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William G. Sesler


1928 - 2017 Obituary Condolences Gallery
William G. Sesler Obituary
Public Servant

William G. Sesler, Esq., 89, passed away peacefully, on May 22, 2017, at UPMC Hamot, surrounded by his wife and family. Born April 18, 1928, in Uniontown, Pa., Bill was the son of Frederick Allen Sesler and Nina Pauline Dixson Sesler.

Along with his parents, older brother Frederick "Dick" and his identical twin Thomas "Tom," he moved to Erie in 1944. After attending Academy High School, Bill and his brother Tom were admitted to Kenyon College, where he graduated cum laude.

After college, he enlisted in the USAF where he served in Korea in a CCRAK Special Forces unit, rose to the rank of First Lieutenant and received a Bronze Star for meritorious service in a combat zone. After military service, Bill attended the University of Michigan Law School on the GI Bill, joining the Pennsylvania Bar in 1957. In 1958, he married Cecily Ann Parke of Akron, Ohio. A lifelong Democrat, he was the State Senator representing Northwestern Pennsylvania from 1960 to 1972, ultimately serving as Assistant Majority Leader. In 1970, he narrowly lost the race to represent Pennsylvania in the U.S. Senate. After leaving politics, he continued his law practice and expanded his real estate development activities, including the creation and leasing of numerous state office buildings and student housing complexes. Over the past 33 years, Bill and his son Greg have worked together in their law firm of Sesler and Sesler and in their real estate business, Commonwealth Realty.

In addition to his professional and business career, Bill was involved in numerous civic and community activities, particularly with organizations engaged in the challenges of Erie's inner city. He, along with the late Alex Thompson and others, founded the Martin Luther King Center and, thereafter, the John F. Kennedy Center. He was also a board member of the Booker T. Washington Center for over 40 years. Along with the late Ernest Denny, he was an initial organizer of an entity that became Community Health Net, a provider of vital health services to the underserved, for which he received the 2008 Community Health Service Award.

Bill always maintained a strong interest in public affairs, firmly believing that social justice and a strong democracy depend on citizen participation and public service. As a member of the State Senate, he was instrumental in passing legislation that created the Pennsylvania Public Television Network, made reforms to mental health laws, substantially consolidated school districts statewide, and permitted the creation of small wineries. He directed the campaign to fluoridate Erie's public water supply, for which he received the Pennsylvania Dental Association's Presidential Citation for Outstanding Public Service in 2002. Bill was involved in the organization of the Mercyhurst Institute for Ethics and Society and was a founder of the Jefferson Educational Society, Erie's think-tank.

Bill was known for his curiosity, inquiring mind, and wide-ranging interests. An avid reader of nonfiction, he particularly loved books on history, biographies, and politics; he was also a daily reader of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Always ready to engage in conversation, Bill loved a debate with a visitor on a current public policy issue or challenging one of his grandchildren on topics that he believed they should know. In addition to intellectual pursuits, Bill loved activities including gardening, cooking, wine tasting, sailing, hunting, and fishing, and, in his earlier years, camping, skiing, and tennis. He loved traveling with his wife, and together they have been to all of the continents except Antarctica and have visited 66 countries.

Always an independent thinker, Bill was never afraid to stand up for what he believed was right. He saw the potential in people regardless of their background or circumstances and was willing to put these beliefs into action – both personally or corporately – whether making a loan to a good person who was down on their luck or helping to drive organizational or legislative agendas that helped people throughout the community. Bill was active throughout his life in the First Presbyterian Church of the Covenant and held many positions of leadership, but none was more important than his role as the teacher of an adult Sunday school class for over 30 years. This class provided an opportunity for all of the participants to explore Christianity, debate, and advance their faith journeys.

Over his lifetime, Bill protected, guided, and loved his family, pushing each of them to be the best that they could be while never forgetting their obligation to others. A beloved and generous patriarch, he is survived by his wife of 59 years, Cecily, and their three children: Greg (Beth) of Erie, Doug (Ginna) of Bronxville, N.Y., and Liz Sesler-Beckman (Chuck) of Baltimore, Md., as well as eight grandchildren: Catie, Jennifer, Amanda, and Tim Sesler; Russell and Julia Sesler; Michael and Will Beckman.

Friends are invited to call at the Burton Funeral Home, 602 West 10th Street, Erie, Pa., on Thursday from 4 to 8:30 p.m., and to the funeral service at 10:30 a.m., on Friday, at the First Presbyterian Church of the Covenant, 250 West Seventh Street, Erie, Pa., followed by brief refreshments. Burial will be at Laurel Hill Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be given to First Presbyterian Church of the Covenant – homeless outreach, Kenyon College – Sesler Scholarship Fund, or the WQLN Public Media.

To send condolences, please visit www.BurtonFuneralHomes.com.

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Published in the Erie Times-News from May 24 to May 25, 2017
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