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Marian Elizabeth Saunders Kessler was born on October 8, 1931, on the farm of her parents, Clyde Raymond and Ruth Garner Gee Saunders, in Lunenburg County, Virginia. She attended Ferrum Junior College where she met her life partner, William (Bill) Troy Kessler. She received her BA from Lynchburg College in 1954 and her Masters in Christian Education from Emory University’s Candler School of Theology in 1955, the same year she and Bill married on June 9.
While Bill served as a minister with the Virginia United Methodist Conference, she taught in the neighboring elementary schools for the next 28 years. After completing course work at Old Dominion University, she added librarian credentials to her resume and worked as a Media Center Specialist (Librarian) until her retirement in 1994 from the York County Public School system.
Marian was an active minister’s wife and embraced each church congregation with enthusiasm. She created a loving home at the 11 Methodist parsonages where they lived for their daughter, Kerrie, and son, Paul.
Marian loved her family and delighted in happy hours poring over family documents and traveling to genealogical libraries on the east coast researching nuggets of information about her extended family. She and her sister, Garnette, published Gee Family Tree in 2001. She suggested keeping our extended family connected by setting aside time for an annual beach week. We had our first Saunders Beach Week in 1995 and we have had a great turnout every year.
Upon retirement, she and Bill enjoyed living in Williamsburg, VA and Raleigh, NC before settling in Marion, NC in 2009. They enjoyed their church relationship at First United Methodist Church of Marion and the Neel Parker Sunday School class. Given her love of genealogy, she was a proud member of the Greenlee Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and enjoyed her role as Registrar to help new members find their ancestries.
She departed this life on January 10, 2023. Preceding her in death was her husband of 57 years, Bill, and her sister Betty Jean Goad. Marian is survived by her sisters, Emily Pritchard Saunders Pendleton and Garnette Ruth Saunders Teass. She is also survived by her daughter, Kerrie Kessler Hillman (David) and son, Paul William Kessler (Jen) and four grandchildren who were her greatest joy in her later life, Isabel Ruth Hillman, Isaac Mitchell Hillman, Gabriel William Kessler and Jack Nathaniel Kessler, as well as her goddaughter, DeLisa Hooks Christ (Alan).
The family would like to acknowledge Margaret Love, Linda Cannon and Ritchel Smith, who brought dignity and joy to her last years. They would also like to extend their gratitude to the staff at Rose Hill Retirement Community and Hospice of the Carolina Foothills for their compassionate care and support.
A graveside celebration of life service is planned for Saturday, April 1 at 11:00am at Kenbridge Heights Cemetery with luncheon immediately following. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to First United Methodist Church, 176 Robert Street, Marion, N.C. 28752; Lunenburg County Historical Society, P.O. Box 974, Kenbridge, Virginia 23944 or your favorite charity.
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