On October 17, 2020, Cassius Ellsworth Bly, son of Elizabeth Menne Bly and Albert Moffitt Bly, set sail on his final journey to see his beloved wife, Pat.
Cass was born in San Francisco on February 6, 1930 and he liked to remind everyone that that was Ronald Raegan’s birthday. He also enjoyed telling everyone he was conceived in Wink, Texas on a sort of honeymoon trip taken by his parents. At age four, his parents moved to the beautiful beach town of Santa Cruz, CA, where they raised gladiolas in fields behind the Wrigley chewing gum factory for many years.
Cassius is survived by his two brothers, Robert Bly and Bert Bly, his daughter Debbie Groshong and her husband Scott, and son John Bly, Grandsons Chris Brown, Matthew Bly, Stephen Bly, and Granddaughters Hayley Bly and Tami Koens. Cass was lucky to have Great Grandsons Zane, Bennie, Brady, and Brian as well as Great Granddaughters Aliyah and Zuri.
Cass was a runner who excelled in track and field, and in particular, he ran the 440-yard race and set records at Santa Cruz High School before accepting a scholarship to Stanford University. In his Junior year, he allowed himself to be set up on a blind date with Patricia Johnson from Stockton, and after a one-week courtship, they were engaged to be married. They set the date for March 24, 1951 because Cass was to run in the Stanford-Cal Relays and then had a week Spring Break after the race that they could efficiently have a Honeymoon. And Cass was all about being efficient. As he crossed the finish line that day, winning the race of course, Cass was photographed by the San Francisco Chronicle with the caption “Headin’ For a Weddin’” and an article written by Art Rosenbaum. Later, Cass found out the article was so popular, his best friend Bill Geary got a copy of it while stationed in Korea. Cass left his teammates and drove to his wedding and thus begun his devotion to his soulmate Pat.
After 56 glorious years of marriage, Cass lost his beautiful Pat in 2006. He remained devoted to his Patsy and often said he certainly believed they would be reunited upon his passing. One of Pat’s favorite sayings was to “put a smile on your face and put your heart in gear”. She certainly always did that for her lifelong soul mate Cassius. Even during his last few days Cass remembered exactly what Pat wore the day they met on their blind date-a brown sweater and a plaid skirt.
Cassius graduated from Stanford with Honors in June of 1951 and went to work for W.M. Lyles building gas pipelines in the Central Valley. Cass was an early pioneer of using backhoes to excavate cross lines for the trenching machines that were commonly used to dig the utility trenches. After leaving Lyles to move to Santa Rosa and work for Peletz Construction, his coworkers included Marv Soiland and Jim Kirkwood. Cass and Jim decided to start their own company in Santa Rosa in 1959 called Kirkwood Bly, Inc. Cassius had a long and successful career building treatment facilities, pipelines and pump stations in Northern California, Marin County and Sonoma County until his retirement in 1998. Much of the infrastructure for Oakmont, and Bennett Valley, as well as the Spring Lake swimming lagoon are some of their local projects he was proud of.
A longtime supporter of the Santa Rosa Junior College, Cassius created a scholarship that benefitted students for many years at the SRJC. In his retirement years, Cass was driven by routine and could be seen walking his beloved dog Nina around the narrow streets of Proctor Heights and returning home to read, play his crossword puzzles and sudoku, while enjoying his Friday afternoon lunches with the Montana boys Bill Geary, Angus McPhee, Tom Kinney, Bruce McPhee, Ed Kinney, son John Bly and Tom Sullivan. Those Friday lunches were always highlighted by laughter, respect, and trip planning to visit Bill Geary’s cabin in the Big Hole Valley near Wisdom, Montana Cass also enjoyed travelling to Hawaii, Tahiti, and road trips to follow the path of Lewis and Clark as well as trips to the Grand Canyon.
He always wanted to travel through the Panama Canal and succeeded to that goal in 2018 with daughter Debbie Groshong and her husband Scott. He was a sweet man who developed a great deal of love and respect for his entire family and his longtime caretaker Lulu and her entire family.
Cassius was respected and universally liked by all he came in contact with. A Hall of Famer with the North Coast Builders Exchange, he was proud of his career at Kirkwood Bly, Inc. and wrote an Autobiography of his life published in 1998 titled “A Life of Love and Work” where he wrote in his easy style about his entire life. Cass and Pat enjoyed their weekly lunches at the Tides in Bodega Bay, and they got a lot of pleasure on their trips to the big Island of Hawaii as well as their houseboat they kept up on Lake Shasta. Christmas Eve with “Tutu and Grandpa” was always special for the family as fresh cracked crab, Cousteau French bread and deviled eggs were lovingly served for many years to those lucky enough to get an invite to the traditional meal. Cass loved those meals that allowed his Pat to show off her fancy table settings steeped in gold, crystal love and laughter.
Cass enjoyed a life that was devoted to his beautiful wife Pat. In his last few days Cass had things done the way he wanted-he was in his home, visited lovingly by Tami, Jake, Zane, Zuri, Debbie, Scott, John, Matt, Steve, Hayley, Bennie, Brady, Brian and Katie. Always by his side was also his faithful and loving caretaker Lulu. Grandson Matt read to Cass excerpts from his own book and Great Grandson Brady repeatedly and patiently explained to Great Grandpa Cass about his Buzz Lightfoot and Woody characters from Toy Story. It was quite a sight with Cass in his bed, Murphy the yellow lab on his bed with Brady and John and Debbie, and Cass surrounded by love in his last few days. I know he appreciated it and that was the ending to a great life that could not have been better for his terms.
A Covid 19 celebration of life will be held via Zoom on November 8, 2020 at 2pm and friends and family are encouraged to email John Bly at John@nceca.org to get instructions on how to participate.