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Donald F. Kasperan, 93 of Crown Point, formerly of Whiting/Robertsdale, passed away peacefully on Wednesday, December 20, 2023 at his residence. He was the beloved husband of the late Mary Ann F. (Kovacik) Kasperan who passed away February 1, 2006; loving father of Donald (Lynn), Jon and Patricia (Richard) Austgen; cherished grandfather of Jon (Heather) Kasperan, Paul Kasperan, James and Caroline Austgen, Christopher and Daniel Kasperan; Greatly loved by many nieces, nephews and cousins. He was also preceded in death by his sister, Margaret (late Joseph, “Sammy”) Semancik, brother, Albert (late Dolly) Kasperan, sister-in-laws Ruth (late Edward) Gronkiewicz and Luella (late Leo) Orr.
Funeral services will be held Saturday, December 30, 2023 at 9:30am at the Baran Funeral Home, 1235-119th St., Whiting; a Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10:00am at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, Whiting with the Rev. Mark R. Peres, C.PP.S., officiating; cremation to follow; visitation at the funeral home on Friday from 4:00 to 8:00pm. Members of the parish, together with the St. John Adult Choir, will offer prayers at the funeral home on Friday at 4:30pm. Expressions of sympathy may be placed on-line at www.baranfh.com.
Don Kasperan was born on December 18, 1930 to John and Mary (Leonard) Kasperan. A lifelong resident of the Calumet Region, Don was a graduate of Bishop Noll High School (Hammond, IN), Class of 1948. Previously attending St. Joseph Academy (Collegeville/Rensselaer,IN) for 3 years before the high school was displaced in favor of St. Joseph College to make room for returning WWII veterans. Don was a standout 3-sport athlete at both high schools earning 12 varsity letters (4 in each sport - football, basketball, & baseball). However, he spent more time around the gridiron since his high school summers were busy acting as a ball boy for the NFL Champion Chicago Bears during their training camps at his St. Joseph Academy campus. That's where Don met the legendary NFL Hall of Fame coach George Halas and several Bears' players, notably NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Sid Luckman. He often sent autographs from that Bears' team to his friends back home. However, unselfishly he never kept any for himself. At Bishop Noll, Don had a stellar senior year and was presented with the Most Valuable Player award in football. Coming from a devout Catholic family, Don had hoped to play football for the University of Notre Dame. Instead, he was recruited to play football as a fullback and linebacker for the Purdue University Boilermakers in West Lafayette, Indiana where he graduated with a Bachelor Degree in Industrial Management in 1952. While at Purdue, he joined the Army ROTC and was also a member of a Catholic fraternity (Phi Kappa Theta). Don is best remembered for his junior year on Oct. 7, 1950 where he led the Purdue defense in one of the biggest upsets in college football history with a shocking 28-14 victory over Notre Dame in South Bend. This victory ended Notre Dame's 39-game unbeaten string which put Purdue on the map according to former Purdue astronaut Neil Armstrong. Purdue head coach Stu Holcomb, along with future NFL Hall of Fame assistant coach Hank Stram, congratulated the team for their effort and awarded Don the defensive game ball during a pep rally at Purdue's new auditorium. Years later, Don met up with legendary Notre Dame football coach Frank Leahy who invited Don and his newlywed wife, Mary Ann, to dinner at his home in Michigan City, IN. Frank regretfully apologized for not recruiting Don to Notre Dame. As a result of earning All-Big Ten defensive team honors in 1950 and 1951, Don was selected by the Chicago Cardinals in the 1952 NFL draft. He attended Cardinal's training camp but had to leave and fulfill his ROTC commitment to the U.S. Army with the option to return back to play for the Cardinals. Years later, Don would be inducted into the Hammond (IN) Sports Hall of Fame in 1997 for his many athletic accomplishments, namely football. With the Korean War coming to an end, Don's U.S. Army assignment was to the Transportation Corps stationed in Greenland which he quickly discovered was not very green while surveying and testing military equipment in the extreme cold weather. Don was honorably discharged and achieved the rank of First Lieutenant. Rather than pursue a football career with the Chicago Cardinals after his time in the army, the hometown hero returned home to Whiting/Robertsdale and joined the Inland Steel Company in East Chicago, IN where he later retired after 30+ years of service as the Logistics Superintendent at the 100" Plate Mill. In 1960, Don and Mary Ann fell head over heals in love and wed. They bought a house down the street from where Don's parents lived and raised a family. Don took great pride in his tomato garden which expanded to many other vegetables over the years. He was a devoted member of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church and was very active in his community. Don joined the Whiting Elks Lodge #1273 (memorial service, Friday at 7:00p.m). A member for 68 years, he served as Exalted Ruler and participated in many of their philanthropic projects. He especially cherished the times he spent at the lodge for the Whiting 4th of July Parade. Don was the local precinct committeeman for over 40 years and didn't care so much as who you voted for as long as you showed up to vote. Don coached youth football and also baseball in the Robertsdale Little League. He also formed the local boy scouts troop and became the head scoutmaster. Don was an avid follower of the Chicago White Sox baseball team especially when his former Purdue teammate Bill "Moose" Skowron was traded from the New York Yankees to the White Sox. Don watched many a baseball game in person with his family or at his favorite local Pat's Tap. Don always followed his beloved Purdue Boilermakers football team with his family as a longtime John Purdue Club season ticket holder. One of his most cherished Purdue moments was the 2001 Rose Bowl game which his family surprised him for his 70th birthday to see Purdue play (with quarterback Drew Brees) against Washington. Don continued to follow the football Cardinals and the Chicago Bears. He would always take his family out to dinner on Fridays at Ingratta's Restaurant on Chicago's South Eastside when the Bears were playing at home that weekend. This allowed him to meet up with his former Purdue teammate Abe Gibron who was also the Bear's head coach. Don had a business interest as well during the 1980s and 1990s as co-owner of MAK-D Enterprises for which he and his wife, Mary Ann managed a kennel for the breeding of championship, show-quality Yorkshire terriers and Maltese dogs. Even so, Don preferred his boxer dog breed, particularly his buddies Spuddy and Sam. Don was very fond of the fine arts and was further inspired after he met the Von Trapp family singers, Purdue Glee Club and the Four Freshman group while at Purdue. Don participated in several of St. John’s Marian Theater Guild performances. Most notably, his portrayal of John Hancock in the musical "1776" received many rave reviews. Don was also a member of the Whiting/Robertsdale Madrigals for 15 years which included extravagant Madrigal dinner performances during the holidays. Don particularly enjoyed being part of the bass ensemble for over 45 years in the St. John the Baptist Catholic Church Adult Choir. Don always looked forward to spending time with his choir family and was kindly treated later to several very special Mass performances at his nursing home which he greatly appreciated. Don sang many songs with the choir, but his favorite which always brought tears to his eyes was "Hail Purdue!". Devoted to his family, Don will be sadly missed by all who knew and loved him. In lieu of flowers, memorials to the St. John the Baptist Catholic Church Capital Campaign Fund , 1849 Lincoln Ave., Whiting, IN 46394, would be appreciated.