Cover photo for Michael W. Kessler, MD's Obituary
Michael W. Kessler, MD Profile Photo
1951 Mike 2024

Michael W. Kessler, MD

June 1, 1951 — March 2, 2024

Calais

Dr. Michael William Kessler, MD suffered a heart attack and passed away at home on March 2, 2024. Born June 1, 1951 in Aurora, Colorado, Mike was the son of Air Force surgeon Colonel Robert R. Kessler, MD and his lovely wife Mildred “Mickey” Kessler. Mike’s first few years of life were spent in pre-statehood Alaska, where his father was helping provide medical support to indigenous populations near the arctic circle. The family moved back to Ohio, and Mike was raised at times on a family farm and at times in Bexley, graduating from Bexley High School (class of ‘69). While at BHS, Mike was instrumental in the infamous plot to release a shower of plaster dust (activated via a MacGyver’d alarm clock mechanism) from the auditorium rafters onto the spot where the very unpopular high school principal was supposed to be speaking (it didn’t work - the very popular football coach was speaking at the time it released instead - oops!) Mike attended Notre Dame, and studied a year abroad in Innsbruck Austria, a place that would continue to be special to him throughout his life. He transferred to The Ohio State University, where he completed pre-med coursework and earned his bachelor’s degree in German before receiving a medical degree, also at OSU. 
 

An orthopedic surgeon by profession, Dr. Kessler eschewed white coats and ties, instead focusing on an approachable bedside manner and data-driven decision making. As an early leader of the trauma program at Grant Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, he helped oversee Grant’s transition to a Level 1 trauma center. A past president of the Maine Orthopedic Society, he enjoyed the culture of orthopedics in Maine, where his offbeat sense of fashion and his unconventional approach to socialization fit in well with the more laid-back Maine medical community. Beyond his paid vocation, he was a frustrated structural engineer by disposition, and some of his most ingenious creations were in fact the unconventional solutions to the challenges he encountered in his multifaceted and universally eccentric house-building projects. What he set his mind to he did with gusto, unstoppably, and with a tenacious curiosity that was infectious. 

 

Michael Kessler was many things: unconventional, ridiculously smart, excruciatingly honest, an inventor, a tinkerer, perhaps the world’s most iterative builder of lakeside docks. To those who knew him well, Mike/Doc/Dad/Poppy was endlessly loyal, full of unbending love, frank acceptance, and patient listening. Mike was quick to tell you he wasn’t perfect, and then to dissect the ways he had stumbled and learned throughout life. He would want you to know that he spent many decades as an active member of Alcoholics Anonymous, and he believed deeply in the power of willpower and determination, aided by the help of a higher power, to heal and mend all the things that break as we move through life. 

 

Family was everything to Mike. As a young man, Mike married his high school sweetheart Susie Honts, and together they brought Jennie (Dan), Sam (Susie), and Ben into the world. Although their marriage eventually ended, Mike would always speak fondly of Susie, and together they modeled kind and respectful coparenting. In his marriage to Susan Callahan, Mike found a partner who brought deep stability to his life, and together they raised Anne Marie (Connor) and Mandy (Ernesto) and Mike became a stepfather for life to Brad and Ben (Jaime) Iten. Together they would move to Bexley, and navigate a growing orthopedic practice and later a mid-career move to Maine with grit and a strong sense of partnership and love. When Susan was diagnosed with stage IV cancer, Mike nursed her and loved her through her final days, and at her passing in 2003 he lost a piece of himself. 

 

In 2007, Mike met Lyuda. After a beautiful international romance, Mike and Lyuda married in 2009, caring for her son Ilyusha as his own, and welcoming Max into the world in 2011. Together they settled into a home on the shore of the Saint Croix River. Mike purchased a “camp” on Kuwesuwi Monihq (White) Island in Big Lake for the enjoyment of his large and growing family, who loved “putzing” with him on “the island”, bonding over appropriately Mike-like projects such as constructing the world’s longest and most dangerous zip line, endlessly troubleshooting faulty water circulation systems, and entering into prolonged philosophical discussions on any topic upon which one could possibly philosophize. 
 
 Mike had a penchant for giving human names to inanimate objects (especially cars and boats - even boat motors), a deep admiration for the political musings of Fareed Zakaria, a love of animals, lifelong enthusiasm for both the Buckeyes and the Fightin’ Irish, a signature “peripheral brain” note-taking system, and a proclivity for using family dinners as a platform for impromptu quizzes on obscure facts relating to galactic measurements.

 

Mike loved generic diet cola (to excess), cordless Makita tools, putzing around, and having extensive and authentic conversations, most preferably in combination with all three of the former. His friendships became an increasingly important part of his life, from reconnecting with high school friends to forging new relationships in Calais through the infamous WTF social club, Caduceus, and others.

 

In addition to his wife Lyuda and children, Mike is survived by his brothers Pat (Holly) and Rick (Peggy), sister Kathy “KK” (John), and a treasure trove of grandkids: Inga, Andrei, Elena, Alex, Sam, Elissa; Kit, Sandy, Robin, Pippin; Moira, Evie; Ella, Sal, Brugh; Theo, Wallace, Arthur; Amelia, Lucas and Matías. Mike is preceded in death by his parents, his wife Susan, his brother, Dayle (Cherri), and his nephew Kenny.

 

In closing, Dad/Mike would want you to know that at just the right time in its orbit, earth is 140 million miles from Mars, which at a constant and brisk walking pace would take a little over 3,995 years of travel to reach. He would also want to remind you not to end a sentence in a preposition, if you know what we’re getting at.

 

A small memorial service with his wife and children was held on Tuesday, March 5 in Calais, Maine.

 

Family calling hours will be from 10:00 to 11:30 am on Saturday, March 9 at Jeffrey Mansion in Bexley, Ohio, with a celebration of life and sharing of memories to follow.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Michael W. Kessler, MD, please visit our flower store.

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