In Memorium: Michael Cascone Sr.

In Memorium: Michael Cascone Sr.
Michael Cascone Sr.

July 29, 1920 – Dec. 22, 2019

Michael Cascone Sr., 99, died at his home Dec. 22 after having lived a long life dedicated to serving others. His many accomplishments included founding what would later become VyStar Credit Union. He and his wife, Dorothy, who died in 2018, spent many decades volunteering for organizations in their community, his son Michael Cascone Jr. recalled.

“We were very blessed to have he and my mother as long as we did,” said Cascone Jr., 76. “My mother died in January of 2018. She was 96. We are certainly sad to lose them but very much grateful to have them as long as we did.”

Cascone Jr. explained that his grandfather was a merchant marine who delved into commercial fishing and water transportation.  His father was born in 1920, not too long before the disastrous economic downturn of the U.S. stock market and other economic challenges such as the Dust Bowl, which prompted the difficult era known as the Great Depression.

“Obviously, during the Depression, times were tough, and they did whatever they could to make ends meet. He learned at an early age to look out for others as well, and he always carried that background with him,” he said. 

In his youth, Cascone Sr. worked at an A&P on Eighth Street in the Springfield neighborhood and later worked for NAS Jax in a civilian role. He graduated from Andrew Jackson High School in 1937 and started working at NAS Jax in 1941, the same year he married Dorothy Cunningham at Holy Rosary Catholic Church. In 1942, he joined the Army Air Forces where he serves as a tun-turret mechanic, and then returned home in 1945, after the end of World War II. He stayed with NAS Jax more than 30 years, retiring in 1976 as the civilian personnel director, the chief civilian of the station’s many different commands. He and Dorothy had five children, all of whom survive them.

After his return to NAS, Cascone Sr. noticed a need for a credit union after seeing that many NAS Jax employees were being penalized heavily for borrowing money, his son said.

“When he got out of the service, he went back to NAS and the (civilian) industrial relations department and one of the things he noticed over the next couple of years was there were a lot of people having their wages garnished,” Cascone Jr. explained, noting that after he had checked with the military payroll office, his father discovered military personnel were purchasing civilian clothes at astronomical interest rates that they would never have the ability to pay back. “It appeared to my father that the sellers were charging usury rate, something up to 25%. People were paying off interest, not paying off the principal, they were getting their wages garnished. He went to the bosses and asked around about starting a credit union,” Cascone Jr. said.

A similar effort had begun in the ’40s and failed, so Cascone Sr. had his work cut out for him. However, he finally found enough people to put up $5 each to form the union, which was a lot of money at that time. Even after the union was sold and become VyStar, Cascone Sr. volunteered on the board for decades, his son said.

Because of his leadership in the effort, Cascone Sr. was made member number one and maintained that throughout his life. He was a leader in what became known as the “credit union movement” and held multiple positions on the board of Jax Navy and eventually VyStar. He also served on the National Association of Credit Union Presidents and became president of that association also. He was later nominated and named to the Defense Department Credit Union Hall of Fame.

Cascone Sr. was also active in the St. Augustine Diocese throughout his adult life and served as President of Bishop Kenny Dads Club, and served on the Diocesan Board of Education, the Diocesan Investment Committee and on the Board of Jacksonville Catholic Charities. His commitment to St. Matthew’s Parish included roles as a Lector, Eucharistic Minister, Usher, chair of the Finance Committee, chair of the School Board, chair of the Men’s Club, chair of the Bazaar Committee and chair of the Church Renovation Committee as well as many other duties he performed at the pastors’ request.

Cascone Sr. was a fourth-degree member of the Knights of Columbus and served as the State Secretary for the Florida State Council. He was also a past Grand Knight of Father Maher Council, 648 on the westside of Jacksonville. A member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, he rose to the rank of Knight Grand Cross with Star. Additionally, during Cascone Sr.’s retirement years, he served the Daughters of Charity as a board member at St. Vincent’s Hospital and as board chair of their St. Catherine Laboure’ Manor. For his service, he was rewarded with their highest lay honor and became an affiliate of the Daughters of Charity. Cascone Sr. served the community and many other organizations too numerous to mention, but which included the Jacksonville Urban League and Boy Scouts of America. He is survived by his five children: Marie Wilkinson (Larry), Michael Jr. (Elizabeth), Michele Cugno (Joe), Sharon Ray (Eddy), and John Joseph (Jennifer). Mike had 16 grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

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