Music 01

Robert J. Kessler

December 1, 1933 ~ September 16, 2021 (age 87)

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HILLSDALE – Robert J. “Bob” Kessler of Hillsdale passed away Thursday, September 16, 2021.


Born and raised in New York City, he was the son of Frank Kessler and Sonya Stimer.


He attended the High School of Music and Art and graduated from Queens College.


Bob was a professional songwriter for the first part of his working life, with a special love for musical theater. He started out writing songs with his school buddy Martin Charnin for summer stock, Off-Broadway musical reviews, and trade shows. He composed the music for the restoration musical “O Marry Me!” which played in New York and at Theater Royal Windsor in England. He worked as a staff songwriter for the iconic Broadway composer Frank Loesser at Loesser’s publishing house Frank Music. In addition to show tunes he wrote pop songs and songs for several Hollywood movies. He also wrote songs for the PBS television show “Feeling Good.” He collaborated on songs with Hoagie Carmichael, Michael Kamen, Bobby Scott, and Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson. His songs were recorded by Dionne Warwick, Bernadette Peters, Gregory Hines, Lena Horne, The Everly Brothers, Ellie Stone, and Waylon Jennings, among others. Some of his music can be found at


In 1977, along with his sister and brother-in-law Claire and Barry Brook, Bob established Pendragon Press, a highly regarded publisher of scholarly books on musicology. Until his death, Bob served as managing editor of the press and handled book acquisition and production. To date, Pendragon has released over 500 titles that have contributed to the discipline.


In 1986, Bob and his wife, Janet Lincoln, moved to Columbia County, living first in Stuyvesant and then in Hillsdale. In both places, Bob was an energetic and enthusiastic participant in civic and political affairs and the arts community. He was active in the Democratic Party and served as Chair of the Town Democratic Committee in both Stuyvesant and Hillsdale. For a time, he was a

leading member of the Columbia County Council on the Arts, organizing a film festival that was an early precursor of the current series FilmColumbia. Among other activities, he served as Hillsdale’s representative to the County Environmental Committee and as Board of Election Custodian for the Town of Hillsdale.


Bob will be remembered as an inveterate optimist, a rabid New York sports fan, and a prolific punster. He had the unusual gift of holding strong opinions while being able to communicate effectively across cultural, religious, and other differences.


He is survived by Janet, his wife of 44 years; his daughter, Amanda Udis-Kessler, a daughter - in law Phoebe Lostroh and several grand-nieces and grand-nephews and their children. He was predeceased by his sister Claire Brook, his nephew Jonathan Mann, and his niece Lisa Mann.


A memorial service will be announced at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Roeliff Jansen Community Library in Hillsdale.

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