Having a bowling ball with George Kessler

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George Kessler stands next to some of the medals and trophies he’s collected over the years. Photo by Samantha Cooper

George Kessler’s apartment in Leisure World is filled with souvenirs from his and his wife,
Marilyn’s, travels around the world: a handmade table from India, a framed sheet of paper with Japanese calligraphy and an elephant-shaped lamp from Canada. There are paintings and sculptures made by friends, and in the study sits a small collection of Kessler’s trophies and medals, many of them for bowling.

The 89-year-old Kessler, who spent much of his life studying and tracking the weather, is now taking life easy: bowling; assisting at his synagogue, Shaare Tefila; and spending time with Marilyn and their family.


Kessler was born in New York, in 1930. After graduating high school, some of his friends convinced him to join the Air Force. He wanted to work in a Control Tower, but ended up stationed in a weather tower.

“I learned how to take weather observations and all that,” he says. “And that was fun, because at the time we had to work shifts and we didn’t have to make up our beds [for inspection.] They didn’t have to inspect us.”

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When the Korean War broke out in 1950, he and others were packed onto a ship bound for Tokyo. He says the ship was so crowded, that as soon as you had eaten your breakfast, you had to get in line for lunch. When they arrived, Kessler was stationed at the Tokyo Weather Center.

“From there, I could see the moat around the Imperial Palace and we used to see rippling in the water, [and that meant] there was a light earthquake,” he says.


During his time there, he and his buddies explored Tokyo. They avoided restaurants, Kessler says, because of the animosity between Japanese and Americans. But he and the boys watched the entertainers the Air Force brought in. And they tried to climb Mount Fuji.

“We didn’t get too far, because they had drinking establishments. So we stopped and drank when we got too tired to walk,” he says.

He played a lot of softball, too. More recently, he was on a senior softball team in Bowie. The team competed in the Maryland Senior Olympics, where he started earning trophies. He continued playing until he pulled a muscle four years ago and had to stop. He didn’t want to have a designated runner. It was all or nothing.

But, he still bowls. It’s gone down from four days a week to just once, on Mondays, but he says he still loves it. He bowls in Shady Grove with a 55-and-over league, where he is one of the oldest members.

“Years ago, my bowling was something. I’ve had a 280 average, which is almost perfect. But now, I’m down to 165, 167,” he says. He was surprised when he won an award from his team last year, for having the second-highest game.

He and his second wife, Marilyn Green Kessler, attend Shabbat services at Shaare Tefila and Leisure World.
After the High Holidays, they’ll head straight to the airport so they can be in Israel in time for the birth of their 13th great-grandchild.

“Hopefully, we can sleep on the flight,” Kessler says. “And we’ll be there for three weeks waiting for the baby to be born.” WJW

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Twitter: @SamScoopCooper

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