Theodore E. Kestler G’74

Theodore E. Kestler G’74 died on October 12, 2016, in Chefornak, Alaska.

(The following appeared online at

Fr. Ted Kestler, SJ, died in a house fire on October 12, 2016 in the Bering Sea village of Chefornak, Alaska. He was 72. Fr. Ted had served in western Alaska for 30 years as a priest, educator, and religious superior of the Jesuits working there. He was an engaging and insightful teacher in many subjects who also led prayerful and caring liturgies and retreats; his spirit could energize any room he entered and console and lift the burdens of those he met.

Ted Kestler and his twin sister Mary Ann were born on December 18, 1943 in Tacoma, WA to Paul and Rose (MacDonald) Kestler. A younger brother Dan joined the family a few years later. The untimely death of Ted’s father in 1955 necessitated the family to relocate in the greater Tacoma area and to attend various schools; despite these moves education and faith remained key values for all three children. Following his graduation in 1962 from Bethel High School (Bethel, WA), Ted attended both Central Washington University and Gonzaga University for one year each. Sensing a call to religious and priestly life Ted entered the Jesuit Novitiate at Sheridan, OR, in September 1964 and undertook a program of studies in the humanities and sciences. Ted completed degrees in Philosophy and Chemistry from Gonzaga University in 1969 and taught for three years at Gonzaga Preparatory School, Spokane, WA. During four summers he completed his M.A. in Mathematics at Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME. Ted prepared for his priestly ministry at the Jesuit School of Theology, Berkeley, CA, and was ordained a priest on June 14, 1975.

Often a Jesuit priest with the gifts, abilities and talents of Fr. Ted Kestler is drawn to doctoral studies and the scholarly life. He chose rather to do secondary school ministry in the fields of theology and mathematics. Fr. Ted taught those subjects at Bellarmine Preparatory, Tacoma, at the time the school was becoming co-educational. In 1980 he did his final stage of Jesuit training prior to final vows; during a short time of helping out a parish in western Alaska Fr. Ted discovered a deep affinity for that state’s Native Peoples to whom he would later devote his priestly ministry. He spent 1980-82 at Gonzaga Preparatory before heading north to Alaska for an initial three year ministry there on the Yukon River.

In 1985 the Jesuit Philosophy program in Spokane reached out to Fr. Ted and requested that he leave Alaska and become its rector. Although he had developed deep ties to the People and places he served Fr. Ted returned to Spokane and deftly guided the program for five years. With great joy he was able to return to Alaska in 1990 as the Mission Superior for all the Jesuits working there and to help start the Native Ministry Training Program in western Alaska. With his extensive knowledge in Theology, Scripture, and Church History Fr. Ted was excited to help educate and mentor both lay and ordained Church leaders who would in turn guide their own faith communities with confidence.

Fr. Kestler was preceded in death by both parents; he is survived by his twin sister Mary Ann Kirkland (Dennis) and a younger brother Dan Kestler (Donna). He has three nieces: Mishon Kirkland, Amy Kirkland, and Brooke Kestler. Fr. Ted is deeply missed by his many friends, colleagues, parishioners, and fellow Jesuits.

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