Andrew Hoyt Kessler

 

 

 

Andrew (Andy) was born in Brookline which is where his parents Bette Ann and Robert grew up. Andy was the middle of three children with a younger sister Susan and an older brother Gary. The family lived on Winston Road in Newton where the neighborhood was full of similarly aged boys. Andy spent lots of time outdoors running around or playing basketball in the driveway with the neighborhood boys or with his dad and brother. Andy continued to play basketball into adulthood which he enjoyed, but he was no threat to any of the Celtics.

Andy attended the three very nearby schools, Oak Hill Elementary, Meadowbrook Junior High School and Newton South High School back in the days when as a kindergartener you could walk to school. Andy was an okay student but very early on he was introduced to photography which would become one of his life’s passions. The local schools had darkroom facilities and a and talented photographer, Mr. Aruda, who shared his knowledge of photography with Andy.

In the summers, from age 8 to 15, Andy went to Camp Cedar in Casco Maine. Andy loved Camp Cedar. Many of Andy’s closest friends were made from his years at camp (Michael, Stuart and David). While much of camp life revolved around competitive sports, photography was also offered, and Andy spent a great deal of time shooting photos and working in the camp darkroom. The camp also offered the opportunity to take extended backpacking and canoe trips and through those trips, which he often took with his brother, Andy learned he loved exploring and being out in nature.

Andy started skiing at a young age and the family joined a local group called the Ski Doodlers. This allowed Andy to ski most winter weekends in New Hampshire. For many years the group skied at Cannon and Mittersill ski areas as well as Loon Mountain. Andy loved skiing and it became another of his lifelong passions. He continued to take ski trips around the world nearly every year and made many new friends on these trips.

Andy also really enjoyed cars and he purchased an MGB convertible which he modified and drove for many years despite its lack of practicality and reliability. On weekends Andy would take the car to local autocross events where he enjoyed competing.

With the goal of pursuing photography Andy attended the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), graduating in 1984 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree. Andy spent his college summers as a counselor at Camp Cedar where he shared his love of camping with hundreds of campers over the years. While a counselor Andy was often a Color War captain and took great joy in helping the kids do their best in the 5 days of competition at summer’s end. During this time Andy volunteered to be a Big Brother to a young boy whom he mentored.

While Andy learned a lot about photography during his time at RISD the question soon arose about what to do for work now that he had his BFA. Andy considered many things including camping, but in the end, he started his own business called Coffee Pond Photography which was named after the lake where Camp Cedar was located. The business was operated out of the basement of his parents’ house in Newton. Initially, the business focused on camp photography. Over the years the business grew, and Andy moved the business out of the basement to his first office located in West Newton. Andy soon partnered with Marc Stiller, a Camp Cedar friend, and together the two of them expanded and grew the business. Andy enjoyed running his business. His staff were his friends with many working at the business for more than 20 years. After his brief retirement, Andy’s dad Bob joined the business as a sales person and the two loved working closely together until Bob died of cancer in 2015.

With his business now out of the basement Andy took an apartment in Waban. He soon started dating Betsy Cohen from nearby Wellesley. Near the start of their relationship Andy sustained a knee injury and had to have reconstructive surgery. This proved to be a difficult time for Andy, but Betsy supported him and soon it was clear to Andy that Betsy was a keeper. In May of 1993 Betsy and Andy were married. Since Betsy was Sheila and Herb’s only daughter they insisted on a large formal wedding which took place at the Harvard Club in Boston.

After getting married Andy and Betsy purchased a home near where Betsy grew up in Wellesley. They soon were welcoming their first child, Kess to the family in 1996. A second child, Jackson was born two years later. Andy adored being a father to Kess and Jackson. He loved doing whatever the kids enjoyed doing, always attending games and performances and supporting their interests. Andy also shared with them the things he enjoyed such as skiing, photography, the outdoors, cars, the arts, and travel.

Andy was also an uncle and spent time and shared his interests with his many nieces and nephews including Emma and Caleb Kessler; Ben Sankel; Douglas, Julia and Caroline Cohen. All have fond memories of “Uncle Andy.”

Around 2002, Andy learned that his friends Jeff and Karen Packman’s daughter Hanna had cancer. Jeff and Karen had a team in the 2003 Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC) bike ride which raises money to support the Dana-Farber Cancer Center. Up to this point Andy had not been a cyclist but committed himself to train so he could complete the nearly 200-mile ride. Not only did he commit to train he also committed to raise as much money as he could for the PMC and each year he raised enough to be part of the “Heavy Hitters” group. Soon cycling became a passion of Andy’s. He rode nearly every day and made many new friends through the sport. He continued to ride the PMC for fourteen years only missing it in 2018. He also enjoyed occasional cycling competition and competed along with his friends at the Green Mountain Stage Race in Vermont.

In 2014 Andy was diagnosed with cancer of the larynx. Andy became a patient at Dana-Farber, the hospital whose work he had supported for the years he rode in the PMC. Andy went through radiation, but it did not kill the cancer. His best option was surgery and in 2015 he had a laryngectomy which removed his voice box. Andy had always been an outgoing and gregarious person and this major surgery would take away his regular voice. Many people would have withdrawn after this life changing surgery, but Andy bounced back quickly and was soon doing all the things he loved in life from hanging out with friends, traveling with his family, cycling in the PMC and to going on ski trips to British Columbia and Italy. Andy did not miss a beat.

After two and half years of being cancer free Andy was told that his cancer had returned. In early 2018 Andy began treatment, knowing the odds were not in his favor. He endured both aggressive chemo therapy and radiation. Neither was successful at eradicating the cancer. Andy also tried immunotherapy but that too was unsuccessful. At this point, Andy was out of options for further treatment. While Andy often thanked his medical team at Dana-Farber while alive he wanted to offer a final thank you to everyone who treated him so well and kindly during his time at the hospital.

One thing that gave Andy his strength was the support of his family and many friends. During his most recent round of treatment Andy staged a pop-up photography show in Wellesley with proceeds from the sales of the photographs going to Dana-Farber. Andy was overjoyed with the hundreds of friends and family members who attended the opening of the show.

Despite death coming 20+ years too soon, Andy accepted his fate with the courage and grace in which he lived his life. His one regret is that he was leaving his beloved wife and dedicated caregiver Betsy and their children Kess and Jackson far too soon. He was so looking forward to spending many years laughing, traveling and growing old with Betsy and watching his children graduate college and have families of their own.

In the end, Andy had a great life, made up of so many friends and a close family. When Andy’s doctors told him to get after his bucket list, he told them it wasn’t necessary, he had lived his bucket list. There will be a celebration of Andy’s life on Sunday, September 16th at 4:30 at Temple Beth Elohim in Wellesley with a reception immediately following at the temple. A memorial observance will be held at his residence on Monday from 2-4pm and 7-9pm and Tuesday from 1-3pm. If you cannot attend, please take a moment and look up, it’s what Andy always took the time to do. We hope you will remember Andy in your own way. In lieu of flowers donations can be made in honor of Andy to The Pan-Mass Challenge, the Brookline Community Foundation or WBUR.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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