Kasper George Graff
Kasper George Graff was born on May 9, 1925 in Leland, Iowa, and passed away on December 6, 2020 in Santa Barbara, California at the age of 95. He was the youngest of nine children, having four brothers and four sisters. As a youngster, George lived in rural areas of Iowa as part of the farming community. One of his fondest memories was the family-maintained garden with potatoes, which were eaten in a variety of ways, as well as cherry and apple trees, and gooseberry bushes. His mother made homemade cottage cheese from the family’s dairy cows and added boiled strawberries from the garden, as well as delicious homemade breads. George liked to ride the workhorses bareback every chance he could, and chuckled about the time a horse decided to head into the barn with George still riding. Narrowly George escaped being scraped from the horse’s back by plastering himself down. He also relished evenings of music when his grandfather pulled out the accordion and extended family gathered to tell stories of bygone days.
George also enjoyed his one room schoolhouse experience through elementary, and especially when his school put together enough children for a team of all ages, both female and male, to compete against another one room schoolhouse.
While still in high school, George was accepted to the U.S. Navy V-12 Officer’s Training Program. He excelled in the program, later attending Notre Dame to receive a degree in Aeronautical Engineering as well as earning an Officer’s Commission. Subsequently, George’s Navy duty was in the area of overhaul and repair of aircraft. After the war, he returned to Notre Dame where he worked as a Teaching Assistant while earning a Master’s Degree in Engineering Mechanics.
After graduation, he was an Instructor of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. It was there that he met Betty Richards and they married in 1948. George once commented that Betty was the love of his life, and marrying her was the most important thing he had done.
After their honeymoon, they moved to Southern California where George worked as an aeronautical engineer at Northrup Aircraft in the engineering of airplane and missile structures. He and Betty purchased a tract home in Long Beach, where their three children were born. George and Betty then built a new home on the Palos Verdes Peninsula south of Los Angeles. While this was a somewhat rural area, their children attended a high school with about 2000 students, quite a departure from George’s experience. All of George and Betty’s children were educated in the California University System.
During the 1960’s, George’s fancy was taken by the emerging satellite and space program. He joined the Aerospace Corporation, a “think tank” engaged only in government business, as part of the team for systems engineering of satellites, one of his projects being The Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL).
After retiring, George and Betty lived in Spirit Lake, Iowa, enjoying farming and relaxing at the home they designed and built on West Okoboji Lake. They wintered in Surprise, Arizona and their homes were decorated with many pieces of Native American art. Betty and George spent part of nearly every summer at their cabin in Glacier National Park, appreciating the serenity and beautiful view. They eventually settled in Santa Barbara to be closer to family.
George is preceded in death by his wife of 72 years, Betty Graff, and eldest son, Stephen Graff. George is loved and will be missed by children Rick (Sue) Graff and Jill (Corey) Anderson, as well as grandchildren Sarah Graff LaCasse, Amy (Garrett) Damron, Katie (James) Anderson Orr, Lorin (Sébastien) Cuendet, Brad Anderson, Holly (Ryan) Palmerston, Kara (Frank) Hale, Erica Graff and 11 great-grandchildren.
There will be a private family service for George and Betty in 2021. Memorial donations may be made in George’s name to The Glacier National Park Conservancy or the charity of your choice.