Remembering Dorie Kessler
Kessler Foundation remembers Dora Anne Susan Robinson Kessler, known as “Dorie”, who passed away on August 19, 2012. Dorie was the wife of Jerome Kessler, son of Dr. Henry H. Kessler, and the mother of Board member Richard Kessler.
As a child, Dorie lost her leg in a boating accident, but went on to advance her education and participate in recreational activities—climbing trees, cycling, and even playing cricket. Dorie challenged others to fulfill their potential with her ‘signature’ question, “Is that the best you can do?”
Along with raising two children—Richard and Robin—Dorie was a champion of Kessler Institute, which was founded by her father-in-law in 1947. She established volunteer care to support the medical staff and took on fundraising initiatives to ensure that all individuals received the care they needed, even if they didn’t have the financial means.
“A person with a disability herself, Dorie embodied Dr. Kessler's vision that all people, regardless of disability, can live meaningful and fruitful lives,” recalled Rodger DeRose, president and chief executive officer of Kessler Foundation. “Dorie’s mission was to ensure compassionate care for all patients who came to Kessler for medical rehabilitation.”
Later, Dorie sustained serious injuries in a car accident. Despite constant pain she, she went back to school and studied painting and gardening. An award-winning amateur artist, she donated her work to charity auctions throughout the country. The crops and flowers from her beautiful garden were shared among friends and family.
“Mom was never tolerant of any individual, disabled or able bodied, who did not attempt to move forward,” recalled Richard. “Her work ethic, innate spirit, charitable work, love of animals, friends, and family were the testimonies to her life. She was never defined by her disabilities because, to her, they never defined her abilities.”
In 2011, Jerry and Dorie were honored at Kessler Foundation’s 25th Anniversary Gala in NYC with the Special Recognition Award, a tribute to their lifelong commitment to advancing rehabilitation and helping people with disabilities live independently. Upon receiving the award, Jerome reminisced, “It’s been many years since I taught wheelchair dancing or took care of patients, but Dorie and I remember vividly the individuals who shared the Kessler passion for a society where the disabled are treated as equals.”
Dorie never let disability prevent her from achieving her goals. Her life, the challenges she overcame, and her dedication to helping others, are now part of the Kessler family’s legacy. Here at the Foundation, her ‘signature’ question, “Is that the best you can do,” will remind us to do everything we can to improve the lives of people with disabilities.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Jerome, their two children, and four grandchildren.