George Friesell Kesel passed away peacefully on July 11, 2022; he was 90 years old. The only child of George Logan Kesel and Ivy Burchfield Friesell, he was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA where he was graduated from Shady Side Academy before attending Williams College, then finishing his education with an MBA from Wharton Business School.
While in high school and college he was a captain of the tennis teams, squash teams, and soccer teams. He was also the Class President of Williams College his senior year, so he gave up his soccer captaincy that year.
Between Williams and Wharton, George entered the Naval Officers Candidate School, finishing his service with the rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade. He was posted to the National Security Agency (NSA) in Washington DC, where he worked in the Burmese section. Excelling in racquet sports, he represented the Navy at tennis and squash tournaments nationwide, and spent time as the captain of the Navy squash team.
In Washington DC he met his future wife, Laura Washburn Comfort, who worked in a different section of the NSA. They were married in 1959 between his discharge from the Navy and his first classes at the Wharton School. Upon graduation from Wharton, they moved to Mount Lebanon, a southern suburb of Pittsburgh and George joined Union National Bank, a small, family-owned institution where he worked for 27 years before retiring as president and CEO.
During his 27 years, he took this small bank and created the fourth largest bank in PA, while never losing sight of a neighborhood bank. During his time at Union National Bank, he was twice recognized as Businessman of the Year for Pittsburgh. George was a loved CEO who never lost sight of those who made the bank run. He knew every employee’s name and ate lunch in the cafeteria to be readily available to every employee. George stood up for his employees while the corporation was “downsizing.” Our fondest thoughts are when he refused to downsize the elevator operators because they had been greeting him at the elevator for 20 years, and he insisted they would continue to do so until they decided to retire.
Maintaining his interest in racquet sports, George entered a local Mt. Lebanon tennis tournament and won. Deciding that any tournament he won needed to be upgraded, he became the director of the Western Pennsylvania Clay Court Tournament. As director, he guided the tournament from local curiosity to a lower rung on the pro tour ladder, while involving the community to support this venture.
In 1967, George and his friend Rod Agar started the Mt. Lebanon Soccer Association. It started with fewer than 50 kids, today there are over 1500 boys and girls playing. The Sportsmanship award for the association still carries his name. As a coach he is best remembered teaching kids how to slide tackle on muddy days… in his corduroys with his pipe still in his mouth. His players are all adults now, but still refer to him as “Pup.”
As his financial knowledge grew, so did his service to the community. He served on the board on numerous non-profits, including Montefiore Hospital, Divine Providence Hospital, The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, and the Greater Pittsburgh YMCA. George's financial expertise and calm demeanor were welcomed by these institutions.
George's outside interests included fly fishing and golf. He pursued trout with a fly rod all over the world, and held a special love for Spruce Creek, that runs through central Pennsylvania. George was an avid reader, and insatiable traveler who never stopped learning and exploring.
In 2007, George and Laura moved to Missoula, MT to be nearer their grandchildren. In that time, he became a beloved member of the Missoula Country Club while serving on its finance committee. Those who knew him knew him as a true gentleman, and those who didn’t recognized him as a generous tipper.
George was predeceased in 2020 by Laura, his wife of 60 years. He is survived by his oldest son, George L. Kesel and wife Kristie of Missoula, MT, David W. Kesel of Scarborough, ME, and Peter F. Kesel and wife Daisy of Missoula, and his two grandchildren Cameron P. Kesel and Harriet Ivy Kesel.
George will be buried at the Western Montana Veteran’s Cemetery on Monday, July 18th at 1:30 PM with a reception following at his beloved Missoula Country Club at 5 PM. For those wishing to honor George, a donation in his name to the Missoula Symphony would be most appropriate. He and Laura were long standing patrons of the symphony, and would wish to see that talented group continue to serve the Missoula community.
George was a true gentleman, in every sense of the word. The life lessons he taught to his children and grandchildren, as well as countless others through soccer and tennis, will be with them for the rest of their lives. The world is a lesser place with his passing.