Toms River Regional Schools Hall of Fame

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Dr. Alfred J. Casagarande Jr.

As a child, Dr. Alfred J. Casagrande, class of 1943, eagerly observed the work habits and gentle manner of the legendary local doctor, Blackwell Sawyer. Seeds of what true service to his fellow man could mean took root early in Alfred's life. Classmates affectionately nicknamed him "Doc," since everyone was well aware of his future direction. Inspired by his parents, who imbued him with a strong work ethic, and equipped for the rigorous training that lay ahead by way of the progressive education received in the Toms River Schools, Alfred Casagrande set out to make a profound difference in the lives of his neighbors and the larger community.

Reflecting on his preparation for future challenges, Dr. Casagrande remembers his eighth grade history teacher, Dorothy Jameson, who taught him that participation in class and in life was a duty. He applied that lesson when, as a high school student, he served in the Toms River Civil Defense Corps during World War II. Young Alfred spotted enemy planes from a remote site in the cranberry bogs at Double Trouble and patrolled the lonely wooden bridge that spanned Barnegat Bay into the wee hours of the morning, while still managing to make it to school the next day. Later, Dr. Casagrande's strong participation in the health and well-being of his community would be admired by all. The camaraderie of the Toms River High School staff and students created a lasting impression.

Superintendent Finck, Principal Detwiler, and his teacher of English, social studies, and family relationships, Elizabeth Force, were among those who contributed to the supportive learning environment in which Dr. Casagrande grew. Their early model served him well, as he dedicated his life to supporting and sustaining families in need as a doctor of medicine.

Dr. Casagrande's medical education began at New York Medical College after graduating from Columbia College with a B.A. degree in 1946. Invitations to accompany his mentor, Dr. Blackwell Sawyer, on trips to the hospital during summers home from college fueled his determination to become a doctor. From 1950 to 1952, he completed internship and residency at City Hospital in New York City. Eyes wide, adrenalin surging, he "rode the ambulances" through East Side tenements where he gave emergency treatment under a broadening variety of dire circumstances.

The U.S. Army provided Dr. Casagrande with an overseas assignment. As a First Lieutenant, he served with the 759th Medical Detachment in France during the Korean Conflict. Upon his return in 1954, he considered carefully the kind of medicine that he would practice. He knew that he enjoyed children and caring for families. His emergency training in New York City had prepared him for the kind of minor surgery that would take place routinely in a doctor's office rather than at a distant hospital. One colleague, however, advised Dr. Casagrande to avoid family practice, because he would soon "meet the same fate as the dodo bird!" Dr. Casagrande wisely ignored that advice and, when an opportunity arose, he steamed confidently ahead toward his goal of establishing a practice as a family physician in Matawan, New Jersey.

As a family physician, Dr. Casagrande's life became interwoven with the lives of the families that he served through several generations. He worked amidst celebrations and tragedies. Once, he delivered a child of one of his old high school classmates. Sadly, the child faced serious health defects at birth and died within a short time. Imagine the great joy in that household when, later that year, Dr. Casagrande delivered a healthy set of twins for that same classmate!

House calls were a regular part of Dr. Casagrande's duties. Also, night office hours gave families access to medical attention that they might not otherwise have. The nearest hospital was too far away, and so the office of the family physician could be a very exciting place. The first aid and rescue squad frequently delivered patients to Dr. Casagrande's door. The immediate treatment that he rendered in those early days would now be handled in a hospital emergency room.

Though busy with his thriving practice and growing family of eight children, Dr. Casagrande, with the loving support of his wife, Helene, carved out time to serve the community beyond his own office. He was part of the medical staff of Monmouth Medical Center and Riverview Medical Center. He co-founded and served as President of the Matawan Medical Association and was the Physician Advisor to the Matawan Drug Awareness Committee through 1978. As Matawan's Borough Physician, he served the police, fire department, and first aid squad. To commemorate his vital service to the community, the Matawan First Aid and Rescue Squad made Dr. Casagrande its first honorary member.

Dreams spring to life through individuals. The building of a local hospital to serve his patients was Dr. Casagrande's long-time dream. He made that dream a reality for his community as a founding physician of Bayshore Community Hospital in 1972. That same year the Matawan Chamber of Commerce named him their Man of the Year. Dr. Casagrande chaired the Emergency Department at Bayshore until 1982 and was recognized as Physician of the Year in 1991. He continues to be an officer of the Board of Trustees at Bayshore and was instrumental in the recent completion of the new assisted living facility on the hospital campus. Ironically, he served on the Founding Committee for the Matawan Regional High School Hall of Fame.

Today, the Toms River Schools Hall of Fame is proud to honor Dr. Alfred J. Casagrande, Jr., M.D. Throughout his extraordinary career, Dr. Casagrande demonstrated deep compassion for his patients and the courage to see them through life's most difficult challenges. He was a physician and friend to families, while sharing their joys and sorrows. We salute his life of dedicated service to his neighbors and community.

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