February 25, 2024
Among the first female Marines to enlist from Rhode Island

WW II Veteran Jean Kesner Dies at 100

“A wonderful life, a great Townie, a great American veteran & hero. RIP Jean Kesner” - Bob Rodericks

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Jean Kesner, 100, a proud United States Marine Corps World War II Veteran died peacefully at home on January 21, 2024 surrounded by her loving family. Mrs. Kesner served proudly and was honorably discharged at the rank of Staff Sergeant at the end of the war. She was among the first female Marines to enlist from Rhode Island, doing so on her 20th birthday. She was a member of the Woman’s Marine Corp Auxiliary.

The City of East Providence honored Kesner at its annual Veteran’s Day Ceremony on Saturday, November 11th, 2023. A lifelong East Providence resident, she was given the key to the city by Mayor Bob DaSilva and invited to place a memorial wreath along with Army veteran and US Senator Jack Reed at the Garden of Flags Memorial on Veteran’s Memorial Parkway. Reed and other dignitaries lauded the career of Kesner. "Her extraordinary commitment to the nation, leading the safety and security of East Providence, she joined the United States Marine Corps in World War II and served with distinction and then continued to serve as a leader in the Postal Service here in Rhode Island,” remarked Reed.

“Staff Sergeant Kesner served to protect us, to protect our nation, so that all of us can continue to maintain our way of life, so that we may enjoy the freedoms that our nation provided," said Mayor Bob DaSilva at the November ceremony. Kesner’s six children: Michael, Bonnie, Jill, Becky, Karen and Peter beam with pride each and every Veteran’s Day as they honor their mother, her patriotism, bravery and selfless act of stepping forward when her country called.

On her 20 birthday in April of 1943, Kesner walked across the street from her secretarial position at Rhode Island Hospital Trust Bank in Providence to enlist in the United States Marine Corps Woman’s Reserve. Three days later she was sworn in and headed to Hunter College in New York for basic training. Next was Camp LeJeune, North Carolina for NCO training. Jean graduated as a Corporal and worked as an administrative person in the Sergeant Major’s Office.

After WWII, Kesner returned to East Providence to raise her family. She was one of the first women veterans to be hired by the U.S. Post Office. The new state-of-the-art Turnkey Building was just completed and Kesner worked there for the next 30 years, retiring as a Postal Trainer in 1990. She was an active member of the E.P. Senior Center. She was a past Girl Scout and Cub Scout Leader and a past docent at the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology.

Family members and close friends described Staff Sergeant Kesner as “our North Star. She was a tremendous woman whom we all love so much. She will be greatly missed.”

“A wonderful life, a great Townie, a great American veteran & hero. RIP Jean Kesner,” writes City Council President Bob Rodericks. “She was a pretty healthy 100 years old right to the end. It was a privilege to have met her and some of her family.”

She is survived by six children who loved her dearly, Michael H. Kesner (Christine) of Chapel Hill, NC, Bonnie Jean Marks (Peter) of East Greenwich, Jill Kesner Bowen (George) of Riverside, Becky Kesner Bessette (John) of Riverside, Karen Kesner of Rumford and Peter Kesner (Linda) of Exeter; twelve grandchildren; twenty-one great grandchildren and one great-great grandson.

Her funeral service will be held on Saturday January 27, 2024, at St. James Lutheran Church, 49 Middle Highway, Barrington at 10 a.m. Calling hours are Saturday morning from 9-10 a.m. in St. James Lutheran, Church. Burial with Military Honors will follow in Springvale Cemetery, Rumford.

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