L&WVRHS member Ed Kaspriske passed away on Feburary 1st. His sons shared a poignant goodbye letter to their father on Facebook. It is reprinted here for those without Facebook access.
Edward John Kaspriske peacefully passed away on Feb. 1. He was 78. Our father’s health has been on a steep decline since late summer. Those of you who reached out during the past several months, we want you to know he appreciated your thoughtfulness. Rather than dwell on what has transpired during that time, we would like to share our feelings about our dad.
If you were to ask us to describe “Butch,” “Big Ed,” “Superman,” “Supe,” “Mr. K,” in a word, we’d have to say strong. And not just physically strong—although at one time he was as big as an NFL defensive lineman. We mean strong in every sense of the word. Strong opinions, strong passions, strong beliefs and a strong dedication to duty. Our father’s strong personality resonated with anyone he came in contact with. It’s what made him extraordinary. You never had to guess how our father was feeling about things.
For those of you who did not meet our father until recent years, you might not know he was a very good artist who could pencil sketch virtually anything. Before the age of computer-controlled cars, he could fix, build or rebuild most vehicles from scratch. In fact, to make ends meet when we were kids, our father would come home from work and do tune-ups on cars in our driveway. He was a skilled electrician, no doubt honed from his 30-plus years working for Public Service Electric & Gas in New Jersey. You know those giant cranes you see on construction sites? He could maneuver one like a kid playing with a toy truck. Our father had very little interest in sports, but one of our fondest memories of dad occurred at family-reunion picnic when we were still in elementary school. There was a softball game that day, and our father picked up a bat and crushed a pitch into the farmland. We looked at each other proudly but in astonishment. Who knew our dad could even swing a bat? Our father also served in the U.S. Army before the Vietnam War. He left as a non-commissioned officer with honorable discharge papers in 1969.
Hard to believe we’ve reached the fourth paragraph without mentioning the one thing our father will be remembered for most. As a child, he lived in Rahway, New Jersey a few hundred yards from one of the busiest railroad lines in America—the “Northeast Corridor.” Our father would walk or ride his bike up the street every chance he could to see the iron horses of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Hour upon hour they would rumble through town on their way to places he had never been. We remember our grandfather, Pop Pop, telling us our dad was awestruck by the smoke, the sound, the power of these steam engines as they sped down the tracks. Those early impressions left a mark on our father that stayed with him throughout his life. Though he only worked for the railroad for a brief time, as a brakeman on the “Pennsy,” he never really left the tracks his entire life. If you knew our father, you couldn’t escape being dragged into his railfan vortex. If you don’t believe us, just look up his name on YouTube. You’ll find roughly 500 videos he produced on trains. He also had in his possession thousands of VHS, DVD and photographs of trains he produced from the early 1950s to 2019. His passion for all-things trains did not go unnoticed in the age of social media. It’s safe to say he was a rockstar to many railfans. True story: Our father came to visit Ron a few years back. Trying to please the ol’ man, Ron hopped on a train with dad and took him to Grand Central Station in New York to see an exhibit on railroading. As he was walking along one of the platforms, a man spotted him and ran over to greet him. He had never met our father but knew him from his many social-media posts about railroads. The guy nearly asked our father for his autograph.
Like any sons’ relationships with their dad, ours had good times and bad. Neither of us shared many of our dad’s views on the world, and as we got older, those differences of opinion led to some clashes we’d like to forget. That being said, we always respected him. He was a kind man. A funny man. A provider. A dad you could look up to and learn from. And now he’s gone. Our story is probably no different than the story you might tell about your fathers. And for that, we can sympathize. As our father aged and we could see this day approaching, the memories of who Edward Kaspriske is/was came flooding back. We shared some laughs, some tears and some smiles thinking back on those days. That’s the stuff we’ll keep in our hearts from now until it’s our turn.
There’s no way to surmise our relationship with dad. But this lyric speaks to us about how our feelings have changed over time.
So don’t yield to the fortunes
You sometimes see as fate
It may have a new perspective
On a different day
And if you don’t give up, and don’t give in
You may just be OK
In the end, we were OK. Sweet dreams, Butch.
George and Ron