Theodore W. Kessler, 1920-2012: H.R. exec honored as pilot in WWII


Theodore W. Kessler, 91, a former human resources director for Mercy St. Charles Hospital in Oregon and a Marine Corps aviator who was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses and nine Air Medals for his exploits in the Pacific Theater during World War II, died Sept. 3 at his home in West Toledo.

Mr. Kessler, who suffered from bladder cancer, died after a lingering illness, said his daughter Debby Schafer.

He was born on Dec. 8, 1920, in Buffalo, and came to Toledo in the mid-1970s to become the director of management services at St. Charles, where he was employed until his retirement in 1986 at age 65.

Mrs. Schafer said her father was direct and to the point in his dealings with people. "He never put on a show for anyone."

Mr. Kessler was not a religious man, a fact known to the Sisters of Mercy who ran St. Charles.

"One day when they went to start a meeting, Sister Agnes asked if he would lead the prayer," Mrs. Schafer recalled. "He said. 'I will but you're not going to like it.' "

Sister Agnes turned to someone else for the prayer, Mrs. Schafer said.

Mr. Kessler considered it his gift to put the right person in the right job. While concerned with employee issues such as nurse retention, he nevertheless "expected them to move on" if they were to continue to grow and develop their talents, she said.

Under him, St. Charles developed an on-site child-care facility and improved the quality of the hospital's food service, Mrs. Schafer said.

During the war, Mr. Kessler was shot down and parachuted into the ocean. He was rescued and returned to base in time to fly another mission, his daughter said.

He married Dorothy Mae Hendrick in 1946, and soon left for a tour of duty with the Marines in China. He returned to the states after a year in China. He graduated from Tulane University and received a master's degree in business administration from Harvard University in 1952.

While at the university he earned tuition money as a flight instructor, his daughter said. He had logged 5,000 flight hours in 26 aircraft types before retiring from flying, she said.

After graduation he moved his family to Cincinnati, working 20 years in human resources for General Electric. He shifted to the health care industry in 1973, joining the Cleveland Clinic. He left Cleveland for Toledo around 1975, Mrs. Schafer said.

Mr. Kessler is survived by daughters Cathy Snyder, Debby Schafer, and Susan Kezur; sons Mike and David Kessler; a sister, Geraldine Whalley; 14 grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by Dorothy, his wife of 55 years, and his eldest child, Terry Lynn.

His funeral is to be at 11 a.m. today at the Thomas I. Wisniewski Funeral Home, Toledo.

Memorial tributes are suggested to the Salvation Army.

Contact Jim Sielicki at: or 419-724-6050.