John Kestel

Date of Birth

October 24, 1933

Date of Death

February 25, 2023

John Kestel, a long time resident of Goleta, passed away at 89 on February 25, 2023 at home surrounded by his wife of 59 years and their three children.

He was born in Storm Lake, Iowa on October 24, 1933 and grew up on a hard-working farm with his family raising hogs, chickens, cattle, and corn. He attended a one-room school house, grades 1-4, then St. Mary’s Catholic school, and on to Iowa State University in ROTC where he graduated with a civil engineering degree in 1956. He received a commission in the US Army and served in El Paso, Texas where friends touted California as the place to be. After a move to Pasadena and an engineering job, he later met his wife, Mary Ellen (Choate), a teacher from Virginia; they were married in 1964 in Long Beach. John went on to receive his license as a Structural Engineer and spent thirty good years with Peter Ehlen (Ehlen, Spiess & Haight) in Santa Barbara. His drawings were done by hand and calculations with a slide rule or mechanical calculators – before computers! In addition to his diligence at the office, he loved working with wood – his craftsmanship now evident throughout his home.

The Kestel kids, with Dad at the helm, enjoyed years of sailing and camping with Santa Barbara Sea Shells, summer weeks at Big Sur Lodge and visits to a special cabin at Hume Lake, fishing, boating, and swimming, walks around Lake Los Carneros. Solvang’s Theaterfest introduced them to live theater at early ages, always with picnic suppers. Special memories are of John teaching each kid how to drive in his prized 1967 red Camaro on the road to Mr. Doty’s Ranch. He loved playing basketball with Mark and board games where his patient nature and organized mind were wonderful examples to follow. His kids still marvel at how he always had time for them, especially at homework hour after a day at work. In their younger years, the grandchildren were always happy to be around their grandpa, playing games or helping him pick oranges in the back yard; he was very close to these five as they provided many welcomed, delightful moments in his later years.

He was a member of St. Raphael’s Catholic Church and the Knights of Columbus. Strong in his faith and his belief in freedom, he was a supporter of Young America’s Foundation. John and Mary Ellen made many trips abroad, walking trips in Provence, Ireland and Tuscany, cruises, and several tours with close friends to Eastern Europe and twice to Russia. He was a good listener and despite his quiet demeanor, he could tell the best stories ever with his dry humor and perfect timing!

Preceding John in death were his parents, his brother Bil and sister Dorothy. John is survived by his wife and three children: son Mark Kestel of San Diego, daughter Karen Connor (Jon) and their son, Jack of Point Loma; and daughter Laura Drabkin (Mike) and their four children: Alex, Gabrielle, Andrew, and Mia of San Clemente.

A memorial service will be held Monday, May 15, 10:00 AM at St. Raphael’s Church, Goleta, followed by a reception at Glen Annie Golf Club. John’s ashes will be interred at Goleta Cemetery in October to honor his 90th birthday. Donations may be made to the Cancer Foundation of Santa Barbara.


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