Cover photo for Phyllis Joan Kesseler's Obituary
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Phyllis Joan Kesseler

February 23, 1934 — July 13, 2021

Phyllis Joan (Ziebell) Kesseler entered into eternal life on Tuesday, July 13, 2021 at her summer home in Elk Rapids, Michigan with her husband and her family by her side.  She passed from this world exactly how she wanted, in her favorite chair with her Kindle and root beer barrel candies next to her.

She was born February 23, 1934 in Grayling, Michigan to Jenson and Frances (Wucker) Ziebell.  Phyllis was their only child, but was blessed to be raised with her cousin, Bud Wiseman, and second cousin, Patsy Snider.  She always considered them her brother and sister.  Phyllis attended Grayling Public Schools and bragged that she passed kindergarten attending for only 17 days after contracting rheumatic fever.  Her parents doted on her and she was probably the only child in Grayling with a sandbox in her bedroom!  She loved her cousins and a group of them became known as the “Powder Puffs” and the “Greasy Spoons.”  She was a proud “Greasy Spoon” and shared many adventures with them.

While in high school, she was active in the band, played the French horn and worked as a “soda jerk” at Dawson’s Soda Fountain, as well as the payroll clerk at the Grayling Laundry.  Phyllis showed a particular gift in business and commerce classes.  Upon graduation from high school in 1951 at the age of 17, she worked summers at Bear Archery and was hired as the secretary to the Grayling School Superintendent, Frank Bond.  She held this job for six years and always said it was the best job in the world.  She soon discovered that the best job was what came next: becoming a wife and mother.  This was truly her vocation.

She married Roger Kesseler on August 10, 1957 in the rectory at St. Mary’s Church.  They enjoyed nearly 64 years of marriage together.  They welcomed four children:  Lisa Ann, Lori Ann, Michael Louis and Maureen Kay.  Throughout their marriage, they spent time in Michigan and Texas.  Family and friends were everything to her.  Nobody was a stranger in the Kesseler household.  She treated all of her children’s friends as her “other kids” and loved her many nieces and nephews.  She enjoyed get-togethers from playing bridge, lunches out and group trips. She never forgot a birthday or special event and kept every Hallmark store in business with her thoughtful cards she would send.  Throughout her life, she taught her children the importance of volunteering and service to others by helping the church, hospital and schools.  It was through her church volunteerism that ultimately led to her converting to the Catholic faith in 1979 at St. Michael’s Church in Lake Jackson, TX.

Her children would often sign their Mom up for activities without her knowledge as they knew their Mom would get the job done.  She was their school room mom, became a favorite teacher volunteer, and chaired the Girl Scout cookie drive for the entire Lake Jackson, TX community.  Her gift of her special frosting recipe made for amazing cakes that she would decorate for birthdays and her children always beamed with how beautiful their school birthday treats were. Her home was her haven that she took pride in creating for her family, and she lovingly had a home-cooked meal and dessert every night when her children were growing up, as well as her infamous candy cupboard and counter.

She supported Roger throughout his successful career at Dow Chemical which enabled them to travel throughout the world.  In retirement, they enjoyed their summer home in Elk Rapids, MI and their winter home in Lake Jackson, TX.  What is most remarkable about them as a couple is their devotion to each other.  They lived their marriage vows and cared for each other in good times and in bad, sickness and in health.

Her love multiplied as she entered the wonderful world of being a grandmother and great-grandmother.  Phyllis absolutely adored her ten grandchildren and five great grandchildren and loved shopping for their birthday and Christmas wish lists.  Her motto was, “You can do anything you want at Grandma’s house!”  Phyllis would move mountains to attend their school events, dance recitals, concerts, and graduations.  She was so proud of all of them!

In the Kesseler family, education has always been a top priority. Both Roger and Phyllis wanted to ensure that all of their children and grandchildren graduated from college and financially committed to see them all through. Rooted in their core values of giving back to others, this ultimately led to the establishment of the “Roger and Phyllis Kesseler Family Centralis Scholarship” where they have provided a Grayling High School senior each year with a four year full-ride to Central Michigan University since 2000.

Phyllis is survived by her loving husband of 63 years, Roger Kesseler.  Her children and their spouses:  Lisa (David) Nicks of Lake Jackson, TX, Lori (David) Boleman of Tulsa, OK, Michael (Tracey) Kesseler of Lake Jackson, TX, and Maureen (Douglas) DeYoung of Traverse City, MI.  Her ten grand children: James (Anna) Nicks, Emily (Stephen) Lund, Katie (Matthew) Cooper, Michelle (Daniel) Barina, Laura (Tyler) Williams, William Boleman, Katherine DeYoung, Allison Kesseler, Molly DeYoung, and Scott Kesseler. Her great-grandchildren:  Robert Lund, Cecilia Lund, Graham Cooper, Henry Williams, Caroline Cooper and Baby Williams due February 2022.  In-laws Jim and Rosie Kesseler and Georgia Kesseler, as well as Ruth Uhl, and many nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.

Phyllis was preceded in death by her parents Jenson and Frances Ziebell, her brother Wilbur “Bud” Wiseman, sister Patsy “Putts” Wiseman-Snider, in-laws Jerome and Loretta (Sorenson) Kesseler,  brother-in-laws George Kesseler, Tom Kesseler, Chuck Snider, and sister-in-laws Nancy Kesseler and Patricia Wiseman.

Visitation will be held at Sorenson-Lockwood Funeral Home in Grayling, MI on Tuesday, July 20 from 3-7 p.m. with a rosary at 6:30 p.m. followed by time to share memories of Phyllis. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Wednesday, July 21 at 11 a.m. with visitation one hour prior at St. Mary’s Church in Grayling.  The celebrant will be Father Christopher Jarvis.  Burial at Elmwood Cemetery and a luncheon will follow in the church hall.

Those wishing an expression of sympathy may choose to contribute in Phyllis’ memory to the
“Roger and Phyllis Kesseler Family Endowed Scholarship” at Crawford AuSable Excellence in Education Foundation (CAEEF) 1135 N. Old US 27, Grayling, MI 49738 to benefit Grayling High School students. 

God gained a special angel when He welcomed Phyllis into Heaven.  Rest in Peace, Mom.  Dad and all of us will miss you! 

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Phyllis Joan Kesseler, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Starts at 10:00 am (Eastern time)

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St. Mary's Catholic Church

707 Spruce Street
Grayling, MI 49738

*Standard text messaging rates apply.

Mass of Christian Burial

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Starts at 11:00 am (Eastern time)

Add to Calendar

St. Mary's Catholic Church

707 Spruce Street
Grayling, MI 49738

*Standard text messaging rates apply.


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