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Hall-of-Famer Remembered

Eugene L. Casale

By Tom Gates | Feb 14, 2019
Eugene L. Casale

Harwich, Mass. — If you are lucky, maybe once or twice in your lifetime you will know someone who is truly exceptional. Gene Casale was such a man.

He projected an ability to “make a difference” in people’s lives. His attitude, generosity, demeanor and dedication achieved success in his every endeavor. His philosophy was simple: Lead by example.

Eugene Casale was born January 30, 1921 in Hartford, Conn., and passed on February 5, 2019, six days after his 98th birthday. During his time on this earth, Gene exemplified the true meaning of a gentleman, a leader and a family man through his humor, generous nature and unparalleled dedication to our sport. He was “one of a kind”. Indeed.

Born and raised in Hartford, Conn., Gene was a graduate of Manhattan College in New York City. He served in the Army Air Corps during World War II, as a pilot, achieving the rank of captain. At the end of World War II, Gene met and married Elsie Hazeldine in England. Their 73 years of marriage produced three children; Gene, George and Janet. He is also survived by his grandchildren; Michael Brenza, Adam Noble, Anna, Heather, Adam and Ashley Casale, Dr. Joel Casale, Amanda White and a great granddaughter, Casey-Marissa Casale.

Gene and Elsie owned and operated Aircraft Hardware in East Hartford from 1948 until their retirement in 1982.

Gene Casale was given a callname of “Lucky” by his friends in New England, but luck had nothing to do with his success. It was by no mistake or chance happening that Gene excelled in field trials. He was a very structured businessman who possessed fantastic organizational skills, attention to detail and a dedication in making field trials his fulltime passion.

He did have a little help though; Rich Anselmo, one of Gene’s friends, recalls that Gene always said an Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be before taking a dog to the line!

Starting in the 1960s as a member of the East Hartford Sportsman’s Club, Gene had a fond attraction to field trials. He started with German Shorthairs and quickly advanced to English pointers. I asked him once why he ran Shorthairs. His reply was, “That was before I knew better.”

He was president and field trial chairman of the Central Connecticut Club from the late 1970s until his death. I am the club secretary-treasurer who helped his son Gene and club V-P Kevin Stuart in running two trials each year.

Gene was instrumental in procuring the Glastonbury Meadows as a venue for the Northeastern Shooting Dog Championship and the Region 1 Amateur All-Age Championship. He was president of the Northeastern Club and chaired both events for over twenty years,  succeeded by his son Gene. The “Meadows” Association boasted a membership of  hardworking and dedicated individuals including Billy Hyland, Tom Tracy, Sr., Alene Levasseur, Rich Anselmo, Billy and David O’Brien, John Malone and Tony Forte. At age 79, Tony is still cooking for the Northeastern and Central Connecticut Clubs!

Gene worked every day of every summer at Glastonbury Meadows to “make the course a little better”, as he put it. I can still envision him on his tractor brush cutting the 2,000 acres.

Many of the Casale family became involved in field trials as a result of Gene’s passion. Son George achieved success with several dogs. His brother, Gene, is well known for his outstanding leadership with the Northeastern Championship and his running of the Central Connecticut  trials. Son Gene has had several outstanding dogs of his own. His family is always supporting the trials. Wife Pam, daughters Heather and Anna are always planting birds, working in the kitchen, etc. His son Dr. Joel is a great handler, judge and bird dog man.

Gene’s winter quarters were in Pinewood, S. C., on Guard Rail Road.  Friend Randy Latty trained on these grounds for many years with Gene. Also friend Bernie Conroy lived close by. Bernie relocated to this area from Connecticut where he and Gene had been friends for many years. At this location Gene was the driving force behind the Eastern Carolina Field Trial Club. Trials are still held on this property.

As a judge, Gene was in high demand. Respect for his ability to know a running dog and judge fairly, Gene officiated at title events in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Hawaii and Japan.

I must note Gene’s handling ability. I have judged just about every professional shooting dog handler east of the Mississippi during the last fifty years. Gene Casale’s ability ranks very high among these greats. He knew how to show a dog; not just run a dog! Today, most young handlers are interested in “getting a dog around” and “counting finds”. To have a rapport with your dog and put on a “show” takes bonding between you and the animal. Being a bird hunter first helped Gene learn how to understand the way a dog should hunt an  area or take an edge utilizing the wind, etc. He took particular pride in having his dogs like him. You can easily judge a happy dog as opposed to some of the “push and pull” performances by others. Gene studied many professional handlers to understand the best ways to show his dogs.

