We got the call Saturday afternoon that Jan’s dad had passed away. We were not surprised because he was almost 95, had been battling pneumonia, and had lost his wife this past June. Understandably, the last four months had been difficult for him. As well as being an interesting man, in my personal experience Willard H. Kissell was a loving father, a gracious father-in-law, and a caring grandpa.
I got some real insight into his love for his daughter the night I asked him for permission to marry Jan. He asked me two questions. The first was did I think I would make enough as a pastor to support her. At that point I was a part time youth minister, but I assured him I was confident I would. His second question was did I have any thoughts about being a missionary. I don’t think he would have objected if I said yes, but after I assured him I felt no calling to be a missionary he gave me his blessing.
My respect for him was evidenced through the years as I always addressed him as Mr. Kissell. I don’t know how many times he told me to call him Bill, but for some reason I was never comfortable doing so. My respect for him was not one-sided. I know he had great respect for me as well as his son-in-law, a pastor, and the father of two of his grandchildren.
After Jan’s mom passed away Mr. Kissell married a woman who had two girls who were still in at home and in school (she also had a son who was older and on his own). Without trying to take the place of their father, he accepted them and treated them as though they were his. Those two girls and their families, as well as their brother and his family, are grieving Mr. Kissell’s passing in some respects the same as Jan and her brother.
One thing about Mr. Kissell I especially enjoyed was his competitive spirit. Downstairs at their house he had a bumper pool table and when Jan and I were dating we would play. Some evenings I spent more time playing bumper pool with him than I did with Jan. After he retired he took up golf and we played when we visited in Cincinnati, Tennessee, and Tucson. The last time I visited, we played multiple solitaire. At the age of 94 he still beat Jan and me. (The picture above is from that last visit.)
Mr. Kissell was a member of what Tom Brokaw called “The Greatest Generation.” He was a US Navy veteran of WWII serving in the South Pacific. We talked about that during my last visit and in answer to a question told me about seeing General MacArthur.
As with many of the greatest generation, Mr. Kissell only worked for one company his entire career. Following his graduation from Penn State he went to work for Procter & Gamble and stayed there until he retired. He also lived in the same house 52 years leaving that home just a few months ago.
A few words come to mind as I reflect on my experience with and knowledge of my father-in-law: loyal, kind, stable, respectful, patriotic, and generous.
Please join me in praying for Willard H. Kissell’s family and extended family as they grieve, and especially for my wife, Jan, and son, Rob, as they travel to Cincinnati.