Man Who Lost Everything In Fire Desperately Needs Home

OUTHAMPTON, NY — A Southampton man who lost everything he owned in a fire just days before Christmas — including his beloved cat — is desperately still trying to find a home to call his own.

Joseph Casony — his friends call him Joejo— had lived in a small rented cottage on the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club property for many years, until he was faced with the unthinkable, left with literally just the clothes on his back and his truck.

Firefighters raced to the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club property on St. Andrew’s Road and County Road 39 in Southampton to extinguish a blaze that gutted the home, leaving it a “total loss” on Dec. 20, officials said.

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Thankfully, Casony was not home and was at work, and was not injured — although he lost his cat, Abigail.

Casony has persevered in the months since, trying to remain positive, but the hope of finding an affordable rental on the East End has become an elusive dream for many displaced from their homes during a pandemic real estate boom that saw property values skyrocket.

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Still, Casony has hope that he’ll be able to find a new home — hopefully, a caretaker situation similar to the one he’d had for so many productive and happy years.

“I’ve been living out in the Hamptons for 23 years,” he said. “My children live around here, my work is out here. God willing, I will be able to stay out here, but it’s not easy,” he said.

He’s been searching since January 1 to find a rental in the area, but so far, there have been no viable options.

After the fire, a GoFundMe was created and a fundraiser was organized by Casony’s friends, those he participates with each year in the “Bradstock” music festival — an annual two-day Labor Day event, raising funds for a good cause. Even basketball player Kyrie Irving donated $15,000 to Casony’s GoFundMe page.

Casony said those funds helped him find hope in the most bleak of times. “That money was a gift for me, to build a future,” he said, adding that his hope is to purchase a home one day. “But that day is not today.”

He added that he’d like to stay in the Hamptons, where his children are. Casony, like so many priced out of their hometowns, works tirelessly and is diligent about his responsibilities, including child support. But he does not envision a future where homeownership in the Hamptons will be something he can realistically afford.

That’s why finding a rental and ideally, a caretaker situation, is his deepest hope.

Despite all he’s endured, Casony’s faith and inner fortitude remain rock solid.

After the fire, he’s focused on smart decision-making, he said. And also, he is most and above all, grateful.

“It’s amazing the experience God has put me through, and what I am learning about it all. Don’t get me wrong — it stinks,” he said. “But I am so grateful. I have been, from the very moment this happened, because I know there’s a bigger plan here. I know not to take anything for granted — I feel I’ve always known that.”

That positivity has been infused into Casony’s very character from the start. “I’ve always tried to live my life by staying extremely positive and embracing every moment, good and bad,” he said. “I’ve been teaching my kids that since they were born.”

Out of the ashes of the fire have risen one of the greatest positives of all, he said — the fact that his children can witness how, despite all obstacles, he’s been pushing through and how he hasn’t let anything get him down.

“I can only thank God for that one. He’s my solid rock and gets me through every day with a smile. True story,” he said.

But he’s also candid about the sometimes seemingly insurmountable challenges.

“Obviously, the hardest part of all this is trying to find a place to live. That’s the part I’m most uncomfortable with, and it stinks, but I know it’s going to be okay. I’m going to be camping and couch-surfing for the next six weeks as I am continuing to work in East Hampton before I move jobs,” Casony said.

Little things can become daunting, such as not having identification with a physical address. “All I have is a P.O box, so now I can’t even get a Suffolk County green key to get the discounted rates when camping in the county parks,” he said.

Asked about his ideal living setup, Casony compared himself to the character “Radar” on the 1970s television sitcom M*A*S*H.

“I’ve always considered myself a Radar, that guy who is perfect for one person, or one particular company — to be that right-hand man for another. That’s part of the reason I was a caretaker at the cottage on the golf course. And yes, that is my goal — to find another position where I can be someone’s handyman.”

All he wants is to find a place where he can live and maintain the property, pay a decent rent and supply labor as part of a barter.

“I truly believe it’s in my nature, and I would be a wonderful asset to the right family,” he said. “This is what I strive for. The problem is you have to be in the right place at the right time. But the truth is, it’s all in God’s hands. Everything is on His timing, and my faith is strong. I’m learning to be patient through all of this.”

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Looking ahead, despite the nightmare he’s survived, Casony has allowed himself to hold close to a dream.

“My future dream would be to find that perfect piece of land or a little cottage one day, purchase it with the fundraiser money — and live a quiet, simple life, continuing to enjoy music and work,” he said.

No matter where his road leads, losing his home, a pain beyond measure, has also shown how those who love him wrapped their arms and hearts around him in his time of great need.

“I cannot even begin to give thanks and shout-outs to the absolutely beautiful community that is rallying behind me. People keep coming to me and saying, ‘You did this,'” Casony said. “‘This is because of who you are, that’s why this is happening.’ And I just have to throw all that up to God. Listen, I’m doing better than I deserve. I’m just a simple human. I fail and fall short all the time. But my pop taught me how to love, and I give that love away, and it keeps coming back. I thank every single person, including the ones I don’t know, who have been there for me. I am so grateful.”

Casony, who had no renter’s insurance, lost all he owned. “Everything is gone,” he said. Over the years, he’d collected vintage vinyls and thousands of concert posters, a testament to his love of music. “The cottage had a vibe that was just incredible,” he said. “And I’ll create it again.”

There were glimmers of hope: Casony said at least one box of photos under his bed was salvaged; his birth certificate and Social Security card, which had been tucked in a cookbook, were also intact.

There were moments of mercy: “On the day of the fire, the fire marshal was there and I asked him if he’d mind looking in a corner, where there was a blue box with my father’s ring. I lost my father four years ago,” Casony said. “He found it. I got my father’s ring back.”

Casony has been living at a friend’s house for three months but the clock is now ticking. “I’m hoping God opens something up that I can afford,” he said.

Casony also realizes how lucky he is to be alive. If the fire had happened in the middle of the night, he likely could not have gotten out in time, he said.

Casony said his faith propels him forward in the hope that a position will open up and his path, become clear. “I’m just a man looking for a caretaker position,” he said.

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