Cornelius ‘Neil’ Casey, 72, Ridgefield soccer pioneer

Cornelius F. “Neil” Casey of Burlington, Vt., a former soccer star who helped bring the sport of soccer to Ridgefield and its youth, died Wednesday, Oct. 17, in Fletcher Allen Health Care after a short battle with lung cancer. He was 72 years old and the husband of Dorothy D. Casey of Burlington.
He was born in Cahirciveen, County Kerry, Ireland, on Jan. 9, 1929, the son of William and Mary Murphy Casey. He served two years in the Irish Army and came to the United States when he was 21. Soon after, he entered the U.S. Army, serving during the Korean War.
Before and after his Army service, Mr. Casey lived in New York City and played for the German-American soccer team. In 1954, he was chosen center forward on the United States Soccer Team as it played qualifying games for the World Cup in Mexico City. “He was picked because he scored a lot of goals,” said his son, Neil Casey of Ridgefield. “Soccer was a passion all his life, and this love of the game was passed on to his children and grandsons.”
It was also passed on to countless Ridgefield children. In 1969, six years after moving to Ridgefield, Mr. Casey joined Frank Lancaster and Horst Senf in establishing the first youth soccer teams in Ridgefield. Games were played at Veterans Park field. Back then, Mr. Casey’s son recalled, most children in Ridgefield didn’t even know what a soccer ball was.
“He was enthusiastic, energetic and devoted,” Mr. Lancaster recalled of Mr. Casey’s work. He added that one day when the three were meeting, Mr. Casey and Mr. Senf discovered that they had played against each other years earlier in a World Cup soccer match.
Mr. Casey, who held a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Connecticut, was an aerospace engineer, and had worked for Barnes Engineering of Connecticut for 32 years. He specialized in rocket guidance and infrared systems.
Mr. Casey, who had lived on Stony Hill Road, moved to Norwalk around 1980 and to Vermont in 1994.
Besides his wife, Mr. Casey is survived by his stepchildren and their families; his former wife Eileen, the mother of their seven children, and spouses, Billy and Eileen Casey of Bethel, Neil Casey and Diane Day of Ridgefield, Danny and Fernanda Casey of Gaithersburg, Md., Johnny and Maria Lidia Casey of Fairfield, Maureen Casey of Norwalk, Patricia and Louis Koprivec of Fairfield; his grandchildren, Liam and Brendan Casey of Bethel, Sean and Kyle Casey of Gaithersburg, and Matheus Cruz of Fairfield; and by his brothers, William Casey of Danbury, Joe Casey and Seamus Casey of Ireland, and his sister Marie Eberle and her husband Charles, of Absecon, N. J.; and by several nieces and nephews.
Services took place Saturday, Oct. 20, in the Ready Funeral Home Mountain View Chapel in Vermont. Burial followed in New Mount Calvary Cemetery. A bagpiper played Amazing Grace, and he was honored with a 21-gun salaute.
Contributions in his memory may be made to the American Lung Association, 45 Ash Street, East Hartford, CT 06108-3272.