Don Cesare, 92, the former Senior Resident Agent in the Colorado Springs bureau of the FBI, died April 6, 2023. He was a resident of Colorado Springs for more than 50 years.
He was born July 20, 1930, in Old Forge, Pennsylvania, a small town outside Scranton, to Primo and Edna Cesare. His father was the chief of police in the small town, and that inspired Don to pursue a career in law enforcement.
During his career, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves, the Central Intelligence Agency and the FBI and not only witnessed but participated in some of the significant events of the 20th century.
Don is survived by his daughter, Ann Cesare; his son-in-law, Todd Laxson; grandsons, Nicholas and Luke; a brother, Carl; and sister, Marie.
He was preceded in death by his wife of 58 years, Jan (Paripovich) Cesare; a son, Jon; and his parents.
Don’s remarkable life will be celebrated during a Mass of Christian Burial at 10 a.m., Wednesday, April 19, at Divine Redeemer Catholic Church, 927 N. Logan Ave. Interment will follow at Pikes Peak National Cemetery.
Don enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve after graduating from Bloomsburg State College in Pennsylvania. He attended Officer Candidates School at Marine Corps Base, Quantico, Virginia. His class was billeted to the FBI Academy, located on base.
While on active duty as an officer in the Marine Corps, he was assigned to the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean where he had his first experience in law enforcement as a shore patrol officer.
In Blue, Gray, Black: My Service to Country, a memoir he penned later in life, Don wrote that his years in the Marine Corps brought discipline and maturity, and a strong desire to serve his country for the rest of his life.
Soon after completing active service with the Marine Corps, he applied to the Central Intelligence Agency. In the CIA, he served initially in Turkey as a security officer for the Agency’s high altitude aircraft reconnaissance program, the U-2. He was transferred to the CIA’s Far East Division as a paramilitary officer. In that role, he trained Tibetans to fight the Communist Chinese who had invaded their homeland. That training took place in the peaks and valleys of Camp Hale.
While training in the mountains, Don visited Fort Carson where he met Jan, his future wife, a proud Pueblo native who worked as an X-ray technician at the base hospital. They married March 3, 1962.
Early in 1963, Don applied to the FBI, and was appointed a special agent. His career with the bureau spanned 20 years.
He participated in the investigations of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and in the murder of three civil rights workers in Mississippi by the Ku Klux Klan.
On Nov. 22, 1963, the day the President Kennedy was assassinated, Don’s initial assignment was to the surveillance team observing the actions and contacts of Marina Oswald, the wife of Lee Harvey Oswald, who shot and killed the president.
In December 1964, Don was ordered by the FBI to report to a bureau in Mississippi. The murders of three civil rights workers the previous June and the recovery of their bodies six weeks later had attracted national attention. The case was made famous in the movie Mississippi Burning. Don was responsible for managing the FBI’s chief informant in the case, and evidence supplied by the informant destroyed the Klan’s empire in Mississippi.
In a January, 2020 story in the Colorado Springs Gazette, Don told a columnist that arriving in Mississippi at that time was like arriving on another planet. He saw segregation and widespread discrimination. He heard Martin Luther King Jr. quiet a crowd with words of love and peaceful protest. He described as “disgusting’’ and ‘’horrible’’ the sight of 40 to 50 members of the KKK walking in their white robes in broad daylight in Meridian, Mississippi.
He told the newspaper that no matter the year, it is always time to stand for equality.
“I think we’re headed in the right direction,” he told the columnist. “This is a great country. It’s got flaws and we work at these flaws continually. I am positive about the situation. But I know we can achieve a lot more, too.”
In the Spring of 1970, Don and Jan moved to Colorado Springs where Don worked in the local FBI office. He was responsible for 40 to 50 investigations on any given day during his tenure.
A devout Catholic, Don adored his family. He was a big fan of University of Colorado and Denver Broncos football. He was forever grateful for Cheyenne Village and the care they provided for his son, Jon.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at, 10:00AM, Wednesday, April 19, 2023, at Divine Redeemer Catholic Church, 927 North Logan Avenue, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80909. Interment with military honors will follow at, 12:00PM, at Pikes Peak National Cemetery, 10545 Drennan Road, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80925.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his name to Cheyenne Village, 6275 Lehman Drive, Colorado Springs, CO 80918.