Though he doesn’t draw attention to himself, Leon Cassady can often be seen at some of the area’s biggest events — parades, festivals, and the like — and there seems to be one companion always accompanying him.
Cassady often attends these events to make a video record of what goes on, then he provides DVD’s of those gatherings — at no cost — to residents of nursing home facilities to so they can watch and keep up with all the goings-on in their towns.
The idea of filming local events came to Cassady while he was visiting his mom in a nursing care facility. “I knew she was missing what she used to be able to go do.” It was then he partnered with is son-in-law, Richard Shively, and began Stay Connected Ministries.
Cassady is a Patrick county native. Born into the life of a tobacco farmer, he quickly decided he had to do something other than farming, and when he was 12 he spent the summer worked for a family friend, “Pastor Millstead,” the owner of the old Esso station in Mount Airy.
He returned to the station to work for two more summers, and during his time in town Cassady says he began to fall in love with Mount Airy.
“I just loved the town and the people,” said Cassady.
That’s not the only love that bloomed during those years. During his time at the gas station, Cassady met his wife, Elenor Franklin, at a drag strip in Bassett, Virginia. The two married shortly after meeting in 1961 and began a family in 1964. Leaving Mount Airy and moving to Bassett, Cassady found employment as a factory worker at the Dupont nylon plant.
The two share three children, Karen Shively, Pamela Bowman and Steve Cassady, all current residents of Virginia.
“My children are very supportive of what I do,” he said of his video ministry. He said Richard Shively, Karen’s husband, was the biggest help. “He provides me with a lot of the materials I need,” said Cassady. After retirement he and his wife moved back to Mount Airy and that’s when Cassady began filming.
Cassady’s wife Elenor, when able, attends the events and helps. Cassady said she does a lot more away from the events. “She does most of the paperwork, reminding me of different dates and events.”
Currently, Cassady takes DVD’s to eight nursing homes in North Carolina and Virginia. His travels include visiting nursing homes as far as away as Roanoke, Martinsville, Danville and Stuart, all in Virginia, as well as in Walnut Cove.
Cassady’s DVD’s are shown on two cable stations in Virginia: Cable station 21 in Collinsville and Cable Channel 12 in Franklin County.
“I’ve worn out three cameras.” joked Cassady. He has provided more than 268 different DVD’s to nursing homes throughout the region.
He said the annual Mount Airy Christmas parade and the annual Mount Airy Farm Fest events were two of the most memorable. “The people really loved watching the children riding around on their little tractors, for the Farm Fest, as did I.”
Sometimes, weather makes his work challenging.
During the 2014 Mount Airy Christmas parade, the temperature was 29 degrees. “My wife told me to wear gloves. I asked her how I was suppose to operate the camera with gloves on,” said Cassady as he laughed. “Weather doesn’t at all deter me.”
The rain poured down during the Farm Fest 2015 parade. Still, he was out there, videoing the event. “I can’t miss these events, I would be letting a lot of people down.”
Cassady says he often goes unnoticed at local events, “I have a few who recognize me and know what I am doing.” However, Cassady emphasized he doesn’t do the work to be recognized.
Samantha Hendricks, an employee at Colonial Care in Mount Airy said, “They [the patients] really enjoy watching the videos.” She explained that they watch the videos and will do socials based on the content of the video. “We talk about the video and things they loved and reminisce.”
“Everyone is really appreciative of what Leon does, he puts a lot of hard work into his videos,” added Hendricks.
One of Cassady’s most memorable experience was after he filmed a small musical event. “I remember watching the people dancing, or trying to and sing along, every single person forgot their problems for a moment.”
Cassady spoke about what it means to him to go to these nursing homes, “It’s amazing, it makes their day so much better. It’s the best feeling to know I am making someone else happy.” For him to see the people and brighten their day was something Cassady expressed as his motivation.
Reach Eva Queen at (336) 415-4739 or [email protected]