James Thomas Cassan | Obituary

Eighteen days shy of his 84th birthday, James Cassan died after a fierce battle with Parkinson’s and dementia. For someone with such a quick wit and big personality, this diagnosis was particularly painful.

James Thomas Cassan was born December 31, 1939, in Portales, NM to Dora (Wichman) and Arthur Cassan. A fierce competitor, James wrestled, played baseball, and football. Early academic challenges forged a strong work ethic, James was the hardest working man in any room. He was so grateful for the many mentors who assisted him on his path.

After graduating from Portales High School in 1957, James attended Boise Junior College, where he was a guard on the 1958 undefeated Boise Junior College football team. After the untimely death of both of his parents, James transferred to New Mexico State University in Las Cruces to focus on engineering, rather than football. On Christmas day in 1960, he met the love of his life Doris Scott – they married six

James earned Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in Civil Engineering from New Mexico State University with post graduate work at Lehigh University and the University of Michigan. He was a member of the faculty at Michigan Technological University and Lehigh University in the Civil Engineering Departments. A setback during his Ph.D dissertation defense at the University of Michigan caused James to redirect and accept a job at the Boeing Company in Seattle, as a member of the SST development team. In 1967, James and Doris moved to Mercer Island with two young sons in tow.

Sensing that his time on the SST project was coming to an end, James sought new opportunities for supporting his family. In 1968, James and Doris opened the first Dollar Rent A Car franchise in Seattle, and in 1973 they purchased the Portland, Oregon franchise. Beginning with a fleet of just five Volkswagens in 1967, this adventure created opportunities and challenges beyond their wildest imaginations.

In the 1970s, James began developing commercial real estate projects. A tough negotiator with a long-term vision, James thrived in this environment. He often said, “if you love what you do, you will never work another day in your life.” Strategic land acquisition and patience created the opportunity for James to build his first mixed-use retail and high-end residential project in 2004 – The Mercer.

A life-long learner, James loved talking with people and learning about what interested them. He loved America and was a strong supporter of those defending our freedom. He believed in pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps and not making excuses. James was driven by the power of potential, in himself and those around him. He had endless motivation quotes.

James was preceded in death by his parents and brother, Arthur “Bert” Cassan. James is survived by his loving wife of 62 years, Doris; sons Todd (Michele) and Curt Cassan; daughter Traci Granbois (favorite son-in-law Andy); and six grandchildren, Wyatt, Beckett, and Sam Cassan and Colette, Hudson, and Georgia Granbois. An appreciation for a smart track suit and a good prank, James maintained his sense of humor to the end. James may be gone but his legacy of quiet kindness, mental math, and thirst for knowledge lives on. He will be missed.

A celebration of life will be held on Saturday, February 24, 2024, at 2pm at Encounter Church (formerly Mercer Island Covenant Church), 3200 78th Ave SE, Mercer Island. The best way to honor James is to be a little more like him: industrious, positive, and always willing to take a little risk.