Manatee History Matters: Grandpa Hal Chasey left family his legacy

April 15, 2014 

Hal Chasey as president of the County Bank. He was never far from his hunting dogs. PHOTO PROVIDED


Second of two parts

Hal Chasey was always very civic-minded and felt that everyone had a responsibility to their community. One of his favorite sayings: "A man and his family are the most important thing, then the job, and then the community -- in that order."

Grandpa was especially passionate about the Palmetto Boy's Club. In an article published in the Bradenton Herald in 1974, Bob Wynn (Palmetto Boy's Club coach) says of Hal: "He knows the community's youth better than anyone in the community. I have seen more young people come to him than anyone."

Hal was instrumental in getting the new football and track stadium built for the

Palmetto Tigers. Even by the time I went to high school, he could be found more often than not on the night of home football games sitting at the 50-yard line, cheering for the Tigers.

Later, Hal Chasey helped found the County Bank and was its first president. I've been told that Grandpa was the face, the personality of the County Bank; his desk was even set up so he was the first person to greet you when you walked through the door. Getting Hal's opinion was an integral step when deciding if someone would be approved for a loan; Grandpa's judgment of a person's character held more weight than a credit score ever could (in Palmetto, at least).

It was also Hal Chasey's job to smooth things over with any upset customers. Grandpa was the PR representative before the term "public relations" became mainstream. He is credited with telling a reporter that banking is no different than selling anything: You sell friendliness, service and accuracy.

Another cause that was near and dear to Hal Chasey's heart was the Manatee Junior College, especially its fledgling athletic program. Bob Wynn (who also happened to be the athletic director at MJC) had this to say about Grandpa: "No one single person in the community has helped me develop our athletic program any more than Hal Chasey. He has helped me with problems, given me needed advice and has always been 100 percent ready to help."

Community servant

Hal Chasey received much recognition for community service in his life, including receiving a Distinguished Citizen Award from the Manatee County Fair as well as having the MJC Gymnasium named in his honor. I find it particularly gratifying to see that the Hal Chasey Gymnasium has carried his name for so many years, considering the number of name changes the college itself has undergone.

Despite all these accolades, I believe the greatest legacy Grandpa has left to my family is much harder to put your finger on. Hal Chasey's old-fashioned values laid the groundwork for the moral fiber of the whole Chasey clan. Maybe it had to do with being raised on a farm, maybe it was due to his conservative Quaker faith (Hal's mother, Laura Harris, was a member of the "Friends Church") or maybe Grandpa was just born with an iron-clad sense of integrity.

Whatever the cause, Hal Chasey was the type of man you could look up to and depend upon: family-centered, with a respect for the land, the community, and hard work.

While researching this article, I had a mini-epiphany about the legacy my family has received in the form of Grandpa's attitude and world view. Looking at my own branch of the family tree, I see those values reflected in mine and my sibling's career choices: My sister has recently begun work as a social worker, advocating for the community's youth; my brother, as much of an outdoorsman as Grandpa was, is a marine biologist conducting field work for the Audubon Society; personally, I've landed my dream job of preserving the past and keeping the small-town sense of community alive in an increasingly crowded, yet isolated world.

Though recent generations of the Chasey family may not share a drop of blood with Hal (both of his sons, including my grandfather, were adopted), Grandpa's values and his belief in family and community are the heritage he left to us. I can't imagine a more valuable legacy to inherit.

Tori Chasey Edwards, curator of the Palmetto Historical Park, enjoys horrifying schoolchildren by explaining the nature and use of chamber pots. She calls it education.

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