A young John Casling, seen here in one of his stores. He was a dapper dresser and a champion of our tourism industry. <em>*Bermuda Sun file photo</em>
A young John Casling, seen here in one of his stores. He was a dapper dresser and a champion of our tourism industry. *Bermuda Sun file photo
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 3: Colourful retailer John Casling has died after a brave battle with cancer.

Mr Casling — who owned the Bananas chain and Front Street’s Smuggler’s Reef for many years — was 61.

Daughter Daina, a lawyer with a reinsurance company, said: “He was a natural salesman with a great sense of style and very colourful all round. He had a great sense of humour as well as being a proud Bermudian.

“He was also very outspoken — someone from the Chamber of Commerce said he dared to be different and that was true.

“He was passionate about Bermuda tourism and was never afraid to rock the boat with his opinions.

“He always had a really good attitude — he was an optimist, but very humble. He would never ask anyone to do anything he wasn’t prepared to do himself.”

Ms Casling added: “He was a generous man as well and employed a lot of people over the years and did a lot for his employees.”

Mr Casling, despite his illness, continued to work until the last few months of his life.

Lifelong friend John Barritt, leader of the One Bermuda Alliance, said the two had competed academically and in sports as schoolboys, but had always remained close.

Mr Barritt said: “John, from an early age right to the end, was a buoyant, self-confident and optimistic man you just loved to be around and an entrepreneur from day one.

“He knew what he wanted and went after it. He wasn’t afraid of hard work and long hours. He always did it with a smile on his face. He was a snappy dresser — but he never wore socks. It made perfect sense to him, especially in the summer.”

Mr Barritt added: “One thing I could never beat him at was public speaking contests. He had a talent that way which he came by naturally. He was one of these people who could talk himself into and out of a problem — often using the same arguments to do it. He will be missed.”

Mr Casling, who lived in Pembroke, was educated at Saltus Grammar School and joined Eastern Airlines aged 17, then worked as a salesman with a printing firm before starting his first company, Professional Business Systems.

He later became head of sales and marketing at a wholesaler — eventually buying the company and then moved into retail with the Bananas and Smuggler’s Reef clothing stores, building a chain of around 18 outlets around the island.

He later ran a sunglasses store, a flower business and worked for Outerbridge’s Original Sherry Peppers.

Ms Casling said: “He was a character — everybody saw him on the road in the Sherry Peppers van.”

Mr Casling also designed the colourful polka-dotted “Happy Trash” bags.

Businessman and elder statesman Sir John Swan said: “I first encountered John many years ago when he was a young, up and coming entrepreneur and we became friends.

“I have watched his determination under any circumstances and his optimism under any circumstances. His entrepreneurship told him to always make sure that, whatever he did, he did it the best he could. He always had a ‘can do’ attitude to everything he did.

“When he got sick some time ago, it drained him because he always tried the best he could and continued to do so. Even when sick, he still did the best he could.

“Bermuda will miss him because of his attitude, the kind of attitude that helped make Bermuda the place it has become.

“I will miss him as a friend and the country will miss him as a man who provided services across the island. He looked far afield for his products and many were unique.

“He was one of those human markers that we should pay tribute to and respect and remember him for what he has done.

“I extend my deepest sympathies to his family, who I know will miss his strength. I know he had enormous fondness for his children and was very proud of them.”

Mr Casling is survived by his partner of several years Susan King, daughter Diana, 33, sons John, known as J., 30, and Harrison, 24, as well as grandchildren Jackson, 2, and Daisy, three months.

A memorial service will be held tomorrow (Thursday) at St John’s Church, Pembroke, at 3pm. The death notice said that “colours may be worn and socks are optional.”