It has been 82 years since the attacks on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. While most of us have read and learned stories in history class, there are some in Western New York who recall that day vividly and have some great stories to share and even some songs to pass along.

Most of us remember the day that the attacks took place on 9 11 and can recall the events as if they were just yesterday. For those who lived in the World War II era, it is the same thing. Although the "Greatest Generation" did not have the advantage of social media and 24 hour news, those who lived through it are left with the memories of how the USA responded and how the fight here at home helped to win the war.

Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7th, 1941. The "date which will live in infamy".

Remembering Pearl Harbor Around New York State

Gallery Credit: Clay Moden


There is no better way to learn history than through the eyes and ears of those who lived it. I caught up with a close family friend and asked him to share a memory of what things were like or what he recalls from 82 years ago. Don Heidenburg turned 93 this past November and was 11 when the attacks took place at Pearl Harbor. "Kasper" as he is also known by, remembers how he and his family listened to the radio reports and a speech from President Roosevelt after the attacks.

Kasper was honored by the officials in Erie County and Hamburg, New York on his 90th birtday.

It is with great pleasure that I get to tell you about one of Hamburg and Western New York's greatest residents. As a matter of fact, Friday, November 13th, has been become a day devoted to him in Hamburg.

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I met Kasper the clown years ago. He was the best friend of my wife's late grandfather and has become an unofficial grandfather to our three boys and one of the greatest people I have ever had the honor to call friend.


Donald Heidenburg was born in the City of Buffalo in 1930! From working at his grandparents' grocery store in the city to becoming a Marine and then a Superintendent at Bethlehem Steel in Lackawanna, Heidenburg has an incredible history in WNY.

But it is work as a Shriner clown that has made the biggest impact. Kasper the Clown has entertained kids for decades. As a matter of fact, my buddy Kasper has won numerous awards and accolades in his clown career. But it is more than just his ability to make balloon animals and tell corny (but funny) jokes. My friend Kasper loves children and his ability to make them smile and laugh is priceless! Probably his best work comes when he is entertaining a child who is sick with either a debilitating or life threatening illness. He has a gift for making a child forget about their illness and just be a kid, if only for a few minutes.


Kasper is a gentle man with an enormous heart. Watching him work at the circus or The Erie County Fair, you would never know that underneath that makeup is a Marine who has an enormous love for this country and pride in his service to it.

Life takes us in so many different directions leads us down so many different paths. But every now and again, and I hope this happens for you at some point, you meet a person who changes the way you think, act and love. Meeting Kasper has done that for me. His gratitude toward others and simple generosity and love for what is simple, has become something to idolize and admire. But it'snot just me that has felt that. You can see it on the smiles of the kids, big and small, who have the chance to meet him along their path!


As the proclamation from the Town of Hamburg notes, November 13, 2020 is known as Donald "Kasper the Clown" Heidenburg Day!

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