Psychologist Donald Kausler, author of "Graying of America," dies

Thursday, November 20, 2008 | 9:42 p.m. CST

Dr. Donald Harvey Kausler Sr.’s four children always believed him when he said he was “born with glasses and a Ph.D.”

His son, Don Kausler Jr. of Anderson, S.C. remembers this with a laugh. “When you’re young, you believe people. I always thought he was at least twice as smart as any other human being,” he said.


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But as Don and his siblings got older, they began to doubt their father’s words. “As I grew up, I learned that it wasn’t true,” the younger Kausler said, “He was ten times as smart as anyone else.”

Dr. Kausler, a leading researcher in the field of aging and memory and professor emeritus of the MU department of psychological sciences, died at his home in Columbia of brain cancer Thursday, Nov. 20. He was 81.

He was renowned as a pioneer in the field of aging and memory research and retired in 1992 after 21 years of teaching.

After retiring, Dr. Kausler published “The Graying of America,” an encyclopedia written to help a wider audience understand the effects of aging on memory. The book, now called "The Essential Guide to Aging in the Twenty-First Century," is currently in its third edition. Dr. Kausler also wrote a column for the Scripps Howard News Service and was a frequent guest on many radio shows.

“He really enjoyed sharing his knowledge,” his son Barry Kausler said.

A child of the Great Depression, Dr. Kausler was born in St. Louis on July 16, 1927 to the late Charles and Pauline Kausler. The Kauslers ran a small grocery and Dr. Kausler’s first job was delivering groceries for his parents’ store.

Dr. Kausler, always a bright man, graduated first in his class from McKinley High School at the age of 16 and earned his Ph.D from Washington University in St. Louis at the age of 23.

He delayed his high school graduation one semester to allow another student to graduate as valedictorian, knowing that only the top student in a class could earn a scholarship to attend the prestigious university.

Dr. Kausler met his wife, Martha, on a blind date in San Francisco during his time as a psychologist in the U.S. Air Force. They were married for 52 years, and had four children and 12 grandchildren.

Dr. Dave McDonald, a professor of psychological sciences at MU, said Dr. Kausler was respected and loved by those in his field and attracted talented graduate students to the school, many of whom went on to become leading professors and researchers. McDonald and Kausler met when they attended graduate school together at Washington University.

“He was my best and oldest friend,” McDonald said. “He was a top scholar in the department of psychology, and considering how many top scholars we have, that’s quite an accomplishment.”

Dr. Kausler’s children said the family will remember him as a kind man with a sweet tooth, a devoted St. Louis Cardinals fan, an ace poker player and, above all, a wonderful father and grandfather who thought of countless small ways to put his family first.

Daughter Jill Krupsaw, of Little Rock, Ark., said her father never missed his children’s sports games or events no matter how busy he was.

And every week, he would send his grandchildren a small note with gum or a couple of dollars taped to it, just to say hello.

“He signed them, ‘Much love, Old Grandpa,’” his daughter Renee Ratna said.

Survivors include his daughters, Renee Ratna of Columbia and Jill Krupsaw of Little Rock, Ark., and her husband, Jeff Krupsaw; his sons, Don Kausler Jr. of Anderson, S.C., and his wife, Kathy Kausler, and Barry Kausler of Columbia and his wife, Sheila Kausler; and 12 grandchildren, Neil Ratna of Boston and Tara Ratna of Los Angeles, Rose Kausler of Indianapolis, Paige Gregg of Greenwood, S.C., Donald Kausler III of Anderson, Rebecca Krupsaw, Daniel Krupsaw, Elizabeth Krupsaw and Kimberly Krupsaw, all of Little Rock, and Raquel Kausler, Jordan Kausler and Holden Kausler, all of Columbia.

His wife, Martha Kausler, and his brother, Charles Kausler, died earlier.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. Monday, Nov. 24 at Parker Funeral Home, 22 N. Tenth St., in Columbia. Visitation will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Sunday at the funeral home. Dr. Kausler will be buried in Columbia Cemetery, 30 E. Broadway.

Memorials may be made to the Donald H. Kausler Memorial Scholarship Fund, with all contributions being designated to the College of Arts & Science. Donations may be sent to University of Missouri Gift Processing, 109 Reynolds Alumni Center, Columbia, MO 65211. Please note the name of the scholarship on the check.

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