Mike Vosburg-Casey, 1974-2013, !Presente!
(APN) ATLANTA — Mike Vosburg-Casey, 39, an activist who opposed antidemocratic US intervention in the affairs of other nations, particularly in Latin America and South America; who opposed the School of Americas (SOA) [now called the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation, WHINSEC]; who advocated for civil and human rights on behalf of poor and homeless people; and who opposed the death penalty, among other causes, passed away on Wednesday, July 31, 2013.
Vosburg-Casey died as a result of stage four colon cancer. He was diagnosed in December 2011 with stage four cancer, and had not experienced any symptoms until it was already at stage four. He underwent chemotherapy for nearly two years.
A lifelong activist, whose progressive activism and commitment to social justice was driven by his religious faith, perhaps one of Vosburg-Casey’s biggest claims to fame was his act of civil disobedience, stepping onto the property of the SOA/WHINSEC on November 19, 2006.
See this article from APN’s archives for more: http://www.atlantaprogressivenews.com/interspire/news/2007/02/16/atlanta-soa-protester-gets-100-days-in-federal-prison-%28update-1%29.html
Each year, thousands of activists converge on the SOA/WHINSEC facility at Fort Benning, outside Columbus, Georgia, to urge the closure of the school, which activists say trains military personnel from countries around the world on how to thwart democracy in Latin American and South American countries when it suits the US government’s apparent agenda of neoliberal capitalism.
As a result, Vosburg-Casey served a federal prison term at the Federal Correctional Institute in Jesup, Georgia that lasted one hundred days, beginning in April 2007 and ending in July 2007, Atlanta Progressive News reported at the time.
Vosburg-Casey first became interested in the SOA/WHINSEC when he was attending a Jesuit high school in California, in November 1989. He was a sophomore that year.
At that time, he learned about the murder of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and the housekeeper’s teenage daughter in El Salvador, at the hands of several Salvadoran military assassins who had been trained at SOA.
After graduating high school in 1992, he attended Colby College in Maine, where he majored in music and graduated in 1996.
“He’s a phenomenal piano player,” Amy Vosburg-Casey told APN.
“For many years, both when he visited the Open Door Community and after he moved out, he volunteered for their morning breakfast meals for guys on the street. He would play piano during the meal – it was fabulous – a lot of the guys [homeless men] could play or sing – it was a great way to get people engaged and forget about their problems for awhile – he’s a very gifted musician,” she said.
He served as a volunteer with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) when the organization placed him in Atlanta beginning in 1999. He volunteered for a year with Central Presbyterian Church, and then for a year with the Georgia Justice Project (GJP).
“He felt strongly about the humane treatment of people in prison… when he was at the Georgia Justice Project in 2000 to 2001, his job was to visit all of the clients who were in prison,” she said.
“Mike worked very hard to see that he would visit each client four times a year. He corresponded with them too, in between. He created really strong bonds with many of the men he was visiting,” she said.
“Some of them got out – he picked them up and drove them home. Because of his work with the Open Door, he continued to do that sort of thing when someone from the Open Door went to prison or had to go to jail, he often was involved in visiting or doing whatever needed to be done to help that person,” she said.
Amy Vosburg met Michael Casey when she came to Atlanta in the summer of 2000 to intern with the GJP.
She says she was drawn to him because of “his quirkiness, his sort of very easy warmth – it was very comfortable to be with him, and always interesting, cause he has a great sense of humor, a great sense of adventure. We were always… everything was always sort of, always including his sense of wanting to work for justice and peace and being very outspoken about having people be nicer to each other.”
“Along with that, he was just a very intriguing person – and like every romantic relationship, we just had a spark right from the beginning,” she said.
“He’s reserved – he can be very friendly – but I think he’s reserved about what he says, and very thoughtful about what he says. He stays quiet at first until he processes the situation and thinks about what he wants to communicate to people,” she said.
