Philip Carl Kessinger died at home in Burns Nov. 29 with all of his family present, including his brother Roger.

He was diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer only five weeks ago.

Phil was born Nov. 29, 1940, in Riverside, Calif., and was raised there.

His work illustrates his love of place and people. Phil spent much of his time in various volunteer positions and participating in civic committee meetings. He worked with the CRT (Community Response Team). His experience with various philanthropic foundations provided valuable technical support to garner grant funding for and interest in Harney County development.

For five grueling years, Phil stepped in as “chairperson” of a small group dedicated to making structural fire suppression available to county residents. His dedication, persistence and leadership made rural fire protection in Harney County come true.

Phil recently served on the Harney County Board of property tax appeals for two years helping to resolve tax disputes. Phil was an active member on the Library Foundation Board.

Phil was vice president of the Harney County Arts and Education Foundation and was co-chair of the performing arts and education center effort. He chaired the grants committee.

Phil had a passion for promoting Harney County through photographs. He travelled all over the county (and North America) documenting, through photography, our cultural heritage sites. He created an interactive cartographic and photographic web site of North America called Indigenous Place Names of North America ( He included Harney County in this major effort. This might be what you call “putting Harney County on the map.”

Phil took hundreds of photos of Harney County events and landscapes. He willingly made them available to civic groups for the promotion of all things Harney County. Working with County Judge Steve Grasty, he was instrumental in making the video display in the foyer of the courthouse a reality for all visitors to enjoy.
As a result of his record of civic involvement and knowledge, Phil was nominated to the Rural Action Committee, which is a national effort.

Of all of his accomplishments mentioned, he was most proud of his work as a teacher and of the positive impact he had on thousands of young people. He taught high school in the public schools in Eugene and retired after 30 years.

His love of place went beyond the people to include the natural beauty that surrounds us. He spent the last few years planting trees on his property. His family, and primarily his son Aron, intend on continuing the positive work he started in the community as well as maintaining and enlarging the tree planting on his property.
Phil’s current “Teacher to Teacher” project, which would expose future teachers to the inclusion of Native American culture and language into their curriculum will be completed and published by his daughter, also a documentary filmmaker.

He is survived by his wife, Terry Kessinger; son, Aron Kessinger; and daughter, Heather Kessinger.

There will be a celebration of his life in the spring among his trees, and all will be welcome.

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