WEST ORANGE, NJ — Sean Michael Cassels of West Orange died unexpectedly on Aug. 2, his 40th birthday. Cassels, a Millburn police officer and former West Orange police officer, was known as a loving husband and father, caring neighbor, and all-around great guy.
Though born in Montclair, Cassels was a lifelong resident of West Orange and a beloved member of the Millburn PBA Local 34.
“We lost a great brother last night in the Millburn family,” the Millburn PBA said of Cassels in an Aug. 3 statement. “Sean was a kind, gentle, fun-loving guy who would go leaps and bounds for his friends and his family.
“You will always be missed and never forgotten.”
Never straying far from his West Orange home, Cassels graduated from Seton Hall Prep and earned his bachelor’s degree in business from Montclair State University. In fact, as an adult, Cassels lived on the same street where he had lived as a child.
But his ties weren’t just to the place, but to the people he met here. The best man at Cassels’ wedding, Joe Naporano, had lived across the street from Cassels in West Orange.
Naporano described Cassels — who had in turn been best man at Naporano’s wedding — as “a person who really loved people.”
“Being a police officer was the best job for him because he could really help the public,” Naporano told the West Orange Chronicle in an Aug. 15 phone conversation. “Even growing up, he was the guy in the neighborhood who would shovel the sidewalks and driveways for other people, without them asking.”
And Cassels never stopped doing this. According to friend Rich McDonald, until his death, Cassels would shovel out his neighbors after snowstorms without their having to ask.
“He’s the type of guy who mowed his neighbor’s lawn because she’s an elderly female,” McDonald told the Chronicle in an Aug. 15 phone conversation. “She didn’t ask him, he just did it.”
McDonald elaborated that Cassels would drop in once a week just to make sure she was getting on well and had enough food. And while he was there, he would make her laugh, McDonald said.
“He had a big heart,” McDonald said. “He made sure everyone was taken care of.”
“The best way to describe Sean is loving,” Jim Spango told the Chronicle in an Aug. 11 phone conversation. “He was genuine, caring, always happy, always helping out a friend in need. He was loving and gentle.”
Spango said Cassels would do anything to help out friends and family members and always had a smile on his face while doing it.
One of Cassels’ great passions was baseball, and he was a longtime player in the North Jersey Baseball League.
McDonald and Spango had been playing baseball with Cassels for 32 years until his death. The three of them had participated in Little League together, playing on the same team each year, and then attended Seton Hall Prep together, before all three became police officers.
“He loved baseball,” McDonald said. “He coached all three of his boys and taught others. He just always wanted to help.”
Naporano described Cassels as a “great athlete,” who had been a “fantastic baseball player at Seton Hall Prep.”
“He was always very competitive and that’s what we loved about him,” Naporano said.
“From being the most ferocious competitor on a baseball field to being the gentlest father, husband, brother, son and friend in life, without Sean there is an unfillable void,” Spango told the Chronicle. “He is a man who will be missed immensely by family friends and anyone who ever had the pleasure of crossing paths with him.”
To support Cassels’ family — wife Jessica and sons Michael, Patrick and Jameson — a GoFundMe page has been set up at https://www.gofundme.com/2hudwnbm. As of press time, nearly $56,000 was raised.
Photos Courtesy of Jim Spango