Casher: A Public Servant's Life Memorialized

Clare Coe Casher's legacy will live on through the memorial Fund established by her husband Sherwin and her children at The Community Foundation.

A golf club and a remarkable sense of commitment. These may be the first things that come to mind when discussing the life of Clare Coe Casher. But to those who knew her well, they were only the tip of the iceberg.

A New Haven native and Hillhouse High School graduate, Clare Coe received a degree in journalism from Syracuse University, where she also was business manager of the school newspaper. But after marrying Sherwin Casher in 1948, Clare devoted her life to public service.

At a public forum regarding the City of New Haven's school system, Clare was among many residents who voiced their concerns on the quality of their children's education. But, it was Clare – it is said – who spoke so eloquently and with such conviction that she was later approached by New Haven Mayor Dick Lee to consider a seat in his administration.

"To her, words had meaning and were not employed to arouse passion without conviction," Sherwin Casher remembers about his wife. "Her demeanor and her voice were her facts and they were convincing and her accomplishments were legendary."

Clare was appointed to the New Haven Housing Authority by Mayor Lee in 1961 and served on that Board for a decade, nine years as Chair. During that time, the Housing Authority oversaw the development of twelve public housing projects in the City and planned the development of two more.

Clare served on the Board of Directors at The Community Foundation from 1980 through 1986, during which she convinced her fellow Board members to adopt a public relations strategy to bring in new donors. It is worth noting that The Foundation's assets nearly doubled during the time Clare served on the Board. Other major achievements during her tenure include the creation of the Special Commission on Infant Health to address New Haven's high infant mortality rate, and the Arts Challenge Fund to build a permanent endowment for arts organizations in the community.

Sherwin and Clare Casher. Photo courtesy of Richard Casher.

Clare's passion, insight and commitment as a Board member was so inspiring, she was featured in a Council on Foundations' training video that was used in hundreds of community foundation boardrooms across the country and in Canada.

That passion was seen in other parts of Clare's life, particularly her golf game. A member of the Racebrook Country Club in Orange for nearly 40 years, she competed in many tournaments with the Connecticut Women's Golf Association and at her peak played to an 8 handicap. And when the Cashers moved to Florida, it was with that same dedication that Clare mastered the game of tennis in her late 60s.

"My mother believed deeply in the unique power of individuals to overcome challenges and adversity and achieve success through dedication, discipline, self-sacrifice and old-fashioned hard work," says Richard Casher. "She lived her life by that creed. It was an inspiring message of optimism that she conveyed to me over and over again throughout her life."

Though Clare lived the last years of her life in Florida, her heart remained in New Haven. In 1991, Clare and Sherwin established a fund in memory of her mother, Lillian Opper Coe. And now a fund in Clare's memory resides at The Community Foundation as well.

"Clare Casher's thoughtprints are indelibly etched into the fabric of our city," says Sherwin. "And I am proud."

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