ROBERT KIESLING passed away peacefully at his residence in Helena on Sunday morning January 13, 2008.
There are occasions in life when it’s unfortunate to be number one. Robert Kiesling was number one in the Hill County Draft Lottery during World War II. Like so many young men of those days, he was proud to serve the country, but during his service in the U. S. Army (in France during the Battle of the Bulge) he was permanently blinded, losing as well most of his right hand in the same bomb explosion. Never one to flinch at being number one though, Robert later became the first Red Cross Chairman for Havre after returning from the War. Almost 51 years to the day of his honorable discharge from the Army he passed away peacefully at his residence in Helena on Sunday morning January 13, 2008. Back in the days when there was still winter along the Montana high line, Robert (Rob) took his first breaths of that chilly Havre air on November 28, 1921. If it can be said that there was anything positive about the Great Depression that created such nationwide hardship during the 1920’s and 30’s, it might be that hardship often begets self-reliance, durable character, and deeply embedded work ethics. These qualities Rob had in spades. He excelled in art, academics and athletics throughout High School, and carried on these interests when he went on to Northern Montana College, driven by a belief that higher education was the surest path out of poverty. While the hardships of the Depression shaped and defined his youth, he struck it rich in college by falling in love with Helen Harris, a campus princess on track to become a nurse, and complementing nicely Rob’s designs on a career in the medical arts. He was accepted to dental school, but the War changed everything. His dream of becoming a care provider was turned on end, and he instead learned of hospitals as a patient, enduring several years of operations to repair his damaged body. Wars can damage and kill bodies, but they don’t always kill spirits. The truism that love is blind took on added poignancy when the college princess and the war veteran shared wedding vows on March 1, 1945. Five children came of their happy union, and also came those ceremonial highpoints of the 25th, the 50th, then 60th wedding anniversaries, as though the couple were on their way to forever together. Though Rob spent most of his life in Havre, Mont, he and Helen moved to Helena in 2002 to be near their children, four of who reside in the Queen City: David(Michele), Roger(Linda), Bob Kiesling, and Carol Schweitzer(Lenny). Son Steve Kiesling lives in Scottsdale, Ariz. The third of four children, Rob precedes in death his three siblings, Nina Pettyjohn of Washougal, Wash., Vic Kiesling of Aurora, Colo., and Betty Lu Kulp of Bellevue, Wash. With his passing, Rob leaves Helen to love (and monitor) the children and a brood of thirteen grandchildren. When the War laid low his dream of practicing the medical arts, he became an alchemist, and figured out how to turn life’s minuses into pluses, its tragedies into joys. Rob became chairman of the building committee when the Van Orsdel Methodist Church of Havre burned down. His commitments to family, church and community were extensive. He once was blind, but in the company of the Lord, now he sees. He will be missed. A memorial service will be held in Havre, time and place to be announced when the family figures things out. Please send memorials to the charity of your choice.