Ice Network

Former students surprise Casey on 75th birthday

Longtime coach 'flabbergasted' by unexpected reunion, celebration
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Scott Davis (left), Diana Marcos (second from left), Lily Lee Fugier (second from right) and Damon Allen (right) present Kathy Casey (middle) with a tapestry they had made for her birthday. -courtesy of Diana Marcos

"Kathy was more than just a coach to me. Even to this day, during lessons, I think to myself, 'What would Kathy do in this situation?'" said Damon Allen, who coordinated a 75th birthday celebration for his inspiration and former coach, Kathy Casey.

"Kathy has been a great coach, mentor and friend," he said. "When I came up with the idea of having this party two months ago, I knew so many of her friends, past students and colleagues would take time out of their schedules to surprise her."

On Sept. 27, former students and friends came from all over the U.S., as well as Canada and Mexico, to surprise Casey at the home of Janet Champion. Among those in attendance were Lily Lee Fugier, Diana Marcos, Heather McLaughlin, Scott Davis, Irina Vorobieva, Catarina Lindgren, Rosalynn Sumners, Carole Shulman, Carolyn Kruse, Jim White, Steven Rice and Amy D'Entremont-Allen.

"It's pretty amazing that Kathy had such an impact on so many generations of skaters. You could see the love," Davis said.

Icenetwork asked some of those in attendance to share a story about Casey.

"At 1994 nationals, watching her reaction," said Davis, who won his second senior men's title that year. "Kind of the pinnacle of our working together. The dedication and work that she had put into my career. Me skating well and how excited she was.

"She cared about every single skater that she taught," he added. "It wasn't just about making them the best skater -- she obviously wanted that -- but it was making them good people. She was really tough, but you'd get Kathy out of the rink and she was the one organizing our trips to Mount Rainier, hiking up the mountain or whitewater rafting."

"In the 1995 competitive season, I sprained my ankle on Easterns practice ice," D'Entremont-Allen said. "I was fortunate enough to get a bye to nationals. The three weeks leading up to nationals were tough. … At nationals, I skated the performance of my life and placed fourth. My favorite memory of Kathy was the look on her face when I was skating back to her. She had her fabulous smile and she patted me on the back and said, 'Well kid, you did it!'"

"One day we decided to skip a practice session, all of us at the same time. Kathy wasn't supposed to be there, but she showed up to give us a lesson," Marcos recalled. "We got the silent treatment after that for a few days. At the end of the day, we always knew she did it for our own good, because Kathy always knew how to take care of us."

"I remember driving home after my very first lesson -- where she laughed at my triple toe that landed a foot before my take-off and my triple loop that took off on a straight line -- and reflected on the new technique that I was just taught," Allen said. "It was as though the light finally turned on and I understood what I had been struggling on for so long."

"I remember when Kathy came with me to Easterns and I won. That was the only year she came with me to Easterns," Steven Rice said. "We spent quality time together, and it ended so well with me winning that year.

"I learned so much from her -- not only in skating, but in life lessons," he added. "She was always very realistic. She had these layout papers when we did patch (compulsory figures), and every Friday we would have a mock competition and she would have the papers. We all took turns, like in competition. She would write what place you got. She always told it like it is, which I also do now."

"I don't know who had more fun: Kathy or all the people who attended," said Shulman, former executive director of the Professional Skaters Association. "I wrote her a birthday card that I sent in the mail ahead of time, 'Hope your day is full of surprises.' It really was a surprise."

Casey, who is still active in skating giving seminars and consulting with coaches, was truly surprised by the party. She'd even talked to some of the attendees a couple of days prior, and they had given no indication of what was to come.

"It was absolutely breathtaking. I'm not over it yet," Casey said. "I was flabbergasted.

"Everyone was so excited," she added. "Of course, they were excited to see me, but they were really excited to see each other.

"It was very special."