On November 21, 2017, David Cassidy, former teen idol and 1970s pop star passed away at age 67. Cassidy grew up in West Orange, New Jersey, before achieving widespread acclaim and fame. The residents of West Orange still remember David Cassidy as a hometown boy, one of their own, with deep roots in that town.
Those roots go far back to the ancestors of his mother Evelyn Ward, who were partly responsible for founding the city of Newark. Evelyn came from that group of Irish and Swiss colonial Americans seeking religious freedom. According to history, the first person given the privilege of coming ashore was Elizabeth Swaine, the daughter of Captain Samuel Swaine, and new bride of Josiah Ward. Ensuing generations remained in what would become Essex County. The Ward family tree eventually lead to Frederick Ward, descendant of Josiah and Elizabeth Ward (née Swaine). On May 21, 1923, Ward's wife Ethel Laurinda (née Wheeler) gave birth to their daughter Evelyn in West Orange. The Wards bought their house on Elm Street in 1919.
Evelyn Ward moved from West Orange to New York City, and became an actress, making her Broadway debut in 1943. In 1945, she married actor Jack Cassidy and had their son David Bruce Cassidy, who was born in 1950 at Flower Fifth Avenue Hospital New York. They were frequently on the road touring as actors and young David spent his early years with his maternal grandparents on Elm Street in West Orange. The marriage of Jack Cassidy and Evelyn Ward eventually ended in divorce. Evelyn moved back to West Orange with David and there he remained in West Orange with his mother at the Elm Street home of his grandfather, Fred Ward.
HOLY TRINITY EPISCOPAL CHURCH, WEST ORANGE, NEW JERSEY
David’s grandmother, Ethel, was the pianist and soloist in the senior choir of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in West Orange, and David was the lead soloist in the junior choir for seven to nine years old children. He also attended Bible School regularly. David, recognizing the great religious influence in his life, was quoted as saying:
“It probably was subconsciously something that ~ that later on in life as I went through becoming extremely successful early on ~ helped me to stay grounded “
His mother Evelyn always knew that David wanted to be a singer and actor, even as early as 4 years old. David would sneak into her bedroom and sing his mom to sleep and sing to wake her up. David started school in kindergarten at age five right through to fifth grade in West Orange, until he left West Orange as a teenager to live with his father in Los Angles, where he eventually landed the role as Keith Partridge in the 1970s hit show “The Partridge Family”. By a stroke of fate, his TV mom, the actress Shirley Jones, was his real-life stepmother. David thought the world of his grandfather Fred, who he said was the finest man he had ever known and was more of a father to him than his own father Jack Cassidy. David had wonderful memories of my family, and his childhood time in West Orange. Later in David’s career he would do concerts in Atlantic City, New Brunswick at the State Theatre, as well as at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank in 2016. David had great affection for his childhood home and church. It made him very happy to revisit and he held his ancestral heritage in great esteem. His family roots were very special to him.
As a very special tribute in honor and in memory of David Cassidy and his boy-hood roots in West Orange, New Jersey, we have been given permission by Holy Trinity Episcopal Church to plant a yellow hybrid Tea Cassidy Rose in the garden at the front of the church with a plaque dedicated to his beloved memory.
Our deepest thanks to Holy Trinity Episcopal Church and the Reverend Miguel A. Hernandez for allowing us to do this tribute in honor of David in his home town of West Orange, New Jersey, USA
David, “ Tell Me It’s Not True”
“I Think I Love You”
The Cassidy Rose