Suffolk father dies on Navy ship before daughter’s graduation

Posted at 12:58 PM, Jun 12, 2012
and last updated 2012-06-12 12:58:10-04

SUFFOLK, Va. (WTKR) - A Suffolk father died last week on a Navy ship just a day before his daughter's high school graduation.

Master Chief Petty Officer Richard Kessler was found dead in his berthing compartment Friday on board the USS Enterprise. He served as a logistics specialist on the ship.

Kessler's wife, Anne, said her husband served in the Navy for 28 years and loved his job. But while Kessler loved the Navy, she said he really treasured and valued his family. 

“If you went on Facebook or talked to any of our friends, they would say we have a love story that everybody wants, after 23 years, we were deeply in love and he treated me like a princess, always had. He sacrificed everything for his family,” said Anne Kessler.

The devastating news of her husband's passing came amid her daughter's graduation from First Baptist Christian School as salutatorian on Saturday.

A classmate had offered to stand with her, and give the speech if necessary, but the teen managed to make it through the speech. 

“I think she felt she was doing it for her dad, and we`re really proud of her,” said Kessler.

Although Kessler died before the ceremony, he did send her an email about her upcoming graduation shortly before he died.

“Told her how proud he was of her and how... he was just so thankful to have a daughter who’s so responsible, and graduating with special honors and everything, so that was a real gift, a real gift to her,” said Kessler.

Along with that gift, Kessler said her son and daughter both have told her that her husband passed onto them his strong sense of integrity.

“That just really touched my heart that both children in separate situations had the same word to describe their father; I’m thankful for that,” said Kessler.

As they deal with the loss, the family is holding onto memories and their faith. Family members said memorial and funeral arrangements are still being made.