By Ralphine Major

Those words spoken by Dwight Kessel sparked a search through my years of keepsakes. I found the pageant booklet, Knoxville’s Jr. Miss Pageant 1971; a photo of me in the evening gown my mother had made; and the talent picture of me onstage at the Knoxville Civic Auditorium twirling a fire baton. The Northside Kiwanis Club sponsored the pageant, and Dwight Kessel represented the West Knoxville Kiwanis Club as a pageant judge.

In the fall of 2019, former employees of the Knox County Executive’s Office (now Mayor’s office) met for lunch. Patsy Miller, longtime assistant to Dwight Kessel, planned the event to celebrate Kessel’s 93rd birthday. Kessel hired Patsy for the Clerk’s office at the suggestion of Judge L. D. Word who had worked with her at Valley Fidelity Bank. She later became his Executive Assistant and a valuable employee with twenty-eight years in public life and in business following his retirement. In 1971, Dwight Kessel was serving as County Court Clerk and involved in numerous community activities. He was a member of the Kiwanis Club of West Knoxville from 1953 – 2016 (43 years – perfect attendance). He served in several capacities including Past Lt. Governor of Division 13 of Kentucky-Tennessee District of Kiwanis, Intl – 1-1-1964; Past President and Treasurer of West Knoxville Kiwanis Club; chairman of many committees in the local club and Division; and Member, Board of Directors – West Knoxville Kiwanis Club, 1975-86; 2007-09; 2011-16. The West Knoxville Kiwanis Club turned in their charter in 2016, and he joined the Kiwanis Club of Northside Knoxville.

The Kiwanis Clubs of Knoxville started a movement called Keep Knoxville Klean in 1962. The three Ks were printed on grocery bags to be handed out to people for the disposing of litter. A big street sweeping was held on Gay Street in front of the Riviera Theater. John Duncan, Sr. was Mayor at that time and Kessel was involved as President of the Kiwanis Club of West Knoxville. At 94, Kessel is the oldest and longest serving member of the Northside Kiwanis Club (68 years)! I was honored to speak last month via Zoom at the Northside Kiwanis Club meeting about the series on Dwight Kessel in this column.

Words of Faith: “The Lord that made heaven and earth bless thee.” Psalm 134:3 (KJV).