The Founding Editor-In-Chief of The Inquirer, Liberia’s first post-war independent newspaper, Sam Van Kesselly, is dead. He died on Tuesday, December 3, 2019, at his Barnesville residence, outside Monrovia. He was 65.
Mr. Kesselly, who was Daily Observer newspaper’s first type-setter, later became a full-fledged journalist until he became president of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) during the late 1990s.
According to family sources, Mr. Kesselly has been ill over the past years reportedly from Rheumatoid Arthritis. The deceased, who was sometimes referred to as the ‘Fissibu Boy’ from Lofa County, worked for several other Liberian newspapers.
He joined mainstream journalism in the 80s with the Daily Observer, Liberia’s first independent daily newspaper, being the starting point, and later became one of its senior reporters.
During one of the transitional periods, he left mainstream journalism and served as press secretary to Councilman Alhaji G. V. Kromah, then a faction leader representing the rebel United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy (ULIMO).
ULIMO–K was relatively united under Kromah with approximately 12,000 predominately Mandingo fighters.
Kesselly once worked in the office of River Cess Senator Francis Paye.
Those who interacted with Mr. Kesselly in the media prior to his death have described him as a “versatile media practitioner” in all aspects of print journalism.
They said his death is a blow to the media profession, as he was an active member and a good trainer.
He also taught at the then Liberia Institute of Journalism along with Frank Sainwola, Frank A. Smart and the late Michael Kumah.
The late Kesselly attended many international fora, including Zimbabwe, Ghana, and the United States. Upon his return from Zimbabwe, he wrote a series of articles about the gathering under the title, “The Harare Notebook.”
He and the present managing editor of The Inquirer, Philip N. Wesseh, attended the International Visitor’s Program in the United States in March 1994.
A few years later, both of them were joined by journalists Hassan Kiawu and J. N. Elliot (Late) at a forum in Accra, Ghana, sponsored by the World Bank.
In a statement, the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) said it is saddened by the death of “Sam Van”, as he was fondly called by his media colleagues.
His remains have been deposited at the Abraham Robert Funeral Home, pending funeral arrangements.
Meanwhile, the PUL has been informed of the first family meeting being scheduled for Friday, December 6, 2019, at 4:p.m. at House #T-28, Barnesville Estate, outside Monrovia.
PUL has, therefore, requested all former presidents of the Union and media executives to meet on Friday, at 11:a.m. at the Union’s Headquarters to formally inform the journalism community’s participation in the first family meeting of the Kessellys in Barnesville Estate.