By Jim Misunas
LARNED — David Clapsaddle of Larned has been recognized by a number of organizations through his historical work.
But the recent news that he is the recipient of the Midwest Region’s 2010 George and Helen Hartzog Awards for Outstanding Individual Volunteer Service is special.
Clapsaddle, a retired educator and historian, has developed hands-on education programs targeted to promote the Fort Larned National Historic Site and the Santa Fe Trail history.
Clapsaddle was advised of the honor by Fort Larned Superintendent, Kevin McMurry and Michael Reynolds, National Park Service regional director, who submitted the application without his knowledge. The National Park Service and Fort Larned provide for expenses for travel and supplies for Clapsaddle, who volunteers his time. He is appreciative for the support.
“I was completely taken off guard and very surprised,” he said. “I’m humbled to be recognized for my work.”
His interest in local history was prompted by a project initiated when Hildreth Hultine requested a historical piece about Larned State Hospital. Clapsaddle worked as the coordinator of research and training at Larned State Hospital.
“I discovered that the Santa Fe Trail passed through the Larned State Hospital,” he said. “In doing so, I became addicted to local history.”
He eventually developed a traveling trunk full of memorabilia that he uses with his presentations about Fort Larned, the Santa Fe Trail and the Wild West.
He developed his stories based on facts from that era and has gathered realistic outfits.
“Just seeing a student’s face light up when they hear a story is the reward for me,” he said. “It’s been my passion the past few years.”
Through his incredible efforts Fort Larned now offers its largest assortment of off site school programs in its history. He has developed a series of traveling trunks containing artifacts relative to compelling and historically accurate stories which he has written.
Each story relates to the Santa Fe Trail or Fort Larned. His personally delivered presentations include a reading of the story, a display of the artifacts, and a question/answer period. Each presentation requires about 45 minutes.
The program is available at no cost to elementary schools, public and private. So far this year Clapsaddle has volunteered over 600 hours traveling to schools presenting his education programs to more than 4,000 students, teachers, and adults in four states.
Clapsaddle’s father was born in 1890 and his mother was born in 1893. Relating historical stories became a family custom. He can trace his family history in the United States back to the 1700s and his forbearers were involved in the Revolutionary War.
“As a child, I heard a lot of 19th-century stories around the dinner table — I think it almost became genetic,” he said. “Hearing history was part of my childhood.”
As the winner of the Midwest Region Award, selected from a number of outstanding nominations sent in by 59 parks across 13 states, Clapsaddle’s accomplishments will compete in Washington D.C. against winners from the other six regions for the best Individual Volunteers throughout the entire the National Park Service.
The national award program was created to recognize the time, talent, innovation, and hard work contributed to National Parks through the Volunteers-In-Parks (VIP) Program.
The award recognition is named for the late George B. Hartzog, Jr. and his wife Helen. The VIP program was created during Mr. Hartzog’s tenure as Director of the National Park Service, which was from 1964 to 1972. The Hartzog Award is made possible by the National Park Foundation through a generous donation from George and Helen Hartzog, additional funding from corporate donors, and the NPS Volunteers-In-Parks Program.
Clapsaddle earned his PH.D. from Kansas State University following which he served on the faculty of Wichita State University and the University of Montana.
Subsequently, he was appointed as coordinator of research and training at Larned State Hospital. He now resides in Larned with his wife and partner, Alice.