By far the very best thing Fritz and I ever did together is to raise our four children to become independent, productive compassionate adults.
Together with their spouses, they showed great tenderness and care towards their dad and I during his illness. Their grace and fortitude in facing their father's death and throughout the funeral days was filled with dignity and so much respect.
I stand in awe of each of them.
I stand in awe of each of them.
Together they wrote these Words of Remembrance, which were delivered with just the right amount of humility and humor by my sons at Fritz's Mass:
On behalf of my mom, Katie, Andy, Tommy, I thank you all for being with us today and for the incredible outpour of support we have received from so many! Thank you Father John for being here with us as you have been many times before in the nearly 30 years that you have been our pastor. I know your many calls and visits over the duration of dad’s battle have been some of his and mom’s greatest moments of peace.
Friedhlem Josef Kestermann was born November 8, 1958 to Henrich “Heinz” and Anna Kestermann in a small farm town called Schoppingen, tucked in the northwest corner of what was at the time West Germany. This little town to us, is much more than just where Friedhelm was born. From here began a beautiful journey of a young family who left all that they knew, with not much at all, to boldly chase an “American Dream.” Speaking NO English, their family somehow made it to Washington DC where one of Heinz’ Uncles welcomed them only to abruptly make his own decision to go back “home.” Somehow and someway they found a small apartment in nearby Alexandria VA. Long hours at work for Heinz, fear and uncertainty from Anna about their new found life and of course a toddler in tow certainly reminds us that Friedhelm Josef Kestermann was not born with silver spoon.
Down the line, through faith, love, determination and whatever else it took them to rise from a pretty grim situation, Heinz moved around some jobs to make ends meet but eventually found his niche as an auto mechanic supporting his family. With that came the birth of the family business “Foreign Car Service” and the Kestermann’s found a house for themselves across the railroad tracks in the Belmont Bay neighborhood of Woodbridge, VA.
Our family is honored to have many of you from Old Belmont here with us today, and we thank you, whomever it was that decided to take the little German boy named “Friedhelm” and instead call him Fritz!
The Kestermann home in Belmont quickly became a home to the rest of the neighborhood. Soon, Fritz’ brothers Stephan and Andreas joined in. Danny Wisnom, Dave Gillespie, and Buddy Apperson to name a few found haven in the garage that Heinz built and comfort in the incredible food that Anna prepared. In that sacred garage where Heinrich Kestermann from Schoppingen, Germany taught a neighborhood gang life long lessons about work, problem solving, creativity and adventure, respect, kindness and friendship. Fritz would carry those lessons, and those friends, with him throughout his life.
In a story made for the movies, one that we always envied and could picture it as if we were there, Joan Newton and Fritz Kestermann just happened to be standing next to each other one fall evening in 1976. Woodbrige HS scored a touchdown deep in the 4th qtr to seal the deal against cross town rival Garfield. As the home crowd erupted, shy little Joan, and Fritz from the “wrong side of the railroad tracks” embraced. Joan, as legend has it, already knew Fritz and just might have already had a crush on him. Afterall, she probably witnessed the future “Midnight Cowboy” wheelie his dirt bike into the back of his pickup truck. Fritz, as legend has it, was pretty sure he knew that she also went to Woodbrige HS, and he was pretty sure that her name was Joan. At some point along the way, an AWESOME Leather Yahama Visor that Ol Fritz was rockin’ became a permanent possession of Joan. And with that, began day 1 of their love.
In today’s age of social media and instant communication, this weird ability to know everything about everyone whether we want to or we dont…. We find it most respectable and endearing that: “near a brick wall….somewhere….possibly in Virginia...but somewhere….” is the only detail we’ll ever get to know about how Fritz proposed to the love of his life, but what we do know is it began a marriage that would set an example for all who encountered it.
