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L. Gifford Kessler II, 1944 - 2001

Giff Kessler was born on 6 June 1944 in Erie, Pennsylvania, to Martha Mary Kessler as his father, Big Giff, was waiting in England with the 5th Armored Division for his turn to cross the Channel to Normandy. Giff was educated in Erie at Academic High School, graduating in 1961. He obtained his Honors BA degree at Williams College, Massachusetts in 1965, where he ran cross-country for the college and played second goaltender for the ice hockey team. Giff’s sporting prowess at this time may amaze those who knew him only in his later years. Moving to the University of Texas at Austin, he undertook an MA degree on the palynology and palaeobotany of the Cretaceous of North–Central Texas. In 1969 at the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque, he received his PhD on channel sequences and braided stream development in the South Canadian River, Texas.

Giff began his oil industry career with Union Pacific Railroad in Wyoming in the summer of 1969. In April 1972 he joined Canada Cities Services in Calgary as an exploration geologist and stayed with them two years before moving to Phillips Petroleum in 1974. Here he worked out of Bartlesville in the Exploration Projects Group as a clastic sedimentologist and stratigrapher. In 1982 he joined Marathon Oil at their Denver Research Center, working in their Regional Exploration and Reservoir Characterization groups. This office closed in 1994 and Giff moved to Houston where he joined the Exploration Services Group.

This recitation of the dry facts of Giff’s life, the work he did and the honours he gained, does little to indicate his character to those who never knew him. Giff was marked by his fellow students in high school as being a character with a well-developed sense of humour. His parents did not believe in ho-hum conversation at dinner and would institute discussion of politics and current affairs. They were soon resorting to cheat-sheets hidden among the crockery to keep themselves ahead of the young Kessler. Gifford’s conversational skills received a great boost from this parental prompting and also from his encyclopaedic memory.

However, it was in the field and in the pub that he was seen at his best. The serious side of Giff’s conversation there was well informed by his geological experience in many countries and basins in a wide variety of clastic environments, by his knowledge of US, Canadian and European politics, by his love of US sports and by his understanding of Quebec and Newfoundland. On his less serious side, it was rare that anyone questioned his grasp of US sports or bizarre news trivia. He had the trivialists way out-trivialised!

The dismay, sadness and sense of loss expressed by so many workers around the world in the oil industry and academia, comes into perspective when we consider the laughter, fellowship and sense of the ridiculous which he brought into our too often too-dull lives. We are all better for having known him. Giff died of a heart attack in Houston airport on 11 December 2001 and is survived by his mother, Marty.

Bernie O’Connor