Community mourns the passing of Peter Robert Kesling, M.D.

“Papa Pete” at his 75th birthday celebration with 10 of his 12 grandchildren: Jacob, Niko, Kati, Charlie Jean, Papa, Joseph, Zachary, Josephine, Brendan, Peter and MacKenzie.
Credit: Courtesy of Bridget Adams

By Matt Nagle –


Tacoma’s healthcare community, and all of humanity for that matter, lost an angel on earth April 29 with the passing of Peter Robert Kesling, M.D. Here among his loving family and friends for a short 75 years, Dr. Kesling was the type of man who you’d always remember from the very first time you met him. He delivered so many thousands of babies during his 40-plus years in practice that his wife and family told the Tacoma Weekly that they lost count, sharing a laugh over it in true fashion of anyone who spent time with the fine doctor – humor was his calling card.

More laughter came when his daughter Bridget Adams told of how he was like a celebrity when going out to dinner or any public place: “Someone would always come up and say, ‘You delivered my son!’ or ‘You delivered my daughter!’ He was stalked!” And stalked in a good way, because people brought pure joy to Dr. Kesling, as he did for them.

Pete in his glory with his grandson (and fellow Notre Dame alum) Zachary Adams at the helm of grandson Peter Adams’ sailboat.
Credit: Courtesy of Bridget Adams

An outpouring of heart-felt condolences came immediately at his passing from people from all walks of life – from nurses to parents who hold fond memories of Dr. Kesling in the delivery room or hospital room. More than 170 messages were posted on Adams’ Facebook page, many more through private messages to Adams, and we are sharing just some of them here (see sidebar) to give readers a clear picture of what this blessed man brought to the City of Destiny and the people who live here.

Below is Dr. Kesling’s full obituary from his family, which couldn’t be written any more beautifully by any of our reporters. Below this is just a sampling of the sincere and beautiful thoughts on Dr. Pete that his beloved friends shared on Adams’ Facebook page. Tacoma Weekly staff sends prayers and good thoughts to the fine doctor’s family, as we also say prayers of thanks to him and for him as he rests in everlasting peace.

*       *       *

Peter Robert Kesling was born to Margaret Mary (McIntyre) and Arthur Roy Kesling on Jan. 11, 1944 in Seattle, Wash., and was baptized at St. Peter Catholic Church on Feb. 6, 1944. He returned to God on April 29, 2019. He loved life, and people were his great joy.

He graduated as Valedictorian from O’Dea High School in 1962, having served as ASB president. During his time at O’Dea, he was active in speech and debate, drama, football, and track. He was also involved with various Catholic Youth Organization activities where he met his future bride, Patricia O’Donnell, at the age of 16. In 1962, he received the National Catholic Youth of the Year Award.

Dr. Kesling at his 50th medical school reunion at University of California at San Francisco (a few weeks before he died).
Credit: Courtesy of Bridget Adams

He earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Notre Dame where he sang tenor in the Glee Club, prayed at the Grotto every day, assisted at morning masses in the Basilica, and budgeted (and recorded) every dime he spent. Traveling to and from university by train remained a lifelong highlight of his years at Notre Dame. He cheered for Notre Dame football through thick and thin, and a majority of his wardrobe sported the ND monogram.

He married Patricia O’Donnell at Holy Rosary Catholic Church in West Seattle on Aug. 7, 1965. Shortly thereafter, they moved to San Francisco where he attended medical school at UCSF and she worked as a nurse to pay the bills. While in San Francisco, they welcomed their first two children, Bridget and Molly. After his graduation from medical school, he joined the U.S. Army as an officer and was stationed at Fort Fitzsimmons in Colorado for his internship and residency. His next assignment was at Madigan Army Hospital, back home in Washington; while there, he met many of his future business and boating partners, and he and Patty welcomed their son Peter John. He spent his final year of Army service at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.

Moving back home to Washington, he settled in Tacoma and opened his first OB/GYN practice in the old St. Joseph Hospital, while consulting on the design of the new hospital. He especially lent his expertise to the design of the labor and delivery floor. He was the founding physician for the Washington State March for Life, and passionately defended the right to life for every human person, from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death. He later founded STORKS, which became a baby-delivering headquarters the likes of which Tacoma had never seen. During his years at STORKS, the birth of his youngest son, Michael, brought him incredible joy.

His professional conduct was reflective of his easygoing nature, and every patient visit ended with a heartfelt “God bless you.” Over his long career, he delivered thousands of babies and was known for his kind, compassionate, and personal approach to health care and healing – not to mention the outrageous hats he sported in the delivery room!

Holding grandchildren Joseph and Kathleen (1998).
Credit: Courtesy of Bridget Adams

He was an active member of St. Charles Borromeo Parish, and later of St. Nicholas Parish. He served his faith communities in many capacities.

Living the gospel of life, he and Patty opened their doors, literally, to many: pregnant mothers in crisis, immigrants without housing, foreign exchange students, and simply those who needed to know God’s love and care. Their home was a place of fellowship and fun, a grand central station for holidays, reunions, team banquets, and general fun and frivolity. Family dinners were key, and guests were treated as family. A rousing grace before meals, with all the gathered family and friends holding hands in a circle and singing enthusiastically, became a long-standing tradition: “Thank you God, thank you God, thank you God for everything!”

Ski trips in the family motorhome and sailing voyages in the San Juan Islands were times of great joy and, of course, lots of singing. At each and every destination, he made a point of visiting the local hardware store – “No matter what!” – and always made plans in advance to bring his family to Sunday Mass – “No matter what!” He traveled widely and greatly enjoyed meeting people.

He and Patty divorced in 2006, and he began searching for new ways to live, love and serve.

