Surrounded by his wife and children, William Kieschnick of Napa passed away Aug. 21, 2013. Kieschnick lived an extraordinary life. Born in Dallas to William Kieschnick Sr. and Effie Meador Kieschnick on Jan. 5, 1923, he graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School, where he played basketball and ran track. He attended Rice University, paying for his education by hauling luggage at the railroad station and conducting calculus review classes for literally hundreds of students.
His undergraduate life was interrupted by service in World War II. Kieschnick enlisted in the Army, was trained as a meteorologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, and served as a captain in war zones in Africa and Italy, including the infamous Anzio beachhead, for which he was awarded the Bronze Star.
He returned to Rice and graduated with a degree in chemical engineering in 1946. Kieschnick turned down a chance to attend graduate school at the California Institute of Technology in order to accept a position at Atlantic Refining Co. as an engineer.
He spent his entire career with the company that became best known as ARCO, with assignments in Dallas, Lafayette, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. At his retirement in 1985, he was president and chief executive officer. During his tenure, he was responsible for identifying and developing the Prudhoe Bay oil field and continued the ARCO tradition of environmental responsibility.
Kieschnick served many other organizations as well. His commitment to science and engineering education was illustrated by long service as a trustee of the California Institute of Technology, as well as Rice University. He was also a member of the President’s Circle of the National Academy of Engineering. His love of scientific learning is honored permanently by the ARCO/Kieschnick Chair of the Neurobiology of Aging at USC.
Perhaps surprising many who knew him as an engineer and business leader, Kieschnick was deeply committed to the arts and to artistic creation and performance. He was an early supporter of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, serving as its president. After moving to Napa in retirement, he played a pivotal role in the revival and restoration of the Napa Valley Opera House.
Kieschnick is survived by his wife, Carol Kieschnick; his two children, Michael Kieschnick (whose wife is Frances) of Palo Alto, Calif., and Meredith Kieschnick (whose partner is Terry) of Sebastopol, Calif.; his stepdaughter, Cynthia of Dallas; his stepson, David (whose wife is Nancy) of Austin; and his stepdaughter, Lynn (whose husband is Edward), of Westlake Village, Calif. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Betty Jane of Dallas, who died in 1978; Keith Ann, also of Dallas, who died in 1995; and a son, William Frederick (Ricky), who died in 1960. He was a loving grandfather to Christopher, Susan, Jennifer, Jordan, Gabrielle, Hannah, Alexandra, William, Matthew and Michael; as well as a great-granddaughter, Charlotte.
A memorial service for friends and family will be held at 10 a.m. Nov. 2 at the Napa Valley Opera House, 1030 Main St. in Napa. The family requests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the National Parkinson Foundation, Rice University and Napa Valley Hospice.