No dog is better known in history than Ch. Guard Rail! Gene acquired Guard Rail from well known Rich Giuliano of Rhode Island as a Derby. The Guard Rail era tallied a phenomenal 42 wins, sired 292 winners with a total of 2720 placements, with six championship titles for Guard Rail.  Fate landed a crushing blow when Guard Rail was killed at six years old in a vehicle accident. I wonder what Guard Rail’s record would have been had he lived? Guard Rail was inducted into the Field Trial Hall of Fame in 1986  through the tireless efforts of a committee lead by Rich Anselmo that Guard Rail received his just reward. Anselmo also helped on Gene Casale’s Hall of Fame campaign.

The Gene Casale breeding program and handling record are more than impressive. Champions Eugene L’s Delivery, Eugene L’s Dan, Railway Billy, Railway Danny, Railway Willie, Railway Joseph and Railway Ginny all come to mind, in addition to Guard Rail. Eugene Casale won  seventeen championship titles and tallied over 600 placements. Gene also may hold the record as the oldest handler to win a Championship with Railway Max taking a title when Gene was 90 years old. Gene also placed a Derby at age 93.

The Casale breeding program was very structured and strict. Gene was very choosy on breeding. He wanted style, endurance, snappy high tailed pups that had a good nose. A great example of this was Rail Dancer. This handsome pointer tallied a record of 25 wins, sired 321 winners which earned 2439 placements.

Gene had several vials of Guard Rail frozen semen, the last of which was used a few years ago. Gene’s son (Gene) presently campaigns one of these direct Guard Rail offspring with great success.

Gene handled his own dogs most of the time. I remember George Tracy winning the Eastern Open Championship with Guard Rail. His son, Gene, quite successfully handled some of Gene’s dogs in the latter years, with Rich Anselmo taking placements with two Railway Kennel registered dogs.

It seemed that Gene always got the best of me. An example of this was back in 1983. I bought a Guard Rail puppy out of Ch. Roll On Kizzy owned by Louis Clemons of North Carolina. I paid $300 for the pup which was a very high price at the time. I called the male puppy Deak; short for Deacon and he looked exactly like his father. I worked the big awkward pup all summer and fall at Glastonbury Meadows and at my birdfield. By late October he came into his own on the ground and was standing his birds like a statue. I ran him in two Derby stakes at ten months old and won both. A few weeks later, I found myself getting divorced, selling my horse and several dogs. Gene bought Deak for $600 and I thought that I had finally bettered him. Gene didn’t hear very well saying “What? What?” and thought I called the dog Zeke. He took him home and left for South Carolina the next morning. He called me a week later about “Zeke”. I said Deak. He said “What? What? No! Zeke. The dog you sold me.” He had run the dog in a 28-dog Puppy Classic and won first place! I said great! He said. “Thanks. I sold the dog for $2500 after the trial!” He got me again! Gene owned the dog for nine days, won a cash purse, turned a $1900 profit and didn’t even know the dog’s name. Maybe there was some truth to the nickname “Lucky”!

Kevin Stuart traveled with Gene just about everywhere. Kevin called him “Shorty”. On one trip heading down South, Gene asked Kevin to pull into the rest area on I-95 in Maryland. The rest area was in the middle of the northbound and southbound lanes. Kevin pulled in and Gene went inside to use the bathroom. After some time had passed Kevin became worried when Gene had not returned. After an hour, Kevin went looking for him. Kevin checked the men’s room, the food court area and then searched the parking lots. No Shorty. Kevin went back into the building and went out the northbound side and here was Shorty standing on the curb. Gene swore that Kevin had driven off and forgot him. He would never admit that he had exited onto the wrong side of the turnpike!

Eugene L. Casale was inducted into the Field Trial Hall of Fame in 2000. His election was by a huge percentage and from the whole field trial community. He was a friend to all who knew him and Gene was always there to help and contribute. I am proud to have had him as my friend for nearly 45 years.

God bless you, Gene. You will be missed!

 

 

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