Many times he sacrificed his personal profit for the sake of keeping the doors to his practice open for his beloved patients. His long career in OB/GYN medicine came to a close when he retired in 2013. He continued to work part-time as a surgeon assistant at St. Joseph Hospital until a few weeks before he died.

Arriving on Notre Dame campus, 50 years after his own graduation, for the graduation festivities for his grandson, Zachary Adams (2016).
Credit: Courtesy of Bridget Adams

A new chapter in his life began when he met his dear Venessa Rasmussen-Furman, whom he married Oct. 30, 2016. They shared a life of giving to those in need and reaching out in support to friends and family near and far. Bountiful Christmas stockings for all their family members were legendary gifts, as was the open door to their home, which they nicknamed “the jungle.” Many peaceful evenings were spent on the back deck sharing stories of their lives, their children, and their grandchildren. They took great care of each other, and Venessa’s daughter, Alexis, visited frequently and enjoyed cooking for them.

A lively little dog named Lucky kept him on his toes, and could often be found on his lap. He enjoyed taking Venessa on ferry rides and long drives and their mutual love was visible to all. He continued a robust social life, being known as a regular at local trivia nights and karaoke sing-alongs. Nicknamed “Doc Pete” and “Petey,” and he remained the life of the party and always ready to lend a helping hand to anyone in need.

His diagnosis and sudden death were a shock to his loved ones and to the community at large. He remained faithful to the end, celebrating the sacraments of reconciliation and the anointing of the sick, and receiving the Apostolic Pardon. Viaticum (Holy Communion) was his last food for his journey to eternity. On Divine Mercy Sunday, the last day of his life, his hospice bed in “the jungle” was surrounded by his loved ones, who prayed the Chaplet of Divine Mercy together at 3 p.m.

Peter was preceded in death by his parents Art and Peg Kesling, his sister Susan Dougherty, and his nephew Kevin Dougherty. He is survived by his four children and their spouses: Bridget and Tim Adams; Molly and Clark Hernandez; Peter and Katherine Kesling; and Michael Kesling and fiancee Danielle Beverly; and their mother Patty O’Donnell. He is also survived by his grandchildren: Zachary, Joseph, Peter, Josephine, and Charlie Jean Adams; Nikolas, Michael, and Kathleen Hernandez; MacKenzie, Brendan, and Jacob Kesling; and Lilliana Kesling.

Peter is also survived by his wife Venessa Kesling, and her children:Ray Bowers III and son Burak; Joseph and wife Heather and children Riley and Joey Bowers; and Alexis Sapunto.

He is also survived by his nieces, nephews and Godchildren, notably Brett Cummings.

Peter’s Funeral Mass was celebrated Saturday, May 4, 2019 at St Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, Tacoma, WA. His funeral was preceded by recitation of the Most Holy Rosary. Burial immediately following at Haven of Rest, Gig Harbor. Celebration of Life at Gig Harbor Yacht Club directly after funeral and burial.

Memorial contributions may be made to Our Lady of Guadalupe Maternity Center
P.O. Box 99565, Lakewood, WA 98496, or to Gabriel’s Project c/o St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, 7112 S. 12th St, Tacoma, WA 98465.

Loved ones share fond memories of Dr. Peter Kelsing on daughter Bridget Adam’s Facebook page

“I was just getting off a long shift. Peter acknowledged me (I was in my going home clothes). He said, “Oh, nice to see you with clothes on.” You guessed it – it was a rather full elevator of visitors! I didn’t try to explain; we both giggled and he gave me a wink.” – Chris Pennell

“He was my Dr. when I was pregnant with my daughter. I am so sorry for what you are going through. I had the shoe that he gives out with your child’s name and date of birth. I loved that. My dad passed of cancer in ’06. I understand what you are going through and my heart is with you.” – Robyn May

“I have known Sweet Pete for 17 years now. Not only did he deliver my brother, but my oldest son also. His love for his family and friends and of course Notre Dame is written all over him. Pete’s smile can light up a room. He will truly be missed and of course hearing him say, “Oh baby, oh baby” when he would leave.” – Jessie Marzano

“(Dr. Kelsing) is a true inspiration for everyone he has ever come in contact. He has brought happiness to many of families in the greater Tacoma area. He was always the friendliest OB doctor that I have had the pleasure of working with at St. Joe’s. Hugs coming for the strength for this journey in life.” – Karen Spafford

“This just breaks my heart. Dr. Peter R Kesling, you have one of the kindest souls of anyone I have ever known! You always have gone above and beyond your title to help those in need. You are so loved by so many and your memory will never be forgotten. You, my friend, have a pair of wings that await you.” – Emily Lovik

“My Dr. and friend for so many years! When he sent me into the hospital with pre-eclampsia with my first baby, I was there for about five days and my sister-in-law was getting married on Saturday at noon. Had the baby Friday morning…told to NOT get out of bed, just rest. Pete came in Saturday for rounds and told me to get someone to bring my clothes for the wedding. He came in and picked me up and delivered me to Immanuel Presbyterian for pictures with the family and told me NO reception, just back to the hospital, but I got to be part of the family gathering because of his big heart for families!” – Debbie Billingsley

“Many moons ago Pete dressed up as Santa for our annual Christmas party. Of course, we had to sit on his lap and tell Santa we were good nurses. You made us always laugh! Luv ya, Pete! Big hugs to you!” – Sally Falcone

“He had this hat he would wear in the delivery room! He had it turned to the boy side when he delivered our third daughter, already knowing she was a girl ahead of time!” – Hope Heidal Glump

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  1. What a great tribute to a great guy! I really enjoyed his sense of humor! thank you for writing this wonderful tribute!

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