MARK HARRISON KESSEL
October 13,1947 – August 17, 2022
At Mark Kessel’s 55th
high school reunion this year, grads were asked to write a very short biography. Here’s a bit of what Mark wrote:
“Since 1966, I have lived in Baton Rouge, Longview, and Garland; Birmingham, Alabama; then back to Texas in Irving, Wimberley, Austin, Jarrell…and finally Fort Worth, only a few miles from the house I grew up in.”
Mark was a sound engineer/audio producer at Fort Worth’s KTVT-Channel 11 while getting his business degree at the University of Texas-Arlington. From 1976-1985 he was a sales rep for Ampex videotapes, calling on stations in three states.
He worked for Reliable Music Company in Longview for several years while completing his nursing certification at Kilgore College. Since 1996 he has served at Good Shepherd Hospital in Longview and several other locations as either a hospital or clinic nurse.
Mark, always strong and energetic, had just passed a physical with flying colors – never expected to be felled while doing things he loved, working outdoors and helping others. These activities gave him spirit and purpose. Word spread quickly among classmates and friends after his August 17th
death. Most remembered his clever mind, kind heart, immaculate appearance, and generous spirit.
And since Christmas of 2021, Mark – who was adopted – had also discovered a half-brother, Fred Hofstetter and a host of other relatives from birth mother, Virginia Hearn that he never knew. Mark’s daughter, Leigh had gifted him an ancestry kit for Christmas and shortly after the results came in, Mark reconnected with Fred. He was looking forward to seeing him again.
Mark’s children, Leigh and Dustin and ex-wife, Karen reminisce on a man that was always involved and engaged in family and community activities, a steadfast pillar for so many people.
“He was there for both Dustin’s and my school events, whether it was coaching little league or volunteering for band booster,” said daughter Leigh. “And our friends loved to be around both Dad and Mom. They enjoyed spending the night at the house on Lake Cherokee. Dad would sometimes cook breakfast. Most of my friends were used to pancakes from a mix, but my schoolmates remembered that Dad introduced them to blueberry, buckwheat, and other flavors. He would attempt to cook anything!”
But Mark’s favorite recipe were salsa concoctions he named Verde Loco and Rojo Loco, or “crazy green and “crazy red.” He became well-known for making salsa, and won 1st
place and honors at The Austin Chronicle’s Hot Sauce Festival while living in Austin.
Mark’s children fondly remember him patiently teaching them to do things like ice skate, swim, drive a stick shift car, waterski, keep a tidy space, and so much more. That could not have been easy, but he was a very gentle father.
Leigh calls to mind, “Foremost, he taught everyone by example, what it takes to be a giving and caring man. He passed on that wisdom to my brother Dustin, who parents Mark’s granddaughters Addyson and Kaylee with the same gracious touch.” Dustin also recalled his Dad’s frequent trips to Huntsville to visit them, “He was planning another visit there in September.”
Second cousin Diane Cooper said Mark’s return to Fort Worth was a special gift to her. “It was a happy reunion, and I was able to invite him to a family event hosted by my late mother a couple years ago. I think I was a gift to Mark also, because we enjoyed mutual interests.
“And he helped me move 50 years of accumulated possessions from Mother’s home to mine. He helped so many people all the time, including my son. “Helper, Giver. Gift. Those words describe Mark, and I will really miss him.”
Long-time friend and co-worker, Kim Judd had this to say about Mark’s friendship and helpfulness: “I met Mark during the lowest point of my life. He stayed with my husband – who had leukemia – while I went to work. In addition to being a nurse, he was an incredible handyman. Three years later, I cannot walk in any direction in my 110-year-old house without touching something that Mark fixed. He gave me reassurance that everything was going to be OK, and he has been a true friend.”
Here are thoughts from his lifelong high school friend, John Butler: “We always had a good time, and plenty of laughs. In seventh grade, Mark had a Fort Worth Press paper route. I helped him many times without pay, and got tired of helping. John’s mother said she was sure Mark would not appreciate help from a person in a bad mood. Mark replied, “I don’t care what mood he’s in. I just want his help!’” (Mark was one of the city’s most successful newspaper subscription sellers, and on two occasions won trips to Kansas City, sponsored by the paper’s national chain.)
Karen also remembered his kindness. “He would literally give the shirt off his back to anyone who needed help.”
“When Karen was a school librarian,” friend Mary Pruitt Pugh remembers, “Mark built her an almost-life-size steam engine mock-up to use during her Polar Express Story time. He even included lights and a fog machine to impress the students. And to make the magic come alive, Mark even dressed as conductor to take tickets at the family night story time.”
When other librarians in the school district – myself included – heard about the train construction, we asked if we could borrow it. So that train began to travel from library to library in a 24’ box truck, and Mark was there to set it up and help us wow kids from around the district. He was always generous with his time and talents.”
Mark was also appreciated for thoughtful and funny gifts he gave friends. One longtime pal mentioned to Mark that armadillos were roaming his yard. A few days later, Mark showed up with a giant metallic armadillo yard ornament. “I thought those little armadillos could use another buddy,” he said.
A great father – patient and supportive. A nursing professional. A community helper. Mark Kessel spent a lifetime helping friends and volunteering in the church and community. He made friends easily in all his community involvement and endeavors.
Since he passed, the outpouring of stories and memories keep coming and there are too many to mention here. It’s an understatement that to say that Mark Kessel will be missed – Mark’s good nature will leave an empty space in all our hearts, but that same spirit will remind us of how we should take care of one another.
Mark is survived by his two children, daughter Leigh Kessel of Greenville, North Carolina and son Dustin Kessel and his wife Lisa of Huntsville, Texas and their mother Karen Kessel of Apalachicola, Florida; granddaughters Addyson and Kaylee; his brother Dr. Keith Kessel and his wife Wendy; half-brother Fred Hofstetter; brother-in law and sister-in-law Jere and Helen Kelly; his nieces and nephews.
In remembrance of Mark’s life, the family asks that any charitable donations be made to Habitat for Humanity https://www.habitat.org/donate/?link=628
. A service honoring Mark Kessel’s life will be held at 10 AM Saturday, August 27, 2022, at First United Methodist Church, 800 W 5th St, Fort Worth, TX. The service will be streamed at the following link: https://fumcfw.org/live