Despite everyone’s best efforts, Dr. Katherine J. Kessler, age 56, of Harrisonburg, VA, reached the end of her worldly journey the morning of Sunday, January 8, 2012. The pain she endured has been relieved and she was surrounded by love until the final moments. The thoughts and prayers of her family and many friends were of great comfort to her during her last weeks among us.
Born September 14, 1955, in Carlisle, PA, she was the daughter of Edward Kessler of Carlisle and Elizabeth Billadeaux of Stuart, FL. She is survived by her son, Luke Wagner of Hoboken, NJ; two sisters, Mary and family of Carlisle and Connie and son of Stuart, FL; and a brother, John and family of Kearnysville, WV.
Kate was a lifelong educator. A 1973 graduate of Big Spring High School, Newville, PA, she went on to earn both a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Shippensburg University. She began her career teaching high school English at Big Spring then spent 13 years teaching English at Chambersburg High School. While at Chambersburg she earned her PHD in English from Indiana University of PA and began teaching English at the college level at both Penn State’s Mont Alto campus and Harrisburg Area Community College. In 2000 she joined the School of Writing, Rhetoric, and Technical Communication at James Madison University as full time faculty member where she flourished and remained.
Kate earned many awards and acknowledgements during her career. Highlights include Crystal Apple Award, Public Television; Outstanding Research Award, IUP; Mandel Fellowship, US Holocaust Memorial Museum; Associate Honor’s Program Director, JMU; Provost’s Award for Excellence in Honors Teaching, JMU.
Kate’s other great passion in life was being outdoors – from being a life guard at Pine Grove Furnace State Park as a teenager to running competitively and completing a marathon to gardening and landscaping around her home to hiking above the Arctic Circle in Alaska. The Appalachian Trail held particular significance in her life. She hiked the entire 2,200 miles of The Trail and turned that experience into the Appalachian Trail honors seminar at JMU.
Private memorial services will be held at the convenience of the family with Valley Friends in Dayton, VA, and Chambersburg Friends.
Memorial contributions can be made to Heartland Hospice, 1200 Walnut Bottom Rd., Carlisle, PA, 17013, or the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, 304-535-6331, ext. 120.