Clair F Kessler, 88 of Zephyrhills and Emmett, Michigan, passed away peacefully on Monday, April 13, 2020. He was born in Detroit, on February 27, 1932, to the late William and Frieda (Lutz) Kessler.
Clair served as an altar boy at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Detroit for several years. Always big for his age, at 11 he became an ice man’s assistant, carrying ice blocks to upper floor apartments. At 14, with his brother’s ID, he hired into the local Kroger store, where he became produce manager.
When his father became disabled, Clair took over his position at Packard Motorcar Co. He was 15, posing as 18, and supporting his parents and 8 siblings. He finished his education via correspondence courses. Always eager to learn, he became a Tool and Die maker, a career that spanned five decades.
On Christmas Eve, 1949, Clair married the love of his life, Irene Newton. They celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary in 2019.
After volunteering his labor in exchange for knowledge of the trades, Clair built the couple’s first home himself. He obtained his builder’s license and continued to build and remodel homes throughout his life.
In 1957, Clair and Irene bought a farm in Emmett. They worked the farm for 12 years, while he continued working in Detroit. Clair built the family’s current home on that property in 1969.
The couple purchased a grocery store with attached gas station in 1973. Together they operated Kessler’s Korner for 11 years, adding an auto repair and parts shop along the way. After selling the business, they purchased a five-unit apartment building in Port Huron, and began a rental business which still operates today.
Clair retired from tool and die work in 1997, and in ’98, bought a winter home in Zephyrhills, where the couple have spent the last 22 winters.
Clair enjoyed hunting, softball, bowling, raising chickens, gardening, cooking, his grandchildren, his dogs, and his winters in Florida with Irene, where he was an avid golfer.
He is survived by his beloved wife, Irene, their children, William (Kay) Kessler, Deborah (Lou) Flanigan, David (Cheryl) Kessler, Robert Kessler (Jane Porrett), Thomas (Kris) Kessler, and Michael Kessler ( Rich Montgomery), 13 grandchildren, 25 great grandchildren, his sisters, Judy Krajacik, Justine Wilkins, and Julieanne Korich, and many nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents, William and Frieda, siblings Joanne Kovac, William Kessler, Joyce Williford, Janet Gainor, and Jackie Voss, and by his beloved daughter, Jeanette “Jan” Kessler.