John David Kessler was born on July 19, 1941, the son of Yale and Clara Kessler in Wayne, Nebraska. He grew to be a man who was known for great and uncomplicated kindness, decency, and generosity. John was a loving son, husband and father, with a particular inner strength that came from his profound sense of humility. John died on the 19th of October, 2022 at the age of 81, in Granville, Ohio, with his beloved wife of thirty-five years, Eloise DeZwarte, by his side.
He graduated from Hahn High in Wayne, where he lettered in three sports, played in the orchestra and band, and earned the rank of Eagle Scout. Kessler enrolled in the State Teacher's College in Wayne before transferring to Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio, where he earned his degree in mathematics as well as a varsity track letter in 1963. He taught mathematics in the South Euclid schools after graduation, then attended the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich. From there he went on to earn his master's and PhD degrees in German from The University of Texas at Austin before joining the faculty of Denison University in 1969, where he taught German language and literature until his retirement in 2006.
John's early accomplishments set the pattern for the rest of his life as an avid polymath: dedicated academic, athlete, and a man very deeply connected to music, from Wagner to Willie Nelson. He loved languages and playing with the music and meanings of words. He loved to sing, whether as a bass with Denison's Concert Choir and St. Luke's Church, or lending support to the instruments on one of his many classical LPs. Music was his great pleasure and respite, and in his later days, John's whole body continued to respond to rhythm and melody.
John's life was forever altered by a stroke when he was 38, and he lived with the increasingly debilitating effects of that event for more than forty years. He rarely referred to it or deferred to it but instead devised an evolving series of workarounds, with patience and strength. For years he managed to continue running, playing tennis, squash, and racquetball, and to his wife Eloise's exasperation, shoveling the snow at their house on College Street. Even with partial paralysis, John could decapitate the yellow bloom of a dandelion with a swift and lethal kick using his good foot.
John loved good German beer. He loved dessert. And nearly everything that came before dessert. He loved to travel, and his midwestern sense of moderation was cast aside when he and Eloise were abroad. Eloise recalls that John told her "when we're home, we're poor, but when we travel, we're rich." Besides languages and cultures and food, history was another way John experienced the world, and even at home, he was a docent with the Granville Historical Society Museum. His memory for names and dates was extraordinary.
Besides his wife, Eloise, John is survived by his two children by his first wife, Ann Munro: David Kessler (Kate Unterberg) and their daughter Ella of Durham, North Carolina, and Mary Clare Kessler (Jamal Keels) of Spring Lake, Michigan. He loved his children beyond measure. He also leaves Eloise DeZwarte's sons David Cooke of Arizona and Thomas Cooke of Connecticut and their families, and daughter Judith Cooke of Springfield, Massachusetts. John was preceded in death by his parents, his first wife, and his sister Linda Kessler Fink of New Jersey.
A memorial service will be held at 1:30 P.M. on Saturday, October 29, 2022 at St. Luke's Church, 107 E. Broadway, Granville with Rev. John Kauffman as celebrant.
Donations in honor of John can be made to the Market Street Pantry operated by St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Granville. https://giving.ncsservices.org/App/Giving/ncs-1570 or Market Street Pantry, P.O. Box 82 Granville, OH 43023.