Rest Well, Dark Knight: Don Goodman, Casper’s Batman, Passes Away
“I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss. I see the lives for which I lay down my life, peaceful, useful, prosperous and happy. I see that I hold a sanctuary in their hearts, and in the hearts of their descendants, generations hence. It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”
- Charles Dickins, A Tale of Two Cities/The Dark Knight Rises
It was a chance meeting. Maybe you'd call it fate. I walked into The Office Bar & Grill on some random Saturday night. As soon as we walked in, my girlfriend pointed him out.
There was a man, dressed like Batman, singing karaoke.
Now, to anybody, this would have been a sight to see. The Caped Crusader singing karaoke isn't something you see every day. But to me, it was even more than that.
Batman has been my favorite superhero for as long as I can remember. I had the toys (in fact, I still have the toys...but they're called action figures, thank you very much), the bed sheets, the costumes. I had it all. I was the boy who loved Batman, and that love followed me throughout all my life. I grew up, but my love for Batman never ceased. In fact, it only grew stronger.
So it should come as no surprise that when I was approached by Faith Conway with Dream Upon a Princess to portray Batman for children's birthday parties and other community events, I jumped at the opportunity.
That opportunity couldn't have come at a better time. I had recently decided to get sober, after years of potentially drinking myself to death. There were multiple dui's, multiple days in jail, multiple times that I lied, cheated, and stole. I was looking for redemption, and I found it in Batman. Because when I put on that mask, to those kids, I wasn't Nick Perkins, recovering alcoholic. I was simply Batman.
For years, I considered myself to be Casper's Batman. I made the Facebook page and everything.
I had no idea that there was someone who came before me. Casper had a Batman long before I began marketing myself as such.
And his name was Don Goodman.
Goodman was at The Office Bar and Grill on that random Saturday, dressed in full bat-regalia. And it was as if I were a 7-year-old boy again - I was entranced.
As he sang and performed for an adoring crowd, I struck up conversation with his wife, Mary Lara-Goodman. And she told me that Don was having open heart surgery in the coming days, and there was a chance he wasn't going to make it. So before that, all he wanted was one more night with his friends and his family. All he wanted was to be Batman, one more time.
After his performance, I sat down with Don. I wanted to know his story. And what a story it was.
Don told me about the first time he dressed up as Batman. He was 17 years old. He asked his grandmother to make him a suit. From that moment on, Don would dress up like Batman for a variety of events- anniversaries, high school reunions, and more. But the thing that caught my attention, the thing that really pulled at my heart strings, was the fact that he would also come to Mary's class (she was a teacher at a Catholic school) dressed as Batman, to speak to her students.
"I love being around kids," Goodman said. "I love being a role model."
Here I was, thinking I was an innovator. Don had been doing this for years!
So he told me about that, he told me about his upcoming surgery, and he told me about how he and Mary met. It was the best love story I'd ever heard.
Because what is Batman without his Robin?
In Goodman's case, he met the other half of this dynamic duo decades prior, at Catholic School. Don Goodman met his wife, the former Mary Lara, in the second grade.
"We went to Catholic grade school," Goodman shared. "We met in 1967 in the second grade classroom."
For Goodman, it was love at first sight.
"I was in boy scouts with the guys that she was in school with," Goodman divulged. "And I'd be out on boy scout overnights and I'd always say, 'Mary Lara, I love you!' We'd be in the middle of the wilderness and I'd be screaming into the stars and everybody would say 'Goodman, shut up! She likes Sal Pauletta now, don't you know? Just shut up!' But I would just shout 'Mary Lara, I'm going to marry you someday!'"
And, eventually, he did.
That night is a night I will always remember. I wrote a story about it, and casually kept in contact with Don and Mary. I found out that Don did, in fact, survive his surgery. It had gotten rescheduled multiple times but when it finally happened, he was just fine. I breathed a sigh of relief and hoped that one day, hopefully soon, Don and Mary and my girlfriend Veronica and I could meet for coffee.
