Obituaries » Merrill D Kesler

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Merrill D Kesler

December 18, 1934 - April 28, 2020

U.S. Veteran

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Merrill Duane Kesler, age 85, husband, father, grandfather, greatgrandfather, brother, cousin, uncle, and friend died peacefully on April 28,
2020 in Bremerton,Washington with his loving daughter, Karen Trudeau, by
his side. In spite of the prohibition of family members being being allowed
in the hospital during the Covid 19 pandemic, Karen was able to finagle a
private room, and the nurses allowed Karen to remain with her laptop. With
that, Merrill visited via video-chat with his children, grandchildren, and even
great-grandchildren during his last days. He was clear, lucid, and quite
animated in his conversations with the family; he was visibly delighted at
the outpouring of love and support.
His last wish was to be reunited with his wife, Marlene Rae Watson. He
passed with the deep comfort of knowing that he would be with her again.
She was his life partner, his soulmate, mother of his children, and his quite
capable and willing sparring partner of 54 years before her death on May
15, 2007.
Merrill Kesler was born on December 18, 1934 in Custer County, Nebraska
to Earl Wilson Kesler, a ranch hand, and Thelma Lucille Roberts. Merrill
was the third of five boys. In the midst of the Great Depression, they lived
a hardscrabble life; working farms, ranches, picking crops, surviving and
just getting by while quite poor. Those days cemented within Merrill a
strong work ethic, deep humility, compassion for the suffering of others,
integrity in his word and promises, and sacrifice in service to always
providing for his family.
Merrill Duane Kesler and Marlene Rae Watson were married on October 3,
1953 in Kennewick, Washington. In Merrill’s own words, “I met Marlene in
late May of 1953 when she came to the service station I was working at as
an assistant manager. She came in wanting to buy a pack of cigarettes.
Knowing that she wasn’t old enough, I asked her for a note from her mother
to buy the cigarettes. When she told me that she didn’t have one, I told her
I’d sell them to her if she’d go on a date with me. We started going steady
from then on.”
“In early July 1953, a friend and I were going off to join the US
Paratroopers, so we were celebrating on Friday night with our girls out in
the sand dunes on the old Navy Base. While out there in the dunes, I was
sitting on the fender of the car, when it began to roll, and I fell off, breaking
my neck and ending up in the Pasco hospital.”
“That Saturday, the doctors put a bracket on my head, which was anchored
with pins to my skull just above the ears, so they could put weights on a
pulley to pull my neck back in place. This Saturday night was a hot one- it
was in the hundreds. Marlene visited me every day. She would help me
drink water so they wouldn’t put needles in me. I could not take food, so I
had to drink so much water. Her visits kept me cheerful and I was very glad
she was there. Fortunately, the neck went back into place within a week. I
was put in a body cast for the summer and, in September, a neck brace.”
“I asked Marlene to marry me and we had a small family wedding on
October 3, 1953 at the Methodist Church in Kennewick with me still
wearing that brace.”
“In February, the doctor said I was ready for work so I got a job with a tile
roof company. We lived with Marlene’s mother and new stepfather.I pruned
grapes, worked for a hatchery, worked for the railroad, and helped Grandpa
Roberts build a house. In June 1954, she told me she was going to have a
baby (Keith). I headed for the recruiter and joined the Air Force. Marlene
joined me in about April of 1955 when I was at Scott Air Base and after that
traveled with me every place I was stationed.” Years later, Merrill cared for
his wife as she suffered from severe diabetes, renal transplant, and dialysis
until her death. As she had for him, he cared for her without complaint or
Merrill served in the United States Air Force from June 1954, reenlisted,
and was released with an Honorable Discharge on January 12, 1962.
While in the Air Force, he obtained his GED and trained as a radio
equipment operator and repairman. One of his first assignments in the Air
Force was installing radio equipment along the border of Alaska facing
Russia during the Cold War. He told great stories of nearly getting lost in
the midst of blizzards and snowstorms and being flown into remote areas
by single engine bush planes. After the Air Force, he moved with his
growing family to Sunnyvale California to work as an electronics quality
assurance engineer with an early startup in the burgeoning semiconductor
industry (pre-Silicon Valley days.) Eventually, he moved his family to
Seattle to be closer to relatives and continued to work as a QA engineer in
the aerospace sector. Unfortunately, in 1969-1971, sixty percent of all