“His whole family has been in the Jesuit education system for their entire lives… Jesuits have such a great tradition of social justice work,” she said.
After his two years with the JVC, Vosburg-Casey lived for a year as a volunteer with the Open Door Community.
He and Amy moved in together and got married in 2004. He continued to pursue volunteer work and activism, while Amy worked as an attorney at the Georgia Capital Defenders and the Georgia Resource Center. His activism included anti-war protests, including the weekly peace vigil at Colony Square in Midtown Atlanta.
In 2009, APN reported that Vosburg-Casey participated in a rally in downtown Atlanta in solidarity with the people of Honduras, following the ouster and forced exile of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya.
Three years ago, when they had a daughter, Elena, Vosburg-Casey embraced the role of a stay-at-home dad.
“If you wanted to sort of generalize – it’s fair to say he was always driven by trying to get people to be nicer to each other and treat each other like human beings,” Amy Vosburg-Casey said.
“Fighting against homelessness and poverty, the death penalty, and the military killing people, and also against prisons – for me anyway when I think about it, the theme is institutions that treat people as less than human, and that’s where he focused his efforts and felt the most passion to fight,” she said.
“We [Ed Loring and I] got to know Michael when he came to Atlanta with the JVC… When he came to town, he began to come around to the Open Door, he worshipped with us and became more and more part of the community. When he finished his JVC term, he came to live here at the Open Door for a couple years or so,” Murphy Davis of the Open Door Community told APN.
“Michael appropriated and incarnated the primary what I consider virtues of discipleship. He was radical. He had a vision of peace and justice that he did not want to compromise,” Loring told APN.
Loring recalled that in his final days, about two weeks ago, as he was having a very painful struggle with cancer, Vosburg-Casey asked to be taken with his daughter Elena to participate in the weekly peace vigil at Colony Square one last time.
“It was quite a symbol of his commitment. He was in pain from cancer, cancer was eating up his body, but not his soul,” Loring said.
Loring said that Vosburg-Casey left a legacy “within his short years… that leadership is still ongoing… the seed and fruits of the radical leftist democratic socialist journey we’re on… We’re going to end the death penalty. We’re going to end homelessness. We’re all going to tear down this capitalist system.”
“Mike went every week [to the Colony Square vigil]. Mike took Elena. All her life she has been taken to that vigil. This was like the last burst of energy he had, he never left the house again. He said, Amy, I need to go to the vigil. She helped him into his wheelchair, and our daughter Hannah Murphy who is a nurse, they got him over to Colony Square, got his sign and had his last vigil, while Elena played around him and took her own part in it,” Davis said.
Davis also noted that Vosburg-Casey, as part of his activism against the death penalty, would protest Dr. Carlo Musso, a medical professional who is paid 18,000 dollars by the Department of Corrections for every execution.
“Every time there was an execution, Michael, whether he was alone or had several people with him–it was never a big crowd–he led this vigil in front of Dr. Musso’s office to say that this is a person who is specifically gaining from the enterprise of death and killing… and he should turn away from what he’s doing,” Davis said.
“Michael personalized this – it isn’t the bureaucracy; people are choosing to be part of the death machine. Michael never let off of that. He [Musso] was using his medical credentials to kill people,” Davis said.
“He was saying, give up your wicked ways and become a healer,” Loring said.
“He died over several days. Never did he complain. Always he was asking about others,” Loring said.
“He never felt he deserved any accolades. He was very humble. He knows what he did, believes he made a great contribution. He felt he did what he was supposed to do, and what everybody should do,” Vosburg-Casey said.
Vosburg-Casey is survived by his wife, Amy; his daughter, Elena; a brother, Dan; a sister, Beth; and his parents, Tom and Betty Casey.
Mike’s funeral will be held at 10am Monday morning, August 05 at Our Lady of Lourdes, 25 Boulevard NE, Atlanta.
A memorial service is also being planned for October 05, 2013 at the Open Door Community.