Robert Girard Kesten, 1933-2022
My father Bob finally lost his long battle with Parkinson's and Lewy body dementia last week. Below is his obituary.
Robert Girard Kesten Sr. fondly known as “Bob” entered eternal life on Sunday, June 26th. Bob was surrounded by his loving wife of 25 years, Christine, and his many family members. His spirit is carried on by his wife, six children, six grandchildren, his sister and an extended family consisting of friends from every walk of life.
Bob was born in Trenton, NJ and moved to Centerville with his family in 1940. He was the son of Samuel D. and MaryJane (Shenk) Kesten. He attended Barnstable Schools and graduated from the New Hampton School in New Hampton, NH. He also studied at Tufts University.
Bob is missed and survived by his wife Christine (Bania) and her family, his sister Nancy (Kesten) Wilbur of Yarmouthport, his children Laurie Young and her husband Robin of Sarasota, FL; Donna Greene and her husband Reid of West Newbury, MA; Robert Jr. and wife Dahlia of Palm City, FL; John and wife Kristin of Osterville; daughter Danielle and fiancé Jason Keen of Tampa, FL; and son Christopher and wife Katie of Osterville.
Also missing Bob are his six grandchildren: Janel (Kesten) Simms and husband Barrett Simms of Round Rock, TX; Ryan Kesten of Acton, MA; Kelley Whitney and fiancé John Petrillo of Danville, NH; Samantha Kesten of Haverhill, MA; Connor Kesten and Lola Kesten of Osterville.
As a young man Bob enjoyed growing up in Hyannis which fostered his love for the ocean, sailing, swimming, and life on Cape Cod, which he happily shared with his children.
Over his 89 years, Bob led a long and fruitful career in multiple businesses on Cape Cod.
In his first business venture, Bob started the Hyannis Heating fuel oil business and made the business a family affair, taking Laurie, Donna and Bobby on early morning runs to the Providence fuel oil depot in the oil tanker, something that they remember primarily because of the great breakfasts at the Taunton truck stop.
As Bob and his first wife Janel Kisker grew their family, Bob’s big opportunity came in 1965 as he, his father Sam and his father-in-law Jack Kisker bought the derelict East Bay Lodge in Osterville. The long-closed Lodge, which had been moldering into oblivion, was scrubbed, painted and polished into one of the most popular restaurants on Cape Cod. Waiting for a table at the Lodge became a local pastime, as was listening and dancing to the musical trio belting out “Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown” and other standards of the day until the closing bell.
Bob loved to putter around the Lodge. Its eight acres and multiple buildings gave him and his maintenance crew plenty to work on. Keeping a hundred plus year old structure like the Lodge operating smoothly required constant upkeep. Bob kept a tool for every eventuality in his well- organized workshop where he and his best “tool” Pinky Sprague would prioritize their daily workload. All Bob’s children learned early on how to work the business end of every awl and drill and especially, where to return it afterward. “Fix it yourself” was the byword around the Lodge.
He was often found in front of the Lodge portico sweeping the stairs, getting the area ready to receive customers. His standard daytime uniform was double-knit plaid slacks, tan skip-ons, a Columbia work shirt and two retractable key rings loaded with jangling brass Schlage keys
Customers who stopped in during the day to make reservations were often surprised to find “the janitor” escorting them to their table in the evening.
Bob found the best way to stay on top of the business was to literally, stay on top. He renovated the second floor of the Lodge and moved the family into a spacious apartment.
With seven buildings and eight acres to explore, his children thoroughly endorsed the move while Bob supported their recreation both on and off the property with horses to ride around the village.
Sadly, Janel passed unexpectedly in 1967 shortly after the birth of their second son John. Bob was left alone with four small children and a successful business to steward. His extended family stepped in to help out and they soldiered on.
Family was a constant theme in Bob’s life and businesses, he loved having his children close to him, and growing their business acumen. The oldest children, Laurie, Donna, and Bobby all held various positions at the East Bay Lodge while growing up.
As Bob kept up with the demands of the lodge both day and night he met and married Leah Ricci who quickly contributed to the lodge’s success. As time progressed, additional support for the business was required and Leah’s brother, Francis came on board to help manage the lodge.
As if the challenge of running East Bay Lodge wasn’t enough, in the 70’s Bob & Leah took over the operation of the restaurant and 400 seat dance venue at the Ramada Inn in Hyannis. The “Gringos” dance band drew huge sellout crowds and became the “in” place to go for the younger set. During that time the family grew to six with the addition of Danielle and Christopher.
In 1983, at the peak of its popularity, Bob sold the Lodge and took a breather before again jumping into the restaurant business by establishing “Tugboats” on the Hyannis Harbor. Tugboats’ massive deck overlooking the Harbor and its constant ferry traffic became a first stop for tourists and locals alike. Just as with the East Bay Lodge, Bob recruited his younger family, sons John and Chris and daughter Danielle to handle positions at Tugboats.
While running a busy and popular restaurants would be enough for many, Bob was constantly finding new and fascinating ventures to occupy his “spare” time. He became the first Cape dealer for the hot new “Donzi” speedboats, developed the John Lawrence Funeral Home, ventured into real estate and construction, and traveled to China for his custom boatbuilding business. Bob built and operated Kesten’s Corner on Route 28 in Osterville and bought the Craigville Package Store, subsequently moving it to the Corner.
The one common thread that ran through all Bob’s business ventures was his constant search for people to place in positions of responsibility. He’d always come home with stories of new people he’d met who could help him develop his business interests or who would be just perfect for one of his openings. People who worked with Bob usually worked with him for a long time, and in many cases, a very long time.
Bob’s life entered a new and exciting chapter when he fell in love and married Christine Bania. They started traveling to far flung places in their custom motor home, finally selecting a luxurious winter spot in sunny (and warm) Indio, CA. While on the Cape, Bob helped Christine fit out and maintain a new needlepoint storefront, handling the shipping (a not inconsiderable task) and helping with maintenance (his specialty). Their first venture together was the opening of Kesten’s Gift Gallery in 1997. They enjoyed traveling to trade shows for both businesses, sometimes in their Motor Home. Bob constantly worked to improve and expand their Marstons Mills home. In recent years, Bob suffered from Lewy Body dementia and Parkinsons’s Desease. As traveling became more difficult they decided to spend their winters on Cape Cod, enjoying family, friends and the wonderful home they had created.
Bob was a dedicated Massachusetts sports fan of all the local professional teams, especially the Red Sox and the Bruins. He could often be found offering words of advice to any coach whom he felt could benefit from his experience. He loved to watch his children and grandchildren in sports ranging from horseshows to baseball to (especially) ice hockey.
The family would like to thank Beacon Hospice for the excellent care and compassion he received from their staff, and further thank the wonderful staff at Bridges of Mashpee.
Visitation will be Wednesday, July 6 from 5:00 to 8:00 pm at the Chapman Funeral Home, Route 28 in Marstons Mills. A brief service will be held at 11 am on Thursday, July 7 at Chapman. Burial will be private.
The family requests donations to Beacon Hospice of Cape Cod or a charity of the donor’s choice in lieu of flowers.