"I should really reach out," I thought to myself at least once a week.
And then, I got the news.
I was sitting inside of a Mexican restaurant in Estes Park, Colorado, scrolling through Facebook while Veronica and I waited for our chips and salsa. I scrolled past something that Don had posted, but didn't read it at first. But something told me to go back. When I did, my heart sank.
Don Goodman had died.
It happened suddenly, unexpectedly. "I thought he was fine, his surgery went well," I cried to my girlfriend.
And it had. But even with the surgery, Don had died from congestive heart failure. His heart was just too tired to keep going.
And, maybe he knew that, whether consciously or unconsciously. He threw a 'farewell party' in his own honor, after all.
"I pitched it to Karen and Jim [owners of The Office Bar & Grill] that this could be my last hoorah," Goodman told me. "I was like, 'Just think of yourselves as a Make-A-Wish Foundation, because this thing could go really south and, if it does, this is my last Saturday.'"
He had a few more Saturdays but it was, for all intents and purposes, the last time that specific group of people would be in the same room, with Don.
His son was there. His friends were there. Most importantly, his wife was there.
"If she's here," Goodman said, gesturing towards his wife, "I'm feeling really good. When she's not here, I'm scared to death. You know, the first [surgery] was seven years ago. I'm seven years older now. Anything could happen. So, let's just say that I've already written my obituary."
And so he had. It was shared by his family with Bustard's Funeral Home.
This is Don Goodman’s Obituary in his own words…
Donald Louis Goodman (Karsky)
September 18, 1959 – November 1, 2022
Well Damn. I gave specific instructions to my sons, sooooo if you are actually reading this document it means I’m dead. No.. I did NOT die from COVID, however 40 years of smoking cigarettes didn’t do me any favors. The old heart and lungs finally gave out.
You all knew I would HAVE to write my own obituary because hell, nobody could tell the story quite like me.
So I was born in Casper, Wyoming as Donald Louis Karsky and was raised by my Grandma and Grandpa Kraen as my mom who was 19 when she had me had sadly gotten divorced from my dad before I was born. So I would see my mom once in awhile as she attended University of Wyoming to earn her Nurses Degree. She started dating Joe Goodman when I was about 3 and they got married when I was 4 years old. It was kind of strange because when they got married we moved into our own home and it was NOT with Grandma and Grandpa. Big transition for me. Joe adopted me at 5 years old and I changed my name to Goodman. Eventually we moved to Phoenix, Arizona in 1966, where we would stay until 1973.
I attended Westwood and Park School for Kindergarten, then after moving to Phoenix where I attended Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Papago in 1st grade. In second grade I started at St. Agnes Catholic Grade School where I met a girl in my second classroom in 1967 that I would later marry when I turned 31 years old. More on that later.
As a youngster I played baseball and was active in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. Great thing is, I am still good friends with many of those people to this day. In 1969, I played for the Pee Wee Yankees and we won the championship. The ONLY trophy I ever earned, and I am damn proud of it. I was quite the collector of Baseball / football cards earnestly trading and making deals that would rival today’s NFL Draft. Just a bunch of 10 year old wheeling and dealin’ baby.
I did everything a good Catholic boy does. First Holy Confession, First Holy Communion, and Confirmation. I also lit a whole bunch of candles being caught by the janitor inside of the Church and being brought before Father Heaver. He sent me off with a stern warning. In 1973, our family moved back to Casper where I attended East Junior High in 8th grade, and Dean Morgan in 9th grade. I spent the rest of my time at Natrona County High School graduating in the infamous call of 1978. In 1974, I joined the Casper Troopers playing in the “B” Corp and then graduating into the “A” Corp for the summers of 1975 and 1976. I worked for Grant Street Grocery the 3 years of High School where I met my great friend Greg Deru.
