Sweet Briar mourns loss of longtime community member, former director of buildings Charles ‘Chuck’ Kestner

Posted on April 30, 2019 by Staff Writer

Chuck and Bonnie Kestner Chuck Kestner and his wife, Bonnie, at Peaks of Otter in October 2016

The Sweet Briar community was saddened to learn of the death of Charles Culver Kestner, who passed away Friday, April 26, at his campus home at the age of 94. The husband of Bonnie Jackson Kestner, he served as director of buildings, planning and construction at Sweet Briar College from 1968 to 1990.

Kestner, who was known to most as “Chuck,” was a devoted husband and father who worked hard to provide for his family. He was an accomplished civil engineer who first served as the city engineer for Harrisonburg and later as a field, office and structural engineer for the Portland Cement Association.

Chuck Kestner Prothro Natatorium Chuck Kestner in the filter room below Prothro Natatorium

As the director of buildings, planning and construction, he designed and oversaw the construction of many prominent buildings and structures, including the Harriet Howell Rogers Riding Center, the Prothro Natatorium and the Columbarium. Additionally, he designed the frame that holds the bell in the Quad bell tower and engineered the move of the Sweet Briar train station from across U.S. 29 to its present location on campus. Kestner was known by all for his gregarious nature, his helpfulness and his generosity. He attended St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Clifford.

“There are many wonderful attributes that Chuck demonstrated to us throughout his years at Sweet Briar,” said Paul Cronin, director emeritus of the riding program and professor emeritus. “The quality of his work, high standards for himself, his family and colleagues. He was always supportive in a positive and friendly manner.”

Chuck and Bonnie Chuck and Bonnie Kestner on their wedding day on May 26, 1979

Kestner is survived by his second wife, Bonnie, and his children Elizabeth, Valerie, Wiley and Kristen.

A graveside service with military honors will be held at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Forest at 11 a.m. Wednesday, May 1. A memorial service to celebrate his life will also be held at Sweet Briar Memorial Chapel at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 4, with a reception following in Pannell Gallery. All are welcome to attend both services.

You can read his full obituary here.