“It’s been a long journey, but it’s very appropriate,” Shortt said. “We’re honoring an average, ordinary American who engaged in an extraordinary effort. Hopefully, he’ll be an example of selfless service, drive and humanity.”
Kessler was a member of Company K, 30th Infantry, 3rd Infantry Division when he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on Jan. 4, 1945 for “action involving actual conflict with the enemy” and distinguishing himself “by gallantly and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty” during the Battle of Anzio in Italy on May 23, 1944 during World War II.
The 22-year-old was killed in action two days later on May 25, 1944 near Ponte Rotto, Italy. He is buried among the 167 white crosses in the World War II section at Woodside Cemetery and Arboretum.
Shortt began his efforts in 2015 with a letter to Mayor Larry Mulligan Jr. but said he never received a response. Efforts began again in 2018 with Morrison getting the backing from the Middletown Historical Society and other organizations. They went to City Council in late 2018 with a request to rename Flemming Park after Kessler as he was raised on Flemming Road.
However, since the future of Flemming Park was uncertain in October 2018, the city Park Board recommended to council that a portion of Reinartz Boulevard between Clark and Charles streets be renamed after Kessler. In November 2018, City Manager Doug Adkins recommended establishing a policy and criteria to rename city streets, parks and buildings.
Middletown council had last renamed a street in 2007 when it designated a portion of South Verity Parkway the “Todd Bell Memorial Way.” The Ohio Army National Guard Armory in Middletown is named after Kessler as is the auditorium at the Middletown American Legion post and a school at the Army base at Fort Stewart, Ga.
MORE: A tale of 3 heroes
An all-state and all-American athlete at Middletown High School in football and track, Bell also broke the state long jump record that had been held by the legendary Jesse Owens. Bell was an All-American football player for The Ohio State University and also played for the NFL’s Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles and was named an All-Pro. Bell later became a prominent community activist and an advocate for youth activities and education. He died in 2005.