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Meet William Orville Casey, a blind man with great sight

Updated: May 9, 2022

Orville riding a horse on his farm.

On September 12, 1906, Governor Frank Gooding decided to stop in to pay a visit to the students of the brand-new Idaho School for the Deaf and Blind in Gooding. The town of Gooding as well as the county of Gooding were both named after the governor. As it turned out, one of the students he greeted that day, a 7-year-old blind boy from the Treasure Valley named William Orville Casey, would one day be honored in a similar way.

Casey, who went by Orville most of his life, was blinded at age 4 when he got typhoid fever. He was in the first class at the new school, learning to get along without his sight.

Orville became a fine judge of animals, especially the milk cows he purchased for his dairy in Ustick, near McMillan and Maple Grove. When it came time to buy a cow the auctioneer at the local sales yard allowed Casey to get into the ring with a prospective animal, back it into a corner, and feel along its body to determine its quality. This wasn’t just for show. Lewis W. Morely, national secretary of the American Jersey Cattle Club, came to Boise in 1939 and visited the Casey dairy. The Idaho Statesman quoted him as saying, “This man has accomplished through his fingertips the ability to expertly judge a fine cow. Individual animals in his Jersey herd compare favorably with some of the best cows in the larger herds.” Casey’s cows proved his skill by winning many ribbons at the fair.

His visits to the auction ring gave Casey an idea for a little business that would serve him well over the years. He set up a card table with snacks for sale to auction goers. He knew coins by size and weight and trusted buyers when they told him the denomination of a bill. He claimed he could tell if they were lying by the tone of their voice.

He ran his dairy from 1923 to 1952. That’s when he took his small concession business to the Idaho statehouse. Casey purchased a small booth inside the capitol and opened what would become known as Casey’s Corner. He became a favorite with elected officials and visitors during the Legislative session. His grandson, Greg Casey, remembers helping out by taking coffee up to the second floor many times for Governor Robert E. Smylie.

Orville Casey retired from his concession stand at age 65 in 1964. He kept busy gardening — demonstrating an amazing ability to distinguish between weeds and vegetables — and started a wood cutting business.

Sighted folks marveled at his business and farming skills. Those in the blind community recognized him for many years of leadership. Orville Casey was the long-time president of the Idaho Society of the Blind, hosting annual picnics at his farm during the organization’s conventions.​

In 1975, Governor Cecil Andrus presided over a ceremony naming the new high school building at the Idaho State School for the Deaf and Blind the Casey building. With remodeling and new construction, it has become the Casey Wing today, honoring the first blind graduate of the school.

William Orville Casey died in 1986 and is buried at the Joplin Pioneer Cemetery in Meridian.

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