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Casper comes out to celebrate former teacher's 90th birthday

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Dana Van Burgh's 90th birthday party

Dana Van Burgh's greets and treats party guests to ice cream for his 90th birthday on Monday at the Rialto Soda Fountain. Van Burgh worked for years as a science teacher at Dean Morgan Middle School. 

At noon on Monday, Dana Van Burgh sat in a yellow suit coat on the corner of Second Street listening to the buzz of conversation around him. The crowd that gathered outside the Rialto Soda Fountain in downtown Casper was there for just one reason.

Him.

Van Burg turned 90 on Monday, and with the help of his daughter, Christine, the lifelong Casper resident invited the community to celebrate with him and some ice cream. (Van Burgh’s flavor of choice: vanilla.) The birthday celebration was set to last six hours — Van Burgh wanted to make sure to give others ample time to stop by either on their lunch break or after work.

For much of his career, Van Burgh was a science teacher at Dean Morgan Middle School. He later worked as a geology professor at Casper College.

Dana Van Burgh's 90th birthday party

Melissa Connely talks with Dana Van Burgh during his 90th birthday party outside of the Rialto Soda Fountain on Monday in downtown Casper. Van Burgh, a former teacher, invited the community to celebrate with him and served ice cream for the occasion.

Ellen Parke, who attended Dean Morgan, remembers Van Burgh as “a permanent fixture at Dean Morgan ... He was so tall and always had his beard. You knew you better be doing what you should be doing when you passed his door ... He was always by the book. We need more of that right now.”

Old students, colleagues and new faces who heard about the celebration online all gathered to share their favorite memories and wish him well. Int turn, they met other new people or reconnected with acquaintances they hadn’t seen in a while.

That was part of Van Burgh’s ultimate goal: to create community.

Dana Van Burgh's 90th birthday party

Rob Staffig-Piotter, the owner of the Rialto Soda Fountain, scoops up vanilla ice cream for one of Dana Van Burgh's 90th birthday party guests on Monday in downtown Casper.

“If you listen to what’s going on here, you can’t hear any of it, but you can hear the yap yap yap,” he said.

Even though his eyesight has worsened with time, Van Burgh said he woke Monday feeling great. And as a 4-wheeler passed, he piped up.

“I think I should have one of those,” he said. “Run around the block on a 4-wheeler and yell at people as I go by.”

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