Brigadier General James Kessler


BG General (Federal) James Kessler passed away July 18, 2019 at Kavanagh House in Des Moines. He was born January 7, 1938 in West Allis, Wisconsin, graduating from Waukesha High School in 1956. He then went on to Colorado State University where he played football and was a member of Phi Delta Theta, graduating in 1960.

He was commissioned a 2nd LT Infantry from the ROTC program in June 1960. He entered the US Army at Fort Benning, GA, in November 1960. Following Ft Benning, he attended the US Army Helicopter school at Ft Walters, TX and Ft Rucker, AL. Following Flight School, he was assigned to the 1st INF Division at Ft Riley, KS.

In 1962, he was assigned to the “Howze Board” at Ft Bragg, NC and was part of the development of airmobile operations during counter insurgency warfare. In late 1962, he was a battle group helicopter pilot during “Operation Long Thrust” in the Federal Republic of Germany. In 1963, LT Kessler was assigned to the air branch, Berlin Brigade and flew missions in West Berlin along the Berlin Wall.

Following active duty, LT Kessler moved to Omaha, NE and joined the Nebraska Army National Guard as a medevac pilot in the 24th Medical Co.

In 1968, Kessler joined the Iowa Army National Guard as a full-time flight instructor in Boone. During his career, he served as a facility commander, state aviation officer, and assistant adjutant general until 1998 when he retired. General Kessler attended the resident Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania class #87.

General Kessler commanded at the Company, Battalion and Brigade level. BG Kessler has many awards, including the Legion of Merit with an Oak Leaf.

As a civilian, he was on the board of the Iowa Gold Star Museum, six of those years as the president, the Iowa Food Bank Board, and on the Board of Directors of the Bill Wilson House in East Dorset, VT.

During retirement, he took an interest in woodworking with hand tools. Using tools and techniques of the 18th century, he hand- crafted Windsor chairs, many of which were donated to the Wilson House in Vermont. He has been a member of the Masonic Lodge 326 since 1966.

General Kessler is survived by his wife Vicky; daughter, Kara (Ryan Brooks); grandson, Sullivan James Brooks; sisters, Bonnie Kennedy of Syracuse, NY, and Paula (Bob Stuelke) of Minneapolis, MN.

He was preceded in death by his parents Steve and Gladyce Kessler.

The family wishes to thank Dr. Tom Buroker and his caring staff at John Stoddard Cancer Center and the staff at the Stoddard Infusion Center who are so caring, professional and kind.

We also want to extend our appreciation to those who take the time to donate blood. Your donation gave us with another year with Jim that we would not have been able to enjoy otherwise.

Lastly, thank you to the staff at the Kavanagh House. You are a wonderful group of people with a special calling. You honored Jim.

In lieu of flowers, please make memorials to the Gold Star Museum, the Kavanagh House, or consider the gift of blood at your local blood bank.

Celebration of Life will be held at Mission Church, 12001 Ridgemont Drive, in Urbandale, Iowa, on Thursday, July 25 at 9:30 am with visitation one half hour prior. Inurnment with Military Honors will follow at the Iowa Veterans Cemetery at 11:00 am.

Online condolences may be expressed at

Service Details

Thursday, July 25, 2019
9:00 am
Mission Church
12001 Ridgemont Drive
Urbandale, Iowa
Thursday, July 25, 2019
9:30 am
Mission Church
12001 Ridgemont Drive
Urbandale, Iowa
Thursday, July 25, 2019
11:00 am
Iowa Veterans Cemetery
Van Meter, Iowa
Hamilton's on Westown Parkway
3601 Westown Parkway
West Des Moines, Iowa 50266
(515) 224-0078

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