Growing up, we inherently learned the importance in their morning routine. Dad had Mom’s cup of coffee ready for her when she came downstairs and when Dad got out of the shower, Mom had his second cup ready for him. We do not recall witnessing a single time that Dad didn’t kiss Mom, twice, on his way out the door and kiss her again, twice, when he got home. There wasn’t a christmas that at least one present from him brought mom to tears, or at least close to them. (look straight at her) I’m sorry Mom, but you never stood a chance in this category. Dad’s reaction to ANY present whether it was awesome or a 7 page Prayer Book that 4th grade Tommy got for him, was one of or a combination of the following: “Ok” “Cool” “Thanks” “Yeah” or “Alright”. Mom and Dad even made pacts not to go overboard that year, or to JUST get each other something useful, or to just not stress about getting each other anything at all. But dad couldn’t help himself, he really loved giving mom that one and most thoughtful gift. He never said anything about it, but we all knew how much he loved making Mom happy in this way.
Often those gifts weren’t just about possessions either, but adventure. It's easy to imagine someone asking Dad if he wanted to go someplace fun and him responding not with a yes or no, but “my trucks already packed.” From spontaneous sailboat trips around the Caribbean, to driving the family bus to daytona, riding back trails on the motorcycle, and making sure that, even with the incurable cancer diagnosis on his plate, he fulfilled he and mom’s life long dream on making it to Wyoming.
Fritz had the uncanny ability to work from 6am to 7pm but still make it to a lacrosse game 3 and half hours away without skipping a beat or missing a second of any of it. He worked harder than anyone we know, but was always there for us, every time. And while we did plenty of stupid things throughout the years which warranted his side-eye stare of disappointment, it was the moments when we made life-altering horrible mistakes that Fritz showed his love the most. In those times we hit rock bottom, instead of anger, he was right there with us to pick us up, bail us out, or welcome us back home. It is that kind of selfless unconditional love we strive to pass on to our own children.
St Francis de Sales is famous for saying “Nothing is so strong as gentleness, and nothing so gentle as true strength.” Dad embodied this quote to a T. For as big and strong as he was, he was often one of few words. Dad had a heart of gold and lived to take care of others. Beyond what he did for us as a family and for our friends there are countless examples of moments when Dad helped someone stranded on the side of the road, or towed another boat in from out on the river, or to make a quick fix for many of our friends over the years so that their parents didn’t find out about a little fender bender on the family car. For Dad, there were no selfish motivations. It was always about those around him. No expectations of repayment or praise, or even really for any type of acknowledgement. To him, it was just natural and He will forever be remembered for his silent kindness.
In the past two years, not once did Fritz outwardly complain about the card he had been dealt. Not once did he let of us think he was feeling anything less than alright and when they finally told him no more treatment could be of any help, he made sure that we all knew that he had no regrets.
-Dad will live on through his brothers, through their love, dedication, and commitment to their family.
-Dad will live on through his grandchildren, who have learned to always play as hard as they work.
-Dad will live on through his eldest, Joey, through his love of a good time, tireless work ethic, and ability to fall asleep on the couch at a moment’s notice.
-Dad will live on through his only daughter, Katie, through her innate ability to solve a problem, her strength in times of difficulty, and her horrific lack of rhythm on a dance floor.
-Dad will live on through his youngest, Tommy, through his ability to lead, to impact the lives of those under his tutelage, and his hairline.
-Dad will live on through Andy, through his ingenuity, his one liners and through his social awkwardness and gray hairs.
-Most of all, Dad will always live on through his wife of 38 years, for whom his love knows no bound.
In the last page of Fritz's 1977 high school yearbook, Joan wrote "It has been a wonderful 292 days and I am looking forward to lots and lots more." A hug at a football game, a walk, a visor, 4 kids, 8 grandkids, and after doing the math (hint: it wasn’t Joey) 15,681 days later we are all so thankful Mom, for your and Dad’s beautiful love story and the legacy it has created for all of us.
THE TIME HAS COME.
YOUR WORK IS DONE.
THE STRENGTH IS TAKEN FROM YOU, THAT NEVER WANTED TO BE AT REST.
YOU HELD A HEART OF GOLD,
THAT NOW RESTS IN SILENCE,
BUT IS NOT FORGOTTEN.
Further tributes by our children are here and here if you care to have a read at some really good storytelling.
Thank you for letting this proud Momma have a moment to honor my Loves.