The traveling bug from being in the Troopers is one that stayed with me as I traveled extensively throughout the Continental United Stated, Canada and a little of Mexico. I graduated from High School in 1978 from Natrona County High School. After High School I took an extended trip with Mark Kudrna, driving from Casper to Phoenix, to San Diego then all the way up the California Coast staying with relatives, sleeping on the beaches, smoking some great weed, seeing a Giants game at Candlestick, being at the taping of the Gong Show and The Tonight’s Show with Burt Reynolds as a guest host.
(By the way.. do you know I love baseball? In fact a couple of days ago I hit a ball long and deep to the gap in Right-Center Field…)
Mark and I continued our trip up into Oregon and Washington. Then back through Idaho, Montana and Home. I went to work for Cream-O-Weber when I returned to Casper. I worked in the oil field for a short time as well as carpentry work, home insulation, D.J., Dancer at Studio 9, and it was there I learned the art of bartending where I worked for the next several years. I managed The Beacon Club in 81, 82. Left and went to work at The Gusher for the next 2 years. It was there I was recruited to sell Life Insurance from Bankers Life and Casualty. I was a top performer many times over a 3-year period but with a dying economy.
It was in early 1981 that I had decided to go seek out by birth father. I knew he lived in Phoenix per my mom. After we met I realized not only did I have my brothers that I grew up with, Mike and Pat Goodman, but Don Karsky had remarried and had two daughters and a son. So, I ended up with 2 sisters and another brother.
In 1986 I tried my luck moving back to Phoenix. There I could only drum up bouncer positions at several different places and worked road construction shoveling 180 degree asphalt in 110 degree temperatures. I learned about computers and insurance billing. For the next 15 years I worked doing insurance billing, coding, paying and servicing health insurance claims.
I had fallen away from my Catholic faith, but ran into this girl I had met in second grade in 1967. She was actually teaching the pre-kindergarten class in the school we had met twenty years prior.
(I rounded 1st base and wasn’t letting up at all…)
So, since Mary was working at St. Agnes as the Pre-K teacher, it just went without saying that her boyfriend would wind up being Batman and come every year and visit each new class. I had to show up and do talks to each year’s class about not talking to strangers, unless of course they dressed up like a bat, drinking all their milk and trying to convince them that Spiderman was a big Wimp.
Mary had been married before and was going through a divorce. She already had two little guys about 4 and 5 years old. It was great for me because now I had a couple of little people that I could teach how to stunt fight and we could go out on “Guy’s Nights” and burp, fart, and cuss without having worry about offending the women folk.
Since Mary was back at St. Agnes, she actually graduated 8th grade there, then 4 years of Catholic High School. They started going to all the functions and with my Type A personality, soon I was taking over everything that I got involved with. Member of the School Board became President of the School Board. Member of the Parish Council became President of the Parish Council. Den Leader in Cub Scouts, of course became Cubmaster, and being an assistant coach on the baseball team became head coach which lead to being President of the league.
One of my prouder moments being the President of a true summer league in inner city Phoenix is when one of the top cops stops you to thank you for keeping over 1,000 kids off the street and out of trouble because they have a league to play in and a team to play on.
So, back to the story… I finally convinced that mother of two boys that not all guys were bad. Mary and I got married on April 13, 1991, at the same place we had met 24 years earlier. We soon added to the family by adding two more boys to the mix. The boys got bigger and Mary and I got older. I used to teach Andrew that my goatee used to be black until he was born and then overnight it went gray. His perception is… dad you just got old.
In 2009 I was able to convince Mary to leave Phoenix. A huge surprise to me she actually said yes. I went to work for Meadow Gold, then for Coke and finally for Pepsi. Around 2015, I started having problems with breathing so we went to see a doctor. Turns out I had a bad ticker.
On October 13, 2015 I had my first open heart surgery. Got out of the hospital on October 30, 2015. On November 8, a little 5 year old boy was playing with matches in the neighborhood and lit the whole hillside behind our house on Ridgecrest on fire. So we rented a house from our good friend David Dewald. We finally got back into our house 10 months later.
