Cover photo for William Kaessinger's Obituary
William Kaessinger Profile Photo
1933 William 2013

William Kaessinger

August 19, 1933 — January 11, 2013

William (“Bill”) Kaessinger, 79, died January 11, 2013, at Chenango Memorial Hospital.

Born August 19, 1933, in Elizabeth, NJ, Bill was the son of railroad worker Charles Henry and Mae (Helwig) Kaessinger.

Bill grew up fast on the tough streets of Elizabeth, joking that he started playing hooky in kindergarten. A scrapper, he learned to size up people and situations quickly, a skill that would serve him well in later life.

In 1951, Bill joined the Air Force and completed basic training in Geneva, NY. He transferred to Francis E. Warren AFB in Wyoming for communications training where the snow was so deep he had to jump out of the second story window to leave the barracks. After earning a communication center specialist certificate, he was assigned to the barren Sahara desert in French Morocco to calibrate, set up and maintain early warning and tactical control radar and radio sites in support of the U.S. Strategic Air Command (SAC). There Bill witnessed the Moroccan struggle for independence.

After returning home, he married Joyce (Levine) Kaessinger and they had their first daughter, Amber. Due to his Air Force training, he worked as a teletype operator on Wall Street. Later, in Europe, Bill tried his hand at selling mutual funds in Europe — first in Germany, then in England. In England, his second daughter, Susan, was born. Not wanting to sell GIs the bonds they could not afford, he returned to New York City and resumed work as a teletype operator for RCA Global Communications.

The workers at RCA had a union, the American Communications Association (ACA), which took a stand against the low wages there. Bill took part in a union meeting with Jimmy Hoffa who was intent on organizing communications workers into the Teamsters. In need of muscle against the RCA management, ACA joined the Teamsters and became ACA/IBT Local 10. The union’s efforts resulted in decent pensions and a good health plan, which members still enjoy today. When Bill died, his original union card was in his wallet.

Within the union Bill stood up for RCA’s black workers. He encouraged them to take union positions in order to present a united front against the company. In the shop Bill had to contend with opponents who ambushed him in the stairwells. However, with white and black allies, he successfully organized a union delegation to the civil rights March on Washington in 1963. Bill’s activity began when black Americans couldn’t eat at public lunch counters. He was gratified to live to see a black president.

Bill’s daughters say that in addition to exhibiting hard work (sometimes in multiple jobs), union solidarity and civil rights activism, he taught them integrity. He thought it was okay to tell a white lie to make someone feel better, but in important matters you had to hold your ground and be true to your beliefs.

Bill also taught his daughters to love and care for animals and to appreciate music. Largely self-taught, Bill followed in his parents footsteps and read voraciously. He actually read the books most people just talk about. In fact, Bill read all eleven volumes of Will and Ariel Durant’s History of Civilization to learn how history evolved. Mark Twain was Bill’s hero. In addition to good books, he loved good films, good conversation, CB radio, straight shooters and always a good cup of coffee. The pot was always on.

Bill is survived by his wife, Mary, of Norwich; his daughters, Amber, a medical transcriptionist who lives out of state, and Susan, who teaches improv and lives in Brooklyn with her husband, Gary Sieger, a New York City musician; and his brother, Jack, who lives in Pennsylvania with his wife Rose.

To honor Bill’s wishes, there will be funeral service or calling hours. A gathering of friends and family will be held in early June. Never a believer, he always said, “Here lies an atheist, all dressed up and no place to go.”

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of William Kaessinger, please visit our flower store.


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