Best Mom

Judy Cassilly

When Judy and Bob Cassilly's oldest son, Bob Jr., built a tree fort in the back yard, complete with tunnels and a network of vines lined up for maximum swingage, Bob Sr. bought the boy a Boy Scout knife and took him down to the basement to teach him how to use a jigsaw properly. When Judy noticed young Bob was using his new knife to carve up bits of wood, she apprenticed him to a sculptor, Rudy Torrini, so he would learn how to turn those carvings into art. When Bob grew up and bought an old shoe factory on Washington Avenue for $525,000 and set about converting it into a massive art installation/playground, complete with sculptures, mosaics, seven-story slides and the world's largest jungle gym, he was so absorbed in the project that he wouldn't leave the building to get lunch. So Judy stopped by to bring him a Thermos of soup every day, plus cookies for the rest of his crew. Bob Sr. visited, too, and used his jigsaw to make a beanbag toss for the Mini City area. Bob Sr. died in 2002. When Bob Jr. was killed in a bulldozer accident last year at his beloved land sculpture, Cementland, it's fair to say that nobody, not even Judy Cassilly, was surprised. Bob Cassilly believed that kids shouldn't be sheltered, that they should always take risks and try, and that pain was an important part of living. He only could have learned that from his own parents, who understood that letting him go out and fulfill his self-appointed mission of making the world a more beautiful and interesting place was better than keeping him safe and bored, and who gave him the tools he needed to do it — not to mention lunch.

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