Respected horticulture professor George Kessler dies at age 94
When Haslett, Mich., resident Don Kaufman remembers former MSU horticulture professor George Kessler and his wife Ezra, he remembers the most amazing couple he’s ever met.
“They were never concerned about themselves, always about someone else,” Kaufman said of his good friends. “Every time we walked into their house, they would say, ‘Take something, have something to eat!’”
Kessler died at the age of 94 on Thursday at his home on Lilac Avenue, in East Lansing where he and his wife, who died a year ago, lived for more than 60 years.
Friends and family gathered at a funeral service Sunday afternoon at Estes-Leadley Greater Lansing Chapel, 325 W. Washtenaw St. in Lansing, followed by interment at the Evergreen Cemetery, 1709 E. Mount Hope Road, in Lansing. Shortly after, a meal of condolence was held at the synagogue he helped to co-found, Congregation Kehillat Israel, 2014 Forest Road, in Lansing.
After serving in World War II, Kessler arrived on campus in 1947 to acquire his master’s degree and was hired as a professor and taught horticulture for more than 35 years.
His daughter Marsha Pattinson said when she and brother Frank Kessler were younger, their active father taught them to play tennis and swim, among other outdoor activities.
“He was very much the professor — very attentive to teaching,” Frank Kessler said. “He was training the farmers of tomorrow.”
George Kessler’s love for his students permeated beyond the walls of MSU and straight into his home. As a result of their father’s passion for the diversity on campus, his children recalled spending Thanksgiving and other holidays with international students from all over the world, including Israel, Asia, India and China, as Kessler welcomed the students into his home to celebrate American traditions.
Lansing Community College student Emily Davis said she met Kessler through his wife and discovered they shared a passion for rocks after she was introduced to his extensive collection years ago. Davis said he was an amazingly generous person and always had a smile on his face.
“He loved coming to the congregation and I don’t think he ever missed a service,” she said. “He was interested in the future of the young ones.”
Frank Kessler said if there was anything to be learned from his father, it would be to get up and get out into the world.
“Get out and be active,” he said.
“Enjoy nature and life and travel.”
Donations in Kessler’s honor can be made to Congregation Kehillat Israel or to the Kessler Film Series hosted by the Jewish Studies Program at MSU.