Luke Wagner (Son): ~~ From Luke: "Below is a copy of Mom's obituary in case you wish to post it on this page." ~~ [Thanks so much Luke. We are honored to have this! -bb] ~~
Despite everyone’s best efforts, Dr. Katherine J. Kessler, age 56, of Harrisonburg, VA, reached the end of her worldly journey the morning of Sunday, January 8, 2012. The pain she endured has been relieved and she was surrounded by love until the final moments. The thoughts and prayers of her family and many friends were of great comfort to her during her last weeks among us.
Born September 14, 1955, in Carlisle, PA, she was the daughter of Edward Kessler of Carlisle and Elizabeth Billadeaux of Stuart, FL. She is survived by her son, Luke Wagner of Hoboken, NJ; two sisters, Mary and family of Carlisle and Connie and son of Stuart, FL; and a brother, John and family of Kearnysville, WV.
Kate was a lifelong educator. A 1973 graduate of Big Spring High School, Newville, PA, she went on to earn both a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Shippensburg University. She began her career teaching high school English at Big Spring then spent 13 years teaching English at Chambersburg High School. While at Chambersburg she earned her PHD in English from Indiana University of PA and began teaching English at the college level at both Penn State’s Mont Alto campus and Harrisburg Area Community College. In 2000 she joined the School of Writing, Rhetoric, and Technical Communication at James Madison University as full time faculty member where she flourished and remained.
Kate earned many awards and acknowledgements during her career. Highlights include Crystal Apple Award, Public Television; Outstanding Research Award, IUP; Mandel Fellowship, US Holocaust Memorial Museum; Associate Honor’s Program Director, JMU; Provost’s Award for Excellence in Honors Teaching, JMU.
Kate’s other great passion in life was being outdoors – from being a life guard at Pine Grove Furnace State Park as a teenager to running competitively and completing a marathon to gardening and landscaping around her home to hiking above the Arctic Circle in Alaska. The Appalachian Trail held particular significance in her life. She hiked the entire 2,200 miles of The Trail and turned that experience into the Appalachian Trail honors seminar at JMU.
Private memorial services will be held at the convenience of the family with Valley Friends in Dayton, VA, and Chambersburg Friends.
Memorial contributions can be made to Heartland Hospice, 1200 Walnut Bottom Rd., Carlisle, PA, 17013, or the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, 304-535-6331, ext. 120.
Arnie Kahn: I've counted Kate among my friends for nearly 10 years. Her face was always smiling. She was also a fearless woman who tackled the outdoors with vigor. I'll miss you Kate.
Ken Roth: "Kate lived just two blocks from my house on Hillcrest Drive. I would often see her walking when I was taking my dog Millie for a walk. She was always so happy. When she got sick she didn't walk as much because she was in so much pain. When I did see her, she still smiled and had only positive things to say (and she still made a big fuss over Millie). Of all people, Kate didn't deserve to suffer so much. Sleep well, Kate. I will miss your beautifully infectious smile."
Lei: Dr. Kessler spoke in one of my classes a while back, as well as ran a few SafeZones workshops I was in. She was so full of feisty energy and was an incredible ally. I cannot thank her enough for her contributions to this Earth and to students of all ages. I will always remember her as a role model in my life! Rest in Peace and Party, Kate!
Dr. Nikitah Imani: I did not know Dr. Kessler personally but I knew "of" her and that is not an insignificant thing. The next best thing to have known a person individually is to know them by their reputation, earned for all they do and have done for the benefit of others, for the institution or workplace you share with them, and for the cause of greater humanity. On all these accounts, it is clear from the evidence, that our grieving and great loss is heaven's gain. Safe journey Kate. My condolences to her family and all those who experience the pain of her absence.
Cindy Allen: Kate's office was next to mine for a while so we got to hang out some, and I grew to love her. She was such a bright and happy person--such a giver. I have heard story after story lately from colleagues about all those little things Kate did for others. I also loved playful side--I referred to her as "Playful Kateful." I miss my friend.
Kathy Sarver: An amazing person of strength and conviction. She is missed.
Holly Wade: Kate became a dear friend. I am so thankful for her smile, encouragement, and unconditional love and caring. She has a special place in my heart. She was an avid UREC user and her presence around UREC is definitely missed!
Jeremy Hawkins: I'll never forget the pure awe Kate expressed for all the intricacies of life and nature. It was a privilege to get to work with her professionally and through Safe Zone. She always had a smile and story. She'll be missed.
Shari Scofield: When I think of Kate, I instantly feel the warmth, sincere interest, and joy in living she exuded without fail. Whether I saw her once a week or twice a semester it was always as if I was greeting a long lost best friend. I believe this was her way of being with everyone, a great universal love affair. Clearly she got a bigger assignment on the astral plane where her amazing spirit could heal us all!
Barbara Call: Kate and I had exchanged greetings for many years but it wasn't until this past summer at UREC that we had the chance to really connect. It was clear that she was a positive, giving, intelligent person who dearly loved her son and life. She was training for her Alaska adventure. I hope that she made it. I will miss getting to know her better. My thoughts and prayers are with her, her family and friends.