Benett Kessler: An appreciation

By Andrea Tetrick

Today, February 3rd, is Benett Kessler’s birthday. She would have turned 66 years old.

John Heston and Benett Kessler

John Heston and Benett Kessler

I had the privilege of working for Benett for a time, beginning in 2004 when Sierra Wave was known as K-DAY. She was extremely generous with her knowledge and encouraged me to report on any topic I chose, which is not always the case in a hectic newsroom setting. We remained friends and engaged in an active email and phone exchange over the years.

If you spent any time at all around Benett, it became immediately clear that she was a force of nature. Fierce of spirit and intellect, she was never one to suffer fools. But Benett was also affectionate, quick to laugh and engage in deep merriment. That’s one thing I’ll always miss, now that she’s gone—hearing Benett’s robust laugh, accompanied by the flash of those eyes that didn’t miss much of anything in the world around her.

Benett was one of the last of the old-school American journalists, unafraid to take on the fat cats, shills and bureaucrats, tenaciously asking the uncomfortable questions, while others in the trade are more content, it would seem, to regurgitate sanctioned press release pabulum in order to maintain the status quo. Benett instinctively understood that the official story is never the full story and doggedly worked to dig deeper to reveal the full truth of whatever story she covered. She was also a champion for the voiceless, holding the concerns of common people and the Eastern Sierra environment as her top priorities.

When I told a man from Big Pine about Benett’s death, he grew noticeably paler and asked, “Who’s going to take on the politicians, now?” A Bishop woman, whose mornings always began with Kessler’s news reports, told me, “Benett was very important to me. She was fearless.”

Benett possessed a hungry, curious mind, read widely among the world’s great texts and was a student of history. She embraced the philosophical stance of Colonial American patriots, and was particularly fond of the popular 1770’s motto, “Don’t Tread on Me,” emblazoned on many flags of the day. She did indeed hold dear the notion of individual freedom, but also championed personal responsibility within the civic sphere. It is no wonder, then, that she chose a career in journalism.

For a generation, Benett brought the news of the day—good, bad or controversial—to the people, regardless of opposition or even downright enmity. In a word, Benett embodied integrity. We are all the richer for her grit and hard work, and therefore that much diminished by her too-soon passing.

We can only hope that somebody soon will step in to continue the vital work of challenging the official story while looking out for the interests of the people of the Eastern Sierra.

However you wish to do so, whether by raising a glass of your favorite beverage, lighting a candle or simply sending a thought or prayer into the Great Mystery, I hope you will on this day commemorate the birth—and life—of a remarkable human being, the late, great Benett Kessler.



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5 Responses to Benett Kessler: An appreciation

  1. Kathy Cage February 3, 2015 at 2:13 pm #

    Thank you Andrea for your lovely heartfelt tribute to such an excellent human being. Like you I miss Bennett terribly. I was back east with my father who is fighting pancreatic cancer when Bennett passed and I wept when I heard. What a loss.

    I was a young woman when I first met Bennett. She was covering local government in Mammoth when I first considered running for Town Council. I asked her opinion about locals issues at the time and what it was like being a woman working around such a confirmed good old boys network. She had great intuition and wisdom. I think I connected with her because I was a recent import to Mammoth and she was one of the first women I met here who was a strong, unapologetic female professional. I loved that about her. She was so fearless starting her own media business in a small town where no one in their right mind would do it. Aren’t we lucky for that?

    Bennett was one of those rare journalists who really valued truth. Even if reporting it jeopardized her interests (advertising, etc.). She had that unique ability to see through the propaganda to the real issues. We all trusted that no one could play her. If Bennett reported it, it must be true. And she was able to do all this while remaining truly likeable.

    She leaves big shoes to fill. I too hope there might be another person out there who might be willing to step into them. If they do, I believe they will find that, like Bennett, the Eastern Sierra can be wonderful place to live your life.

  2. Amen February 3, 2015 at 2:21 pm #

    Wonderful tribute. I couldn’t agree with you more. Benett had a true heart and loved to stick up for what was right. More people should be like her, I miss her dearly and it is a loss we will all feel from now on! She left a footprint on the Eastern Sierra’s that no one will ever be able to fill.

    Rest in Peace Dear Benett. You were loved by many. Hope you are smiling down on us in knowledge of that.

  3. Wendilyn Grasseschi February 3, 2015 at 3:00 pm #

    Thank you, Andrea. Perfect.

  4. Tinner February 3, 2015 at 5:33 pm #

    I learned a lot from Bennett, even though we disagreed on some topics she always seemed to respect everyone’s opinion, even if she didn’t agree with them. She wasn’t afraid to tell somebody they were nuts, in a politically correct way, or maybe that was just me.
    She seemed to keep the LADWP on their toes and I bet they cursed her name more than once behind closed doors.

  5. BIG Rick O'Brien February 4, 2015 at 2:52 am #

    Bennett was truly a trail-blazer in her field, un-afraid to step on powerful toes if it was warranted. She told it how it was and was surprisingly respectful of all of our individual opinions, even if they weren’t exactly spot-on or politically correct. A couple of times, my (over the top) comments didn’t make it to print, and she took the time & effort to send me a personal E-mail to explain why. She brought many injustices to light that otherwise would have been totally swept under the rug AND…I totally believe that without Bennett Kessler and the Sierra Wave, the political machine that ran Mono County for years would still be in power.
    Thank You, Bennett, for opening all of our eyes with your tireless reporting, and for helping to make the Eastern Sierra a better place to live and play.


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