Dr. Charles Boyer Kasper – devoted husband and father, scientist, man of faith, craftsman, and outdoorsman – passed away on Tuesday, Sept. 5, at the age of 88, surrounded by his family at the Theda Care Regional Medical Center in Appleton, WI.
He was born in Joliet, IL on April 27, 1935, the son of George Joseph Kasper and Florence Elizabeth North, and grew up in nearby Lockport, IL. Charles spent his high school years immersed in basketball and was a star on the school team. His senior year was a significant one. He joined the Naval Reserve, and served for eight years. He also became interested in chemistry – and Mary Jean Charlton. As he said many times, it was “love at first sight” when he saw her across the room at a church dance.
His courtship was temporarily put on hold when he headed to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, to pursue a degree in chemistry. After two years – and with encouragement from his father and Mary Jean – he departed for the University of Illinois Chicago College of Pharmacy and graduated with highest honors. He worked on research projects at Argonne National Laboratory for two summers. In between studies, he and Mary Jean found the time to marry in 1957, after she graduated from Illinois State University with a degree in Speech Pathology.
While he had dreams of owning a pharmacy with his best friend, his interest was piqued by research. So, when he was offered an opportunity to attend graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the Department of Physiological Chemistry with a three-year WARF scholarship, he didn’t think twice.
He was privileged to work with Dr. Harold Deutsch and accomplished the seemingly impossible by graduating with highest honors in four years with two children and a wife for company.
He continued his scientific explorations through post-doctoral studies with Dr. Emil Smith at the University of Utah and migrated with Dr. Smith to UCLA, providing additional strength in the rapidly expanding fields of protein and nucleic acid biochemistry.
Life in California provided numerous opportunities for adventures outside the realm of science. With a Jeep, a tent, and either his family or adventurous colleagues, he explored everything from Death Valley to the Cascade Mountains. Although delighted with California, an offer to set up his own lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison proved irresistible. So, in 1965 they packed their Jeep and headed back to Madison for another adventure.
At the McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research, Dr. Kasper conducted early studies in protein chemistry and moved on to research proteins of the endoplasmic reticulum and nuclear envelope, notably those related to liver xenobiotic and carcinogen metabolism. With the advent of recombinant DNA technology, his laboratory isolated the genes for a number of these enzymes (cytochrome P450s, NADPH-cytochrome P450 reductase, epoxide hydrolase, UDP-glucuronosyl transferase). The Kasper laboratory was the first to identify the CYP3A gene family, responsible for metabolism of greater than 50% of prescription drugs as well as many endogenous compounds, and was able to identify mechanisms for regulation of CYP3A expression.
Dr. Kasper got every grant for which he applied and had 38 years of uninterrupted NIH funding. He co-authored more than 100 publications in journals from the Journal of Biological Chemistry to Science. He advised numerous doctoral students and was supported by trusted laboratory partners who he greatly appreciated. His worldwide scientific affiliations were a testimony to his integrity, deep thinking and insistence on accuracy.
Goodly parents and the teachings of Christ shaped his character and actions. As a youth he appreciated learning and growing through the Congregational Church. Later in life he found great joy and continued growth in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
At home, Dr. Kasper enjoyed time with his wife of 66 years, Mary Jean, and children Lynda (Dave), David, Jenette (Bradd), and JoAnna (Matt). He is also survived by seven grandchildren, Caroline (Noah), Ben, Andrew (Emily), Nathan, William, Natalie, and Elsa; and five great-grandchildren, Cayden, Parker, Sadie, Abigail, and Thomas. Each knew grandpa, or great-grandpa, as a man curious about their interests and an unabashed fountain of loving support in their life.
We are blessed to know that Dr. Kasper now rests with Our Heavenly Father, reunited with his younger brother, Doug, with whom he would shoot marbles, play ball and explore the woods and creek; his long-missed mother, Florence, who died when he was merely 14; and his father, George, who taught him woodworking.
Dr. Kasper treasured family and the family treasured him. He felt that the greatest gift to others was kindness. His family is comforted knowing they will one day be together again. In the meantime they live in appreciation of one another and for Christ's gifts to us.
Dr. Kasper will be buried in a private ceremony at the same cemetery where many of his ancestors lie, in Lockport, IL.
The family welcomes donations in his name to the Nature Conservancy or the charity of your choice as an expression of your sympathy.
For online condolences visit www.wichmannfuneralhomes.com.