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Don Casperson, a retired physicist with an outstanding dedication to community service, has been chosen as the Los Alamos Kiwanian of the Year for 2010.
His selection, announced at the close of the Oct. 3 Kiwanis installation banquet at the Masonic Temple, caught Casperson by surprise — but the long list of projects in which he had been involved made the choice logical to everyone else.
Casperson is originally from Boston and came to Los Alamos in the fall of 1973, as a graduate student in physics with a Yale experimental group.
At first, he worked at the Los Alamos Meson Physics Facility, completing his thesis and obtaining his degree in 1976. Subsequently, he spent a long, productive career at Los Alamos National Laboratory. His career included work on the robotic telescopes at Fenton Hill. He is retired now, but he is still a guest scientist in International Space and Response-1.
He joined Kiwanis in March 2009 after his retirement. In a recent interview, he said he had always wanted to be involved with the club’s service projects, but never had enough time before his retirement.
Casperson chaired the makeover of E-19, a battered science laboratory built in 1962 at Los Alamos High School. He was one of the primary organizers in a project that drew some 300 hours of volunteer time (much of it from Kiwanis) and produced a miracle by washing, sanding and refinishing the ancient oak cabinetry in the lab.
Kiwanis became involved in the project when Joanna Gillespie, executive director of the Los Alamos Public Schools Foundation, told the club that even the cheapest replacement cabinets for the lab would cost all of the $87,000 that had been raised for the refurbishment project.
Kiwanis members, led by Casperson, set out to make the old cabinets sparkle again.
Subsequently, Casperson and Kiwanis teams were also deeply involved in refurbishing the Chamber of Commerce meeting room.
Casperson also led Kiwanis involvement in refurbishing the Health Room at Los Alamos Middle School and worked at the gates for the Los Alamos Kiwanis Fourth of July fireworks in 2009, then headed up vendor recruitment and worked on the firing line in 2010.
He also helped with numerous pancake breakfasts, raising money for local Kiwanis service projects and joined Kiwanis liaison Morrie Pongratz, in attending virtually all meetings of Key Club (a Kiwanis-sponsored high school group) and helping with everything from floats to photography.
Casperson is now involved in efforts to launch a Kiwanis-sponsored Builders Club at Los Alamos Middle School.
He has also helped with the annual Kiwanis clean up at Entrance Park and as an adult sponsor; he joined Key Clubbers when they helped stuff Zozobra this year in Santa Fe. He then returned with them several days later to help with concessions at the burning of Zozobra, a Kiwanis-sponsored event that kicks off Santa Fe Fiesta each year.
Casperson has also participated in interclub visits to the Taos, Santa Fe, Las Vegas, Cimarron and Raton Kiwanis clubs this year.
In his spare time, outside Kiwanis, he’s active in the United Methodist Church, where he runs “United Skates,” the Friday night skating program and helps with audiovisual presentations.
He also has a world-class collection of antique calculators and he has no plans to slow down. During the Oct. 5 meeting of Kiwanis, he paid a “Happy Dollar” to thank the club for the award and said, “I promise, I will continue working hard for the club.”