Midstate Swim team remembers coach who died following COVID battle

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DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — Last Tuesday, there were 150 deaths related to COVID-19 in Pennsylvania. Undoubtedly, each person has a special story to tell.

One of those people; 51-year-old David Kesler of Dauphin. He was better know as “Dino” and more affectionately known as “Coach.”

“He had this presence on the pool deck,” swimmer Nate Gibbons said. “You couldn’t really compete with it. He was just larger than life.”

You could almost always find Kesler in one of two places; his motorcycle shop in Dauphin or coaching on the deck of a local pool.

He was a husband, father, businessman and to countless young swimmers, a mentor.

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“He just brought so much positivity in the pool and outside the pool,” swimmer Evan Wagner said. “He was just a great guy all around.”

“Great man, great friend, great coach,” fellow Friendship YMCA coach Jim Mercurio said. “There’s no way to put into words his impact.”

Kesler’s love of the water started early as a competitive swimmer and lifeguard. He was determined to share his passion with the next generation.

“He was goofy with the kids, he’d make the kids laugh, have fun with the kids,” Mercurio said. “But then when it came time to work, to push these kids to ultimately reach these goals they had for their swimming careers, there was nobody better.”

“Two things he was big on; making it fun again and building those friendships and those relationships that will last a lifetime,” Gibbons said.

In the summer, Kesler coached the Dauphin Dolphins and helped raise the team to the top of its division. In the winter, he coached for the Friendship YMCA, formerly known as the Lower Paxton Aquatic Club.

“It’s just crazy to think he’s not here to help us anymore,” Wagner said. “It’s going to be a long haul to get through this.”

The last few practices at the Friendship Y haven’t been the same. Coach Dino’s passing is a painful reminder of the ongoing pandemic.

“No doubt this knocked us back a bit, opened our eyes about how careful we need to be moving forward,” Mercurio said.

“It just all happened so fast that it’s just hard to comprehend,” Wagner said.

Kesler’s death is a loss that runs deep at the poolside. His legacy is seen in every stroke. His impact on this community is remembered with every lap.

“He was the energy and the heart and soul of this team,” Gibbons said.

“He may have passed away, but he’s not gone,” Mercurio said. “He’s very much a part of this team and a part of this community.”

“I know that he’s looking down on me and he’s cheering for me up there every race that I swim,” Wagner said.

Kesler will be remembered and laid to rest on Wednesday, Nov. 24. Service information can be found here.

The Bishop McDevitt swim team is donating proceeds from its upcoming pancake breakfast this Saturday to Kesler’s family. The flyer can be found below.

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