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Kasem’s daughter hopes to see visitation bill passed in Maine

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LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 02: Kerri Kasem supports Jason Patric during A press Conference Outside of the Court on September 2, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 02: Kerri Kasem supports Jason Patric during A press Conference Outside of the Court on September 2, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Valerie Macon/Getty Images)

This is the story of a parent diagnosed with a terminal illness and of children who have been blocked from the home or hospital at a crucial time when that parent should be surrounded by the love of family. 

Kerri Kasem, daughter of the late radio countdown legend Casey Kasem, says it’s an all too common scenario which has inspired what she calls her life’s mission; to help others avoid the heartache she endured by seeing the passage of a “Visitation Bill” in all 50 states. Kerri is hoping that Maine will soon be one of them.

“This is the most important thing I’ve ever done,” Kerri Kasem told me during a phone interview last week. “My father was such a wonderful man. He was my hero and is the reason I am who I am today.”

In 2007, Casey Kasem was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and later, Lewy body dementia, a debilitating condition with symptoms which mirror those of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

“We said ‘Dad, your wife (Jean Kasem, Casey’s second spouse) is going to keep us away from you when you become very sick.’ We knew this because she had done it to her own mother and siblings.”

Even though Casey Kasem then signed over a healthcare power of attorney which allowed his children to make health-related decisions on his behalf (and was filmed doing it), his daughter says her warning to her father came true.

“Three years ago last June, she (Jean) told us ‘You’ll never see your dad again.’ She couldn’t wait for that day. The police couldn’t help us and Adult Protective Services couldn’t help us so we went to court.”

The case wound its way through the court system for eight months and cost more than $350,000, but Kerri and her siblings ultimately won the right to be with their father.

“When we won, she immediately took my dad from state to state and hid him from everyone.”

Kerri and her siblings finally found their father in June 2014 and spent his final 15 days at his hospital bedside.

“My brother and sister were there with me, along with dad’s brother, my aunt and one of my dad’s best friends. He died knowing he was loved, but it was a horrible thing to go through and this bill will prevent others from going through the same thing.”

When Kerri and her siblings were going through their ordeal, she says she received “hundreds of letters from people around the country filled with heartbreaking stories very similar to ours. That’s when I knew we had to do something.”

They established the Kasem Cares Visitation Bill which allows a family to ask a judge for visitation rights. To date, the bill has passed in California, Texas, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Virginia, Louisiana and Alabama. The legislation has been introduced in 22 other states and the bill has been sponsored in 15 others. Maine is one of only six states where the bill has yet to be heard.

“It would make us so happy to have the bill passed in Maine,” Kerri Kasem says. “If someone could grab the bill and take it to their representative, we’ll come out and lobby it. I’ll go up and talk in front of the Maine Senate. It would be absolutely amazing to have it passed in Maine.”

In 2016, a similar bill was introduced by Archie Verow of Brewer, a former Maine state representative of District 128.  Verow said he had worked closely with Catherine Falk, daughter of the late actor Peter Falk of “Columbo” fame. 

“The bill was introduced as an ‘after-session’ bill,” Verow said via phone on Monday. “We wanted to get a solution to this as soon as possible and hoped that it would be taken up and passed last year but it was introduced too late.”

Verow says that it is hope that a visitation bill will be sponsored and passed in Maine as soon as possible.

“It’s a very difficult situation for these families and I hope the bill is taken up again soon,” Verow said. 

More information about the Visitation Bill can be found on the website www.KasemCares.org.

“If anyone is going through something like this right now, we can help you,” Kerri told me. “We have a hotline through the website. People can call us or write to us and we’ll help. My father taught us about the value of helping others and also about having a strong work ethic. He led by example.”

Casey Kasem also inspired his daughter to enter broadcasting where she has hosted a variety of syndicated programming over the last 20 years. She can currently be heard as a co-host of “Gurvey’s Law” on news/talk KABC in Los Angeles.

Whether she’s on the radio or trying to assist a family going through a visitation battle, Kerri says she feels the constant presence of her father.

“Jean Kasem tried to stick it to us one final time by burying my father in an unmarked grave in Norway – a land [to which] he had never been – but I can tell you with absolute certainty that my dad is with me every single day. He’s what keeps me going.” 

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