Moose Lodge loses dear friend and driving force

Moose Lodge loses dear friend and driving force
Administrator Ernie Casali Jr. proudly showed off the Moose Lodge’s new deck in September 2015. - Joe Hendricks | Sun

BRADENTON BEACH – Members of the Anna Maria Island Moose Lodge #2188 are mourning the loss of longtime Lodge Administrator Ernie Casali Jr.

An email from the AMI Moose Lodge #2188 in Bradenton Beach announcing Casali’s passing was sent to lodge members on Monday, March 4.

“It is with a sad and heavy heart that we must inform you of the passing of our Administrator Ernest Casali Jr. late Sunday afternoon,” the email said.

“Most of you know him as Ernie C., the man behind the ‘all famous’ emails. However, he will be remembered more so for all the amazing things he has done for the Anna Maria Island Moose Lodge #2188. He is the heart and soul that created our lodge that we all enjoy today. Without his vision, dedication and hard work, we would be just another spot on the map, instead of the wonderful and unique lodge that we have here.

“As we say farewell Ernie C., you will forever be in our thoughts. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all that you did for your family, the community and all Moose members everywhere. We love you, Ernie,” the email concluded.

Casali was the driving force behind the 2015 lodge renovations that produced the second-story deck that overlooks the beach and the Gulf of Mexico.

He was master of ceremonies during the Wednesday night Queen of Hearts drawings, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Moose Lodge and the charities it supports. The Queen of Hearts drawings also produced hundreds of thousands of dollars in prizes for Moose members.

Casali’s emails to lodge members covered a wide range of topics including who was eligible to participate in the Queen of Hearts drawings, where members and guests were to park and not park, and on at least one occasion, his candid thoughts on another nearby Moose Lodge.

Moose members reflect

“I’ve known Ernie for over 10 years and he was my teddy bear,” lodge member Sandra Zenzel said.

“We did a lot of tremendous things together – not only for the Moose fraternity but for the community. We would shop for food for needy families and toys for the needy kids at Christmas time and deliver them. He was one-in-a-million. He was the kindest, gentlest and most compassionate person I’ve ever known. His heart and soul were into the Moose. We want to keep his legacy going,” she said.

Zenzel said plans for a memorial service were still pending as of last week.

“Right now, the whole family and the whole staff is grieving so we don’t know when that will be. Everything will be held in the lodge,” Zenzel said.

Zenzel said Casali served as lodge administrator for 14 years.

While assisting with Thursday evening’s food service, Moose member Sherrie Snider said, “Everything Ernie did for the lodge he’s done for the people within the lodge. He personally took care of us, watched out for us and was as concerned for us and the people here as he was for the lodge. It was a personal thing for him.”

Kay Amodio is the 2018-19 Senior Regent for the Women of the Moose Anna Maria Island Chapter #1601.

“What a gentleman. What a wise businessman,” she said. “He was so loving and kind and fair. He taught me so much in the short time I’ve been Senior Regent. He built this Moose into the greatness that it is. The Moose fraternity has lost a good friend and a good brother,” she said.

While sitting at the bar, Moose member Steve (last name not given) said, “I’ve known Ernie for the last seven or eight years. You always knew where you were with Ernie. He was the biggest-hearted guy I think I ever met, but at the same time, he knew how to ensure that the line was toed. He was a very dear friend and he did wonderful things for this lodge.”

Wendy Quinn has worked at the lodge for 13 years. She took a break from her bartending duties to share her thoughts on Casali.

“This is hard. He’s been my boss for 13 years, but he was more than a boss to me. He was family. He’d help anybody out that needed help. He did so much for this lodge, it’s immeasurable. He was one of my best friends. I love him and he’ll always be in my heart,” Quinn said.

Lt. John Cosby and other off-duty members of the Bradenton Beach Police Department provide security for the Queen of Hearts drawings.

“Ernie was truly one of those nice guys,” Cosby said. “He was very caring too. And what he’s done for that Moose Lodge – he took it from a shack that was basically falling down and brought it to what it is today. It’s a destination now. Moose members are coming from all over the country.”