Michael John Kessenich

Feb. 4, 1949 – Feb. 9, 2024


Michael John Kessenich, 75, of Evanston, passed away on Friday, Feb. 9, doing what he loved: cross country skiing with his dog, Ruby. His death was completely unexpected, and his family is profoundly sad.

Born on Feb. 4, 1949, he was an adventurous youth who loved the outdoors. He purchased his first motorcycle at the age of 14 and found his love for motocross and dirt bikes. Michael had access to numerous boats and enjoyed driving them around the lakes and waterways in Madison, Wisconsin, his childhood home.

His Uncle Howard taught him to be a conscientious hunter and fisherman, and he enjoyed these activities for the rest of his life. He wrestled and played football before graduating from Menona Grove High School in 1967.

In 1968, he married his first wife, Susan Sjostrom, joined the Marine Corps, and was deployed to Vietnam. While he was overseas, his first daughter, Michelle Holmes, was born. He was honorably discharged on his 21st birthday in 1970.

While attending the University of Wisconsin in Madison in 1972, he met the love of his life, Cami (Conway) Kessenich, and then moved to Gunnison, Colorado, where he enjoyed discovering the Rocky Mountains: camping, hiking, horseback riding, and cross-country skiing.

He and Cami married in between snowstorms on April 1, 1974. Michael graduated with an industrial arts degree from Western State Colorado University and went to work with a local contractor building houses.

In 1978, his second daughter, Sarah (Kessenich) Moloney, was born. Two years later, the family relocated to Evanston, and Michael joined Joe Wright to start a new company, Medicine Butte Construction. Together, he and Joe built and remodeled numerous houses in and around Evanston.

Fueled by their love of adventure and the outdoors, Michael and Joe applied to the United States Forest Service for a permit to set cross-country ski trails in the Uinta Mountains south of Evanston. They were granted one square mile of land for this endeavor in 1983, the same year Michael’s third daughter, Erin (Kessenich) Warlick, was born.

This humble beginning evolved into Lily Lake Ski Area and eventually grew into BRORA (Bear River Outdoor Recreation Alliance), which has become the largest nonprofit organization in Uinta County.

Michael is survived by his wife and three daughters (named above), his sister Marshann Kessenich, his niece Marissa Kessenich, his grandsons, Calvin Holmes, Michael and Ryan Warlick, his great-grandson Bradley Holmes, and his son-in-law, Daniel Moloney.

Services will be held at Trinity Lutheran Church at 3 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 16.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to BRORA, an organization Michael spent 40 years of his life building and enjoying. Please contact the Evanston Recreation Center for more information. If you would like to honor him, go cross-country skiing with the ones you love.