Patriarch of Kesler's Market dies at 91
BLACKFOOT — Local businessman Jack White Kesler of Kesler's Market in Blackfoot, died last Thursday at age 91.
Kesler started working in the family grocery business in 1934, when he was 12-years-old.
His sons, Bob and Kelly, said they got into the business "because we figured Dad would retire."
"When he was getting into his 70s, we thought he might consider retiring; and then when he turned 80, we thought he would surely consider retiring," said Kelly.
"He definitely was part of the Greatest Generation," he said. "He taught us how to work.
Kesler came into the store every day to keep the books until he retired a couple years ago, at age 88.
“He stuck to the one he did best,” said his daughter, Sue Nelson.
“I was 11-years-old when he first brought me to the store to sell hot dogs for a nickel,” said Nelson. (There was hot dog booth in the corner.)
“He would get me up at 7 or 8 o’clock in the morning on Saturday,” Nelson said. “I was the checker and he would bag the groceries.
“He taught us how to treat people,” she said.
“I worked as a checker, and then sold ice cream before becoming [Dad’s] secretary,” she said. “Most of us can do all of it.
“There were a lot of us and we had a good time,” she said. “We still do.
“He tried a lot of things—hunting, snow skiing,” said Nelson. “He had a cabin in Island Park and was busy with family.
“He was always involved in something,” she said. “He did what needed to be done.”
Kesler served as chairman of the Blackfoot School Board through the 60s. He was a member of the Lions Club, was active in his church responsibilities and supported Scouting.
“He loved to travel,” his sons said. “He and mom (Roma) traveled (at different times) to India, Australia, St. Petersburg and Africa.
“They wintered in California and would take each of us kids, one at a time, with them,” said Bob.
“When my dad was growing up during the Depression, he would tell of receiving an orange and a steel car for Christmas," said Kelly.
"He didn't have a lot of hobbies," said daughter-in-law Marilyn Kesler. "The store was his life although he enjoyed mowing the lawn and building stuff in his later years."
During WWII, Kesler served in the U.S. Navy from 1942 to 1945. He was a ship fitter, stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. He repaired ships.
"He was really proud that he was a certified welder," said Kelly. "He learned how to weld underwater.
"Most of the pictures [from that time] are of him and his buddies down at the beach," said Bob Kesler.
"After the war, he took flying lessons," Kelly said.
"I remember sitting in the car, waiting for him to finish his flying lessons," said Bob. "I don't think he ever flew after getting his license."
Kesler was a family man. He and his wife had eight children. Most of the children and their families are still around this area. He has 49 grandchildren and 94 great-grandchildren.
Kesler's Market was started by Jack’s father, F.C. (Fredrick Clark) Kesler.
F.C. survived the Depression on a ranch near Mackay, raising cattle.
F.C. was hauling a load of pigs to Ogden when he spotted a house on the corner of Bridge and Pine in Blackfoot.
He thought about that house all the way to Ogden, said Kelly. When he got back to Blackfoot, he purchased the house with his profits from the sale of the pigs.
For lumber, F.C. and his family tore down sheds on their ranch near Mackay. They used the lumber to add a neighborhood grocery store unto the house. The store measured 16 feet X 20 feet.
F.C. opened the neighborhood grocery store in 1934.
“The first day’s profit was $11,” said Bob.
Today, the fourth generation of Keslers owns, manages and works in Kesler’s Market.
Jack Kesler’s funeral service will take place at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 7, at the Blackfoot Stake Center, 1650 Highland Dr., Blackfoot.
The family will meet with friends from 6-8 p.m. this evening at Hawker Funeral Home, 132 S. Shilling Ave. in Blackfoot and one hour prior to the service at the Stake Center.
Interment will be in the Fielding Memorial Cemetery in Idaho Falls.
Condolences may be sent to the family at firstname.lastname@example.org.