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Published: Friday, 5/2/2014

Charles E. Kessinger; 1918-2014: WWII vet survived attack on Dec. 7, 1941

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Kessinger Kessinger
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Charles E. Kessinger, a World War II Navy veteran and a survivor of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor who made a career at Owens-Illinois, died Tuesday in Hospice of Northwest Ohio, Perrysburg Township. He was 95.

He had congestive heart failure, his son Gary said.

In 2011, for the 70th anniversary of the attack that propelled the United States into World War II, Mr. Kessinger and three other Navy veterans of that day were honored by Owens Community College at a concert. Only Mr. Kessinger and John Fox of Sylvania could attend.

The national Pearl Harbor Survivors Association disbanded at the end of that anniversary year. The local chapter dissolved several years earlier, its remaining membership then but a handful.

Mr. Kessinger rode in Toledo’s 2008 Memorial Day Parade.

For decades, he didn’t share much about the attack with family.

“He never really said anything about it until lately, the last five to seven years,” son Gary said. The Army service of his grandson Peter Kessinger, a veteran of two tours of duty in Iraq, inspired him to speak up and speak out.

He also spoke of his experiences “because there were a lot of his buddies on ship who didn’t make it, in remembrance of them, to keep it alive,” his son said.

That Dec. 7, 1941, morning, Mr. Kessinger looked forward to taking center field as a member of the USS Pennsylvania baseball team facing the USS Oklahoma in a championship game.

Then came the attacks that left at least 2,400 Americans dead. From the deck of the Pennsylvania, he told The Blade in 2011, he could see smoke and fire and the Oklahoma “completely upside down.” A 500-pound bomb left a hole in his own ship’s deck, killing 25 men. He had to step over a dead shipmate on the way to his battle station.

“That’s something I’ll never forget in my life. That was terrible,” he recalled.

Aboard the Pennsylvania for the rest of the war, he took part in 13 operations.

After the war, he lived in Sacramento, where he’d met his wife. He worked for Gladding, McBean, the ceramics company, and played and coached baseball.

He moved to Toledo and was hired by O-I as a glass technician at its technical center. He retired at age 62.

He also was commissioner of the O-I softball league for employees’ children and had coached his children’s ball teams. He was a lifelong Cincinnati Reds fan.

He was born Aug. 6, 1918, in Ironton, Ohio.

Surviving are his wife, Ruth, whom he married Jan. 13, 1943; sons, Charles, Gary, Steven, and Michael; daughters, Cathy Kessinger and Carol Bury; half-brother, Ronald Kinkaid; half-sisters, Alice Ledyard and Connie Ward; 22 grandchildren, and 25 great-grandchildren.

Services were Wednesday in Little Flower Church, Toledo, where he was a member. Arrangements were by the Thomas I. Wisniewski Funeral Home.

The family suggests tributes to St. Benedict School or a charity of the donor’s choice.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.



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