine mayor who was the center of activity everywhere he went.
I was brought back to The News-Herald in July 1960 to help straighten out a problem, purchased a house on Center Street in Willoughby, and here I remain — two subsequent homes later.