Any mom who knows O. Wallace Kasteler dreams that one day her little boy willgrow up to be like him: A really great guy.

Such a compliment would embarrass the 40-year Deseret News veteran, who's more comfortable out of the limelight - behind the lens of a camera.Kasteler's creative talents have been heralded time and again in photo contests sponsored by the Utah-Idaho-Spokane Press Association, Utah State Fair, National Press Photographers Association and the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Three times, most recently this year, he's been honored by his colleagues at the Deseret News' annual Mark E. Petersen Awards Banquet.

All this from a copy boy-turned-photographer, whose first assignment was to "shoot" the University of Utah homecoming queen.

Then came the real babes.

For 5 1/2 years Wally cut his journalistic teeth by photographing babies celebrating their first birthdays. The cuddly crew was featured in a long-running, popular Deseret News feature.

When photographer Don Grayston was brought into the baby business, he recalls chief photographer J Malan Heslop telling Kasteler: "Don't teach him all the mischievous things you have done around here; be a model."

Yes, the reserved Kasteler has always been a prankster.

Ask former fellow photographer Claudell Johnson.

Heslop and Grayston vividly remember Kasteler exchanging raw liver for the roast beef in Johnson's sandwich.

"Another time he poured a little acetic acid under the door of the film processing room to force Claudell out of there fast," Grayston said.

An innocent grin is Kasteler's response to such tall tales.

"Immaculate" is another word staffers use to describe the well-dressed Kasteler, who keeps a complete shoeshine kit in the photo lab. Included in the kit is a bottle of Clorox to bleach the stitches around the soles of his Florsheim shoes. His yard and cars reflect that same devotion to order that has helped him keep the photo lab running for the past 20 years as associate chief of photography.

"He's also always been ingenious," said Heslop, referring to Kasteler's interests outside the photo lab. A natural businessman, he once sold tires and children's clothes, and has manufactured and marketed a family home golf game.

But to the busy entrepreneur, family has always come first.

"His family has meant everything to him," said Marilyn Kasteler, his wife of 36 years. "The kids (four girls and a boy) can always talk to their dad because he always has a lot of good advice and encouragement. He's a friend to them."

That friendship has Wally and Marilyn gathering each holiday season with their 19 grandchildren around the long dining room table to make gingerbread cottages.

The close family, who teamed to build a cabin in Pine Meadow Ranch, also joined to win stardom and big bucks. In 1981, the Kasteler clan won $10,366 by appearing on "Family Feud."

But no one really feuds with Kasteler, the unofficial Deseret News ambassador.

"He's the heart and soul of the Deseret News," said chief photographer Tom Smart. "He's an inspiration to the younger photographers because after 40 years, he's always putting his best out all the time. That's amazing in a profession that has a high burnout.

"He's a great photographer, but he's even a better person."