Casey Gradischnig Obituary

Casey  Gradischnig
Casey Gradischnig

January 28, 1962 - May 16, 2019
Resided in Des Moines, Iowa
  • Contat Us
  • Videos
  • Guestbook
  • Photos
  • Services
  • Send Flowers


Casey Gradischnig couldn’t turn back time but he sure knew how to use it.

Unlike his pal Cher, whose final tour has gone on for more than a decade, Casey’s came to an end on May 16 at Taylor House, because of the metastasized melanoma he knew would finally catch up to him. He did, however, get a final tour in a life that was already a spectacular production and it was an adventure-filled encore worthy of the man loved by so many.

Casey, 57, was an aficionado of many things - Bombay Sapphire, Diet Dr Pepper, the Pretenders and even, for a time, bingo -- and wore his passions on his sleeve as clearly as he wore his tattoos. In more than a few cases, the tattoos were of his passions. Those who knew him likely met him through one of three passions that forged his life: theatre, music or a quest for justice and understanding.

Casey grew up in Des Moines and attended Roosevelt High School. Leadership and creativity came early for him, as he would organize neighborhood kids and direct them in plays. His pursuit of excellence was a through-line professionally and personally, and made Des Moines a better place through his endless contributions of design work for nonprofits, corporations, and numerous local theatres like StageWest, Drama Workshop, Des Moines Playhouse, and Iowa Stage to name just a few.

Casey graduated with a communications degree from Grand View, and had an award-winning career as a creative director/designer/editor and respected leader at Saks, Drake University, Planned Parenthood and Meredith Xcelerated Marketing. The “passion project” of his career was redesigning the ACLU’s magazine, Stand. It allowed him to meld his creativity and his values.

Casey was always a champion for the marginalized and underserved, never missing an opportunity to help others understand the importance of tolerance and inclusion. Living his own life fully and authentically made the greatest impact.

In the 1990s, a time when the word “transgender” was barely understood, much less uttered, Casey began his transition and began efforts to help people understand the transgender community. Casey called himself an “apprehensive activist” and discussed his life in a very public way with the Des Moines Register’s Rekha Basu in various columns over the years.

Beyond that, Casey was just spectacular person to be around, with humor and charisma that quickly made people want to be his friend. And as Casey realized his time was winding down, his army of friends and loved ones eagerly joined him as he spent the final year-plus of his life crossing items off his bucket list. He enjoyed trips to Spain, Cuba, Las Vegas, Miami, New York, D.C., and New Orleans, just to name a few, and saw some great concerts, including Storm Large, Mavis Staples, Tom Jones, and his beloved Pretenders. The tour was the final chapter of a life well-lived.

Casey is survived by his mother, Sharon Gradischnig; his sister, Melissa Gradischnig Coxe; his brother, Tony Gradischnig; nephews Nick Clausen and Joseph Nelson; his squad—including Teva Dawson, Karla Kash and Jodi Jinks; and his beloved dachshunds, Rudy, Henry and Jesse. He was preceded in death by his father, Charles Gradischnig III.

He also asked—in true Casey form—that his obituary include shoutouts to his girlfriends Emma Thompson, Sharon Stone, Annette Bening, and Chrissie Hynde, who no doubt are devastated by this loss.

Beyond planning his final year of adventures, Casey also took time to plan his legacy in the form of a fund through the ACLU of Iowa. His legacy also lives on in the words of his favorite song, the Pretenders’ “Message of Love”:

Now the reason we’re here
Every man, every woman
Is to help each other
Stand by each other

Casey took the time to plan his own funeral, so you know it will be a great party. Join us for his celebration: Service May 31st at 2:00 p.m., Iles Dunn’s Chapel, 2121 Grand Ave., followed by a “second line” brass band processional (½ mile walk, wear walking shoes) to Witmer House, 2900 Grand Ave., Gouda and Gin starting at approximately 4:00 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be directed to the ACLU of Iowa, 505 Fifth Avenue, Suite. 808, Des Moines, IA 50309






Dunn's Funeral Home
6337 Hickman Road
Des Moines, IA US 50322
Friday, May 31, 2019
2:00 PM
- Show more -


ACLU of Iowa
505 - 5th Avenue, Suite 808
Des Moines, IA 50309