June 12, 2024
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Holocaust Survivor, Author Dr. Michael Kesler Dies at 97

Dr. Michael Kesler died on August 23, at the age of 97, from advanced Parkinson’s disease. Kesler was born in Dubno, Poland (now Ukraine), and fled the family home together with his sister Luba to escape the Nazis, ultimately settling in Uzbekistan.

After the war, Kesler spent a year in a displaced persons’ camp in Germany, and was awarded a scholarship from the B’nai B’rith Association to attend Colby College in Maine. He later transferred to Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned three degrees: a bachelor’s and master’s in chemical engineering, and a second master’s in biology. Later, he was awarded a PhD in chemical engineering from NYU.

In his career as a chemical engineer in the petroleum industry, he was employed by M.W. Kellogg in New York. While there, he created one of the first chemical engineering simulation programs, the Flexible Flowsheet. He then worked for Exxon and later for Mobil Oil. While at Mobil, he created a well-known set of mathematical tools called the Lee-Kesler Correlations, with his colleague B.I. Lee. Kesler later established Kesler Engineering, Inc., which became a highly regarded international consulting firm to the petroleum industry.

When Kesler retired in the 2000s, he embarked on a new career as a nonfiction writer. He authored four books, beginning with editing his late wife’s account of surviving the Holocaust and finding a new life in America as a Harvard-educated pediatrician. He followed that with a memoir of his World War II experiences and a self-help book concerning cancer and the family. His latest volume, “The Remnant,” published in April 2021, concerns the remnant of Polish Jewry who survived the war by fleeing to the Soviet Union. The book was highlighted in a Jewish Link article written by Sharon Mark Cohen, “Holocaust Survivor’s Legacy Is Much More Than a ‘Remnant’,” published on July 29.

Kesler always valued his participation in Jewish life, culture and literature. He served as the cantor of the Paramus Jewish Center, and more recently founded Tales of the Past Promoters (TOPPs), celebrating the history and culture of European Jewry. For his contributions, he received a Legacy Award from the East Brunswick Public Library Foundation at its 2018 gala.

Kesler leaves behind his wife, Dr. Barbara S. Reed of East Brunswick. He is also survived by his four children with his late wife, Dr. Regina Kesler: Mark (of Durham, North Carolina), May Kesler Breslow (of Chevy Chase), David (of San Francisco) and Theodore (of White Plains), as well as two stepchildren: Michael Reed (of Mountain View, California) and Rabbi Esther Reed (of Highland Park, New Jersey). He was Zaydee/Poppy to 11 grandchildren: Aaron Kesler; Regina Breslow; Joe and Maia Kesler; Korina and Daniel Kesler; Megan and Hannah Reed; and Isaac, Sammy and Jonah Reed-Schwartz.

Memorial contributions may be made in Kesler’s memory to Rutgers University Hillel at https://rutgershillel.org/life-and-legacy/; International Hillel at https://www.hillel.org/; Colby College at 4000 Mayflower Hill Dr, Waterville, ME 04901; MIT at https://giving.mit.edu/form/#/; NYU at https://www.nyu.edu/about/giving.html; The Jewish Joint Distribution Committee at https://www.jdc.org/; HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) at https://act.hias.org/page/31034/donate/1; or Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) at https://www.fidf.org/.

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