Rochelle — Eugene “Gene” Lee Kessen, 85, Rochelle, passed away in his home, Thursday, May 18, 2017.
Gene was born on June 11, 1931, in Rosamond, Ill., the son of John Henry and Mary Elizabeth (Tingle) Kessen. He married Helen Therese O’Brien on Oct. 7, 1950, at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Rochelle.
Gene worked at GE then joined his brother David and worked for Elmer Larson; this is where Gene learned how to run a crane. Gene was drafted and went in early 1951 and served in the United States Army in the Korean War Conflict as a radio operator. Gene was honorably discharged in December 1953 as a Corporal.
Upon returning home Gene went to work with his brothers David and James who had a crane and backhoe; he worked in excavation for the remainder of his working years, eventually owning and operating Kessen Construction.
Gene was raised on various area farms and graduated from Malta High School. As a young man, Gene played fast-pitch softball and loved to bowl for many years. Gene had a lifelong love for sports especially baseball, his favorite team being the Chicago White Sox. Because of his love for sports and the importance of passing this love along to all children, Gene dedicated well over 30 years to coaching and managing the Kiwanis team in Rochelle Little League. Gene coached basketball at St. Patrick’s Grade School.
In 1978 Gene started a basketball program for local fourth and fifth grade children that went on to become RYBA. In 1996 Gene was awarded the Rochelle Community Leader of the Year of 1995.
Gene is survived by his children, Deann (Tom) Hausner of Fontana, Wis., Ronnie (Kim) Kessen of Rochelle, Karen Salerno of Grand Rapids, Mich., and Kalah (Dave) Williams of Rochelle; grandchildren, Ryan (Melissa) Hausner, Amanda (Matthew) Cole, Ferenc (Brenda) Hausner, Brandon Hausner, Jerry (Ashley) Kessen, Stefanie (Chris) Kern, Nolan (Rebecca) Kessen, Tony (Barbie) Salerno, Matthew Salerno, Mary-Therese, Clare, Dominic, Francesca, Catherine and John Williams; great-grandchildren, George and Hazel Cole, Helen and Hendrik Hausner, Clark Hausner, Kamden and Kingsley Kessen, Kennedy and Myles Kern, Chloe Bowlin and soon to be born, Charlie Jean Salerno.
Gene is also survived by siblings Louise Olson of Rochelle, Mary Ellen (William) Finnan of Sycamore, Robert Kessen of Rochelle and Richard (Joann) Kessen of Phoenix, Ariz.; sisters-in-law Carol Kessen, Elaine Steve and many nieces and nephews.
Gene was preceded in death by his parents; his wife of 56 years, Helen; his infant great-granddaughter Louise Bernadette Cole; brothers, James, David and Tom; brothers and sisters-in-law, Marion Kessen, Alvin Olson, Donna Kessen, Linda Kessen, George and Pauline O’Brien, Sam and Hazel Manarchy, Gary Hill, Wendy and Katie Krizan.
The family wishes to extend deepest thanks to those friends and caregivers he grew to love from Hospice Care of America.
The visitation will be from 2 – 6 p.m. on Sunday, May 21 at the Unger-Horner Funeral Home, 400 N. Sixth Street, Rochelle, with a Rosary Service at 1:30 p.m. prior to the visitation. The funeral mass will be held at 10 a.m. on Monday, May 22 at St. Patrick Catholic Church, 236 Kelley Drive, Rochelle, with Father Ruben Herrera officiating. Burial will follow the service at St. Patrick Cemetery in Rochelle.
In lieu of flowers, the family wishes to establish a memorial to further support Rochelle Little League and RYBA.
Visit www.ungerhorner.com to sign the online guest book.