Casey Kasem created the music radio program “American Top 40.” He was the voice of Shaggy on my favorite cartoon show, Scooby-Doo.
Kasem never really cared for one type of music over another. But he knew his subject and he knew his audience and kept up with it like a top selling salesman. Hit singles in various genres came and went, but it was Kasem’s delivery and regular-guy appeal that brought listeners back to their radios time and time again.
“What really matters,” he said, “it what I say between the songs,” he said. Many likened his comfortable, on-air ways to that of soft slippers; his relentless upbeat outlook to life, the close of every show: “Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars,” a little bit corny.
In 1988 his relationship with American Top 40 ended due to a contract dispute. The next year, he started Casey’s Top 40 on another network and brought a good portion of his old audience with him. Ten years later he had secured the rights to the name and again hosted American Top 40.
In 2004 he handed hosting duties over to Ryan Seacrest, but remained in the background, writing and producing. In 2009, Kasem quietly retired on the 39th anniversary of his first Top 40 program.
Kasem had been diagnosed with Lewy body dementia in 2007. Lewy body dementia is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system similar to Parkinson’s disease. In 2013, when his health had deteriorated to the point he was unable to care for himself, a bizarre feud erupted between his second wife (Jean) and the children of his first marriage. It began when Jean refused visitation to his children, to see their father.
In May of 2014, a court granted Casey’s daughter Kerri (42) conservatorship over her father, which included the right to make all medical decisions on his behalf. The problem with that was that nobody knew where he was. Jean had moved him from a nursing home several days earlier and was hiding him. “He was no longer in the United States,” she told the court.
Several days later, however, he was found in Washington state, unresponsive. Kasem died two week later. Jean had the rights to Kasem’s body, and she collected his remains from a hospital in Tacoma, Wash. But a month after his death, he still remained unburied in a nearby funeral home. A few days after that, his body went missing from the funeral home.
A representative for the family became involved and stated that Jean “is hiding him from authorities and is hiding the body away from family and friends.” His daughter Kerri lobbied through the Kasem Cares Foundation for legislation in the California state senate that would grant visitation rights to adult children with an ailing parent.
The rep stated, “they just want their dad to be buried where he wanted to be buried – Forest Lawn [in Glendale, Calif.]. They’d like to be able to visit him.”
Jean had Kasem buried in an unmarked grave at Oslo Western Civil Cemetery in Norway, a country where Kasem had no relatives, ties, heritage and had never visited. He lies there alone, and where he will most likely spend eternity.