Grocer Al Kessel passed away Friday, Dec. 28, 2012.
"Big Al" was the founder of Kessel Food Markets, supermarkets that served Flint, Saginaw, Bay City and Corunna from 1981 to 2000. Al was also a co-principal owner of Pet Supplies Plus. He continued being a merchant with local Save-A-Lot Food stores and Pet Supplies Plus stores throughout Michigan.
Albert Francis Kessel Jr., a baptized child of God, was born on Aug. 16, 1938, in Owosso, Mich. He was the son of Albert F. Kessel Sr. and Esther V. (LaChance) Kessel. Al, also known as "Bud" attended St. Paul School in Owosso, Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, and Michigan State University in East Lansing.
His career began as an accountant at St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Rapids. He switched positions to the grocery business working as the comptroller of Spartan stores, also in Grand Rapids. In 1963, he became the treasurer of Giant Food Stores of Carisle, Pa. At that time, Giant was a small family grocery company and grew through acquisitions of Martin supermarkets in Maryland.
In 1973, Al came back to Michigan and became executive vice president of Hamady Brothers Supermarkets. December of 1981, he opened his first stores in Saginaw, Mich. Kessel Food Markets expanded to Corunna, the Flint community and Bay City. Mr. Kessel always believed in serving the inner-city communities of Flint and Saginaw. In 1988, Kessel Food Markets won the grocery industry's award "Supermarket of the Year" for the store on Genesee Street, Saginaw, Mich. And again in 1993, for the Kessel store on Pierson Road at the north end of Flint. It was the first time that such an award was given to a supermarket located in the inner city. Kessel Food Markets was an innovative retailer. Kessel Food Markets was a successful supermarket company due to the hard work of its thousands of associates.
Al also believed in the philosophy, "from those that are blessed, much is expected." Al established the Kessel College Fund for Kessel associates. He paid for more than 1,000 Kessel associates' college educations, mostly those at local colleges and universities. Mr. Kessel also established a summer basketball camp for youngsters in the inner-city of Flint in late 1980s and 1990s. Al also established a charitable trust, in memory of his first wife, Bette, an annual golf tournament for women, "Women Like You." It became a foundation for breast cancer research and imaging.
Al was an avid golfer. He was a former member of the Flint Golf Club. He was the president of The Quail West Golf and Country Club in Naples, Fla., for the past five years. His passion for golf led him to numerous golf memberships in Northern Michigan. Al was a member of various boards -- both institutions and charitable organizations.
Al is survived by his wife, Colette Marcoux Lehoux Kessel; and nine children, Beth Ann (Joseph) Menard of Yardley, Pa., Virginia Gephart of Wellsville, Pa., Charlene (Frank) Brown of Grand Blanc, Thomas Kessel of Grand Blanc, Timothy (Ginger) Kessel of Charlotte, N.C., James Kessel of Grand Blanc, Marc Lehoux of Gulfport, Fla., Anita McClimans of Naples, Fla., and Jeannine Lehoux (Barry) Siewart of South Pasadena, Fla. He is also survived by 21 grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; and siblings, Janet Lewis of Alabama, James Robert of Florida, and William of California. Al was preceded in death by his first wife, Bette V.; son, Ronald Lehoux; son-in-law, Mike Gephart; and sister, Mary Alice Hausbeck. In lieu of flowers, please send charitable donations to Avow Hospice, 1095 Whippoorwill Lane. Naples, Fla. 34105 or your favorite charity in memory of Al.
Visitation will be from 4-8 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 3, as well from 4-8 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 4, with a Rosary at 7 p.m. at Hill Funeral Home, 11723 South Saginaw St. in Grand Blanc. Funeral Mass will be at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 5, at Holy Family Catholic Church, 11804 South Saginaw St. in Grand Blanc, followed by burial at Evergreen Cemetery. Condolences may be shared online with the family at www.hillfh.com.