Ellery Casey, a co-founder of LTI Tools (formerly Lock Technologies, Inc.) and Casey Tool, passed away quietly at his home in Naples, Florida, on March 15, 2023, following a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 76.
Ellery and his brother Wayne Casey sold their company to Milton Industries in July 2022 after more than 40 years in business. Ellery remained active part-time, contributing to new product development and selective major account business management until he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
“Ellery was a real character. He was well known within the aftermarket show circuit and the mobile channel,” said Greg Carlson, CEO of Milton Industries. “He had many accomplishments from developing a wide array of automotive specialty tools to founding LTI Tools and Casey Tool with his brother Wayne and growing it into a successful business, culminating in the sale to Milton last year.”
Ellery and Wayne Casey started their business in 1978 by selling “Slim Jim” car lockout kits door-to-door to help automotive repair and towing shops unlock vehicle doors. Later, they added other tools to their product line including a universal hubcap lock key.
“There were problems back in the seventies with locking wheels,” said Wayne. “There was a lot of hubcap theft. So, the car makers developed hubcap locks. Over time, tire shops and repair garages would get vehicles in, but frequently the owners misplaced the keys. So, these shops couldn’t remove the wheels.”
Ellery and his twin brother, Allan, developed a universal tool to unlock hubcaps.
Ellery was born March 13, 1947, in Chicago, Illinois, to Gene E. Casey and Mary J. Casey (nee Krupa). He grew up in Oak Lawn, Illinois, attended Brother Rice High School in Chicago, and graduated from Marquette University in 1969 with a degree in economics.
Following graduation, he taught grammar school at Chicago Public Schools for several years. In the summer of 1971, he went backpacking through Europe. When in London, Ellery bought a BSA motorcycle to tour the countryside with a group of other young men. They traveled through France and Spain together.
“He had a big butterfly painted on his helmet to show he was free,” said Wayne. “He brought the bike back to the U.S. He made the mistake of parking his bike outside a bar and leaving his helmet on the seat, as he’d done many times in Europe. When he came back out the helmet was gone. Welcome back to the U.S.!”
Later, he took flight lessons and became a pilot. He quit his full-time job teaching and began working as a flight instructor and selling his specialty tools, Wayne said.
The specialty tool business evolved, first using Wayne’s basement as its headquarters. Over time, the brothers moved the business to a former bakery in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago where Ellery lived above the business. During this period they hired Jim Laughead, their first long-term employee.
“Ellery treated me very well throughout our long-term relationship,” Laughead said. “We grew to have a really good friendship over our 27-plus years together. The last 10 years, we began working a lot more side by side.”
Ellery appointed Laughead as the sole design and printing services supplier, including literature, packaging and website responsibilities. “That was typical of Ellery’s generosity,” said Laughead.
Recently, LTI launched a line of Shockit tools that Ellery developed.
“These new Shockit tools are game-changing,” Laughead said. “They will be a way we can keep Ellery’s vision alive. I just wish he had the opportunity to see them fulfill their full potential.”
Ellery and Lock Technologies won dozens of awards for their innovative, problem-solving specialty tools.
“The tool industry will miss Ellery Casey’s inventiveness and big personality. I will miss our conversations,” Carlson said. “But his legacy will be kept alive by the tools and products he developed and the brand that he championed.”
Ellery Casey is survived by his wife, Laura Dion-Jones Casey, brothers Wayne (wife Louise) and Greg Casey, life-long friends such as Mike O’Connor, and numerous nieces and nephews. Ellery was preceded in death by his parents and twin brother Allan.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks those wishing to express their sympathy to consider donating to Mercy Home for Boys and Girls (Chicago).
A celebration of life will be conducted privately.