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On Monday May 13th, Karl Kesler, 71, passed away at his home in Winter Park, Florida, after a long battle with cancer.
Karl was born in West Palm Beach, Florida to Archie Earl Kesler and Sylvia Ruth Hallen on September 22nd, 1947. He spent his childhood years in the Bronx, New York and Hicksville on Long Island. After his father’s early passing in 1958, Karl and his mother Sylvia moved to Miami Beach in 1959.
In 1968 Karl married Hanneke Bergmans from the Netherlands whom he had met in California while he was attending Santa Barbara Film School. In 1969, their son Adam was born in Miami Beach and they moved to the Netherlands.
Karl worked several jobs in the Netherlands , including working in a steel mill and a photo lab while learning Dutch and getting familiar with Dutch culture. In 1974, their daughter Sylvia was born and in 1977, their daughter Suzanne. By 1974, Karl had become a full time photographer and he and his family lived in the small coastal town of Bergen in the western part of the Netherlands.
After Karl and Hanneke divorced in 1978, he moved back to the United States, and worked for his sister Marty and brother-in-law Dena’s courier business. He continued this work in Boston, Philadelphia and in Los Angeles, California, until 1980. In July 1979 his son Adam came over from the Netherlands and lived with Karl in Boston, Philadelphia and Los Angeles and returned back to the Netherlands in the summer of 1980.
In California, he met and married Susan Nordman, who would be the love of his life for 38 years until she also passed away in November of 2018.
In Los Angeles, Sue was setting up her business as an insurance agent while Karl pursued work as a photographer and had a great adventure setting up his own deli shop in Van Nuys and later in Pine Mountain, a rural area northeast of Santa Barbara. Later, as Sue’s business grew, Karl joined her and worked along as a partner, taking care of all non- insurance related business. Karl also became successful in real estate.
In this period Karl reconnected with family from his youth in Hicksville and shared many wonderful visits with his cousins Phyllis, Rhoda and Carol who lived close by in the San Diego area. His cousin Mike and Mike’s wife Gillie visited in Chatsworth and did Karl and Sue’s favorite things- the Getty Rose’s Café in Venice, eating Chinese food and watching old movies. Karl and Sue visited them in Alexandria, Virginia and impressed them with their warmth, interest in travel, and most of all, empathy.
Although his children and grand-children grew up in Holland, he always made great efforts to stay in touch and be part of their lives despite the distance. This resulted in many summer holiday visits of the children to California and later on Karl and Sue tried to visit Holland every year. Sometimes they also visited their beloved England or Ireland. From 2005, when his first granddaughter Rosalie was born in Holland,and after his other four granddaughters Zoë, Sascha, Aimée and Femme were born. Karl and Sue made regular visits. They continued to travel after they retired and moved to Florida in 2016.
Over the years, Karl had many hobbies and interests: photography, science, history and love of nature. He loved to play his guitar and even re-build his Gibson 6-stringinto a 12-string guitar (and back), listen to folk music, read and watch his collection of 40’s and 50’s movies.
You had to know Karl a bit longer to truly appreciate his sense of humor and, more important, his honest, kind heart and sincere interest in you as a person.
Karl’s cousin Rhoda wrote these kind and appropriate words when she heard Karl passed away, ” I didn’t see them after they moved to Florida, and it was a loss to me.
A bigger loss is knowing I will never see them again. I am glad my cousin Karl is at peace now, and I will never forget him”
His cousin Mike said, ” I feel lucky to have been able to say good bye to Karl a few days before he died, when his body may have withered but his sharp wit and bright smile were intact, and I feel blessed to have spent this past week with Adam, Sylvia, and Suzanne as we shared stories of what happened over the last years and work toward a community of cousins- in Holland, California, Virginia and Boston and beyond.”
As Ralph Stanley sang in Angel Band, “my race is nearly run” Karl was surrounded by his closest relatives until the end. He will be greatly missed by his family and friends.
A memorial service will be held both in Florida and in the Netherlands on a later date.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Karl’s name to the American Cancer Society.