Dr. Charles L. Kessler

Dr. Charles L. Kessler completed his earthly tenure on Thursday, September 30, 2021. He was born May 7, 1926, in Zion, Illinois to Mary and Paul Kessler. He was always grateful for his parochial grade school teachers, whose names he remembered, for their gracious and sacrificial spirit during the years of the Great Depression. He was in the first freshman class of the new Zion-Benton Township High School. That same year, he began pipe organ study with his dear teacher, Adrienne Moran. A few years later, he became organist for his church, a position he held for twenty-one years. His closeness to the church led him to feel a call to the ministry.

With that in view, he studied for his bachelor’s degree at Northwestern University and later his divinity degree at what is now Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. In June of 1956, he was awarded a Ph.D. by Northwestern.

That same month, he united in marriage to Viola Olin at Calvary Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Vi was Chuck’s best and dearest friend and his beloved for 63 years. That same year, in addition to the ministry to which he had been ordained, he began fifteen years of commuting to Evanston, Illinois to teach Biblical languages at Garrett. In 1971, he accepted an offer to teach full-time from Virginia Wesleyan College, Norfolk, Virginia. Vi and Chuck made their home in Virginia Beach. Chuck retired in 1993 as Professor of Religious Studies. He was always proud that some of his Garrett students became well-known scholars and that many of his Virginia Wesleyan students serve as pastors.

When at Northwestern, he was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. He was a member of the Society of Biblical Literature. Always his foremost interest was in the gospel of God’s love in Christ for all humankind. He believed that the Bible emphasized concern for the poor and the rejected.

Chuck was always grateful for his friends and loved ones in many places. After a few years, he and Vi moved to the Chesapeake Retirement Community in Newport News and they were grateful for the care provided by the staff over the years.

Preceded in death by his wife, Viola, his parents, his brother, Paul T. Kessler, his sister, Beulah Westphal, and his nephews, John Kessler and Paul Kessler II. He is survived by his nephews George Kessler of Winthrop Harbor, Illinois and Carl Westphal of Buffalo Grove, Illinois, and his nieces Mary Shaab of Zion, Illinois, Marianna Barr of Lake Barrington, Illinois, and Dr. Judee Irwin of Woodstock, New York.

Burial will be private. A memorial service for Chuck and Vi will be held at Virginia Wesleyan University’s Monumental Chapel at a date to be determined. It is suggested that memorial gifts may be made to Virginia Wesleyan University, 5817 Wesleyan Drive, Virginia Beach, Virginia 23455 (, to Trinity Lutheran Church, 6812 River Road, Newport News, Virginia 23607, or to a charity of your choice.

Arrangements are under the care of Peninsula Funeral Home, 11144 Warwick Blvd., Newport News, Virginia 23601.

1 Comment

  1. Everett Schleter

    I love Chuck and Vi. My late wife, Janet, and I were good friends and students of Chuck’s through the Christian Catholic Church of Zion where he ministered.

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