All through his career, Don Caskey wanted to become more involved with the community. Only after retiring did he get the chance to do just that.
Growing up in Oklahoma, Caskey remembers going on camping trips in Colorado with his family. He especially remembers their first trip in 1960, when he was 9.
“We actually came through BV,” he says. “I remember we stopped, we got fishing tackle, my dad got a fishing license at Hi-Rocky. We camped in the mountains west of here. We came back almost every year for Colorado vacations and camping in the mountains while I was a kid. When I was grown and got married, we continued to come out here and camp.”
Caskey started out his career in accounting with Conoco in Ponca City, Okla. He worked in the transportation accounting group, which included the company’s cars, rail cars, truck fleet and airplanes.
“I never had an interest in aviation,” says Caskey. Yet after working around Conoco’s airplanes for about 7 years, he caught wind of an opening for a financial analyst in Conoco’s aviation department in Houston, Texas. He took the job, eventually progressing to hiring positions too.
At some point, Conoco was bought by DuPont. In the late ‘90s, the two companies split, and DuPont offered Caskey a deal to stay with their flight department. Caskey moved to Delaware to continue overseeing finances and safety in DuPont’s flight department.
“I enjoyed it,” says Caskey. “While my background was accounting, I actually thought it wasn’t all that interesting just being involved in accounting for a big company. But when I got to move to the flight department, actually being at the hangar where we operate the aircraft, it was a much more fun environment to work in. While I still did financial work, I wasn’t in an accounting office, I was in a flight operations office. Just being involved in that, there were a lot of things to learn about aviation that I didn’t know.”
As he learned more during his career, he became responsible for more kinds of work, such as purchasing aircraft parts for the company. When personal computers came on the scene, he would obtain software for aviation applications.
Once local area networks became part of computer usage, Caskey partnered with Dupont’s IT department to develop a maintenance tracking program for aircraft.
Aircraft maintenance was crucial. “There’re very tight rules,” he says. “You could ignore maintenance on your personal car. You cannot ignore maintenance on an aircraft.”
His IT career developed from his knowledge of aviation. His role eventually changed to finding the best programs to satisfy their needs.
“I developed information around aircraft costs so that we could more accurately budget what it was going to cost us to perform our role with the company in providing a worldwide aviation fleet,” he says.
After 37 years, Caskey was ready to retire to the mountains. Despite loving the Buena Vista area and wanting to move here, his work background kept him away.
Still doing some consultant work before completely retiring, he found a vacation home in Game Trail northwest of town and bought it in 2011. In 2013, the Caskeys sold their house in Delaware and made their Game Trail home a permanent residence.
Only a couple of months after moving in, Caskey became acquainted with a certain club that would help him fulfill his desire to get more involved in and give back to the community.
“I went to an Optimist pancake breakfast in the park and I realized a lot of these people putting on this breakfast to help youth and the community were my neighbors in Game Trail,” he says. “So, I started talking to them about that and decided this would be a good way to get involved in the community and do something positive to help people out. I ended up joining the Optimist Club very soon after moving out here.”
Caskey has been very involved with the Optimist Club ever since. He recently began his third term as treasurer. Prior to that, he served two terms as president.
“Our motto is ‘We’re a friend of youth,’ and our purpose is we promote trying to bring the best out in kids,” he says.
The club’s objectives, he adds, include helping kids feel good about themselves and inspiring good citizenship, respect for the law and patriotism. The Optimists try to make this happen through their many events throughout the year.
The pancake breakfast is one of the club’s most notable events, and not just during events like the Fourth of July celebration. Caskey has helped them serve pancakes during the McGinnis Middle School conservation camp, Ride Your Bike to School Day and even the Kids Fishing Derby.
“The way those kids scarf up those pancakes, I think that meal is very appreciated by them,” says Caskey.
He especially enjoys the other ways the club gives back to youth in the community. In addition to their scholarship program, the Optimists hold a youth appreciation awards ceremony for grades 1-12.
“We recognize 40 kids a year and give them a nice award as a youth appreciation from Optimist International,” says Caskey. “It’s a program we have to make kids feel good about themselves, to try to excel in school and be positive in school. I think it’s a very nice program that the Optimists do.”
The Optimists also make sizable donations to a number of other groups and organizations. The BVHS Booster Club, the choir and drama class, the middle school ice fishing derby, the local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, the Boys and Girls Club and even fellow non-profit organizations are just a handful of groups they support.
“I don’t think there’s a lot of civic clubs that turn around and take their fundraising money to help other organizations. The Optimist Club does that,” says Caskey. “When you look at what the Optimist Club does for this community, I can’t think of a better or more rewarding organization to be in.”