(The ball was bobbled in the outfield as I saw my opening I stood there rounding third and deciding what the hell… go for it.)
I was forced to go onto permanent disability where I have just shuffled along the past 7 years. Lots of fishing and an occasional appearance at a reunion dressed like a certain flying mammal. Anyway, started having trouble with the ticker again so they wanted to do a second open heart surgery using a mechanical valve this time.
I am survived by my wife Mary. Known her since September of 1967. Married for a little over 31 years. Love her with all my heart. Matthew Roberts, 39 years old, Casper (with Shana Suffel), Luke Roberts, 38 years old, Katy, Texas (with Katie Heck), Joe Goodman, 28 years old, Denver, Colorado (with Parisa Farshindow), and Andrew Goodman, 19 years old, attending Wichita State University in Kansas. Granddaughter Emma Roberts, and grandsons, Matthew Luke, Elijah and Ethan. My J-Birds. All my Aunts, my Mom’s sisters all who helped raise me. Joan, (Tom) Anderson, Judy Kraen, Jolyn (George) Wynn, Jerribeth (John) Harris, Jamie (Larry) Bodyfelt and Mary Mayberry. Brothers, Mike Goodman (Debbie) Wisconsin, Pat (Katie Hobbs) Phoenix, my sister, Lori Karsky-Ronn, Michael Karsky, my paternal aunts, Colleen Karsky, Linda Luptak, Pat Phelan, Loretta.
(I decided to chance it and sprint for the plate. After the bobble the center fielder threw a rocket towards the plate…)
Preceding me in death is my Grandma and Grandpa Kraen, Joe and Janet Goodman, Don Karsky, Mother-In-Law Virginia Lara, and so so many really close friends.
(I’m in for the slide… the ball is there… it’s a close call… and the umpire is saying that I am SAFE!)
He is safe. And he is home. And he is at peace.
I didn't know Don for very long. In fact, I had only met him that one night in July. But he left an impact on me, like I'm sure he did with everybody he met. And yes, maybe it was the fact that I had finally met another grown man that dressed up like Batman. But, that wasn't all. What stood out to me most about Don Goodman wasn't his mask, or his cape. It was his eyes. His eyes told the story of who he was; a soft, sweet, caring, exceptionally funny man who to know was to love. It was his eyes that spoke to me, from behind his mask, as he took a moment to survey the scene at the bar, looking at all of the people that came out to spend one last night with him. It was his eyes, and the way he looked at Mary, every time they were together. His eyes told the story. He loved that girl.
And she loved him, too.
"To my first sweetheart on God's green earth," Mary shared with me in a phone call. "Thank you for being a great protector of me and our four. You will remain with us until we see you again in our hallowed Father's eternal kingdom."
Don Goodman will remain with all of us. He leaves an impression. He makes an impact.
Mary said that, due to circumstances beyond their control, Don didn't have life insurance at the time of his passing. Because of this, one of Don's family friends started a GoFundMe page, to help with funeral costs and to ensure that Mary is safe and taken care of in the days, weeks, months, and years following her husband's death.
I had no idea, when I walked into that bar on a random Saturday night, that I would meet a guy, dressed like Batman, who would make such an impression on me. Don Goodman was a good man. He can rest easy knowing that he has left his mark on this town and on the hearts of the people who inhabit it. He's has entertained people. He's made them laugh, he's made them smile. He's made children happy. He's been a friend, a husband, a father. He has lived fast and loved well. He is a hero, with or without the mask.
And, now that he's gone, it's a mask, it's a mantle, it's a legacy that he has left to me.
"From one Batman to another," he told me that night in July, "Keep up the mantra. Keep it moving forward, just in case anything were to happen. Keep Batman alive."
I will, Don. I promise.
But no matter what I do, no matter how long I wear the costume, no matter how many kids I meet, you will always be the original. You will always be the best. You will always be Casper's Batman.