aerospace jobs in Seattle disappeared. In fact, it was so bad that someone
put up a billboard that read, “Will the last person leaving Seattle – Turn out
the lights?” Merrill was without a job and with a family of five kids to
support. His hardscrabble experiences growing up gave Merrill clarity in
what he had to do to provide for his family. He swallowed his pride and
began to work cooking fast food at Kentucky Fried Chicken. (Boy, did we
kids grow really tired of fried chicken!) Eventually, he was repairing the
equipment in the commercial kitchens, using his experiences from growing
up on a farm, and his mechanical skills from the Air Force. He
demonstrated his capacity to be smart, clever, and quite capable of using
available resources to solve the problem. Thus began his career in kitchen
and restaurant equipment repair. He’d show up late at night in the midst of
a busy restaurant kitchen and get their equipment up and running in real
time. Many times, he’d come home with burns to his hands and arms as
the busy kitchen couldn’t stop to let the stoves or ovens cool. He worked for
several years with a restaurant equipment repair company and for a time
owned his own shop before his retirement. Once, he invited his four grown
sons to help him install a commercial kitchen in a casino. He was a proud
father as he introduced each of us to the other crews. In fact, Mom had
ordered hats for each of us labeled with the name Kesler and followed by
the number of our birth order. Kesler 1, Kesler 2, etc. That trip is fondly
remembered as we sons got to see Dad in his element.
Merrill quit drinking some 43 years before his death. Incidentally, his
favorite watering hole, Leroy’s, closed only a few months after he’d become
sober. Tongue-in-cheek we would often wonder if there had been some
connection! One of the greatest gifts that his sobriety afforded was his
capacity to be playful, present, and fun loving with his grandchildren and
great-grandchildren. Merrill’s greatest pleasures came from those close
relationships with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. There are
many pictures of Merrill playing knights and dragons with makeshift
broomstick swords and helmets with the grandkids. Tinkering in his shop,
he made kid sized picnic tables, chairs, cradles for the grandkids. Merrill
relished family gatherings, cooking food on the grill, playing cribbage, and
long hours putting together picture puzzles. Merrill would frequently sit with
his cup of coffee and exclaim, “Let’s sit down a minute and analyze this.” It
was a great invitation to diagram, draw out plans and write out algorithms
for solving all problems, local or globally. (And an equally great invitation to
procrastinate, too!)
Merrill was preceded in death by his parents Earl and Thelma Kesler, his
brothers Meredith, Ronald, and Raymond. He is survived by his brother
Robert Kesler of Vancouver Washington.
He was preceded in death by his wife Marlene Rae Watson Kesler (May
2007) and is survived by his sons, Keith and wife Davida Dragon of Austin
Texas, Kenneth and wife Aileen Kesler of Oak Harbor Washington, Michael
and his partner Annie Christie of Vancouver Washington, Mark of Poulsbo
Washington, and his daughter Karen Trudeau and her husband Guy
Trudeau of Poulsbo Washington.
He is survived by his granddaughter Kirsten and her husband Glen Kirk of
Cypress Texas, his grandson Gabriel Kesler of Austin Texas, his
granddaughter Katrina Kesler and her husband Obie Malik of Oak Harbor
Washington, his granddaughter Nicole and her husband Brandon “Bud”
Chambers of Spokane Washington, and his grandson Kurt Kesler and wife
RaeAnn of Oak Harbor Washington. Merrill is survived by his grandsons
Ryan Kesler of Vancouver Washington, Brandon and wife Erica of
Vancouver Washington, Shane Kesler and his wife Nicole of Vancouver
Washington. He is survived by his granddaughter Tricia and her husband
Reese Rogers of Delmar Delaware and his granddaughter Melanie Kesler
of Poulsbo Washington. Merrill is survived by granddaughters Megan and
her husband Eric Dyson of Lexington Park Maryland, and Laura and her
husband Ernest Menocal of Pullman Washington. Merrill is survived by 19
great-grandchildren with another one shortly on the way. (Thanks Megan
and Eric for that effort!)
The family wishes to sincerely thank the medical and nursing staff at
Harrison Hospital in Bremerton Washington. Additionally, our thanks and
deepest respect for Dr. George Berni, cardiovascular surgeon, and Dr.
Laurence Brostoff, internist. The nursing staff is especially commended for
“bending the rules” so that Merrill did not have to die alone without the
loving presence of family during this pandemic.
Final interment will be at the Tahoma National Cemetery in Kent,
Washington next to his beloved Marlene. Merrill was granted his final wish
and is reunited with his wife. A celebration of life will be announced after the
pandemic orders are rescinded and we can celebrate as family

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