Dedicated town volunteer, world traveler
LYNNFIELD — Arline (Arnie) Kiessling Wills died on Sept. 1, 2023 after a long life of answering Jeopardy questions quicker than anyone, cheering on the Red Sox and planning ahead.
She leaves her husband, Charles B. Wills; and their four children: Richard Wills of Highlands Ranch, Colorado; Nancy Keteku (and Willie) of Accra, Ghana; Cynthia Harriman (and Lew) of Portsmouth, New Hampshire; and Martha Rausch (and Jon) of Rowley, Mass. Seven grandchildren also survive Arnie: Elizabeth Harriman, Sam Harriman, Emma Rausch, Hannah Rausch, Yaw Keteku, Kofi Keteku and Adam Wills. Six great-grandchildren also survive Arline: Anna and Holly Cha, and Zora, Jayson, Ama and Kekeli Keteku.
Born in Medford, Massachusetts in 1925 to Herman and Emma (Stiehler) Kiessling, Arnie grew up in Melrose, where she led a life that reflected the events and changing times of the century her life spanned. In the 1930s, she had her tonsils removed by the family doctor in an operation on the kitchen table of her German millworker grandparents, and was the only child in her class wearing shoes when her father briefly took the family to Florida for work during the depression.
The 1940s saw Arnie become the first in her family to attend college, navigating the application process, obtaining scholarships and enrolling at her beloved Colby College with limited financial or emotional support from family – who would have preferred she simply get a job. After Charlie returned from the war, they married in September 1946 and moved to Durham, New Hampshire, where both graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 1947.
Over the next few decades, while raising their four children in Lynnfield, Massachusetts, Arnie worked as greeter, phone answerer, typist, occasional bookkeeper and interior decorator for many of the 600-plus houses built by her home-builder husband. She was active in community life, serving as a Cub Scout Den Mother and as a member of the Bi-Centennial Committee, chair of the Bi-Centennial Quilt project, the Lynnfield Couples Club and many other civic organizations. In her rare spare moments, Arnie dazzled her children with her beautiful piano playing.
A curious and insatiable traveler, Arnie ventured overseas once or twice a year for much of the last half of her life, including several 200km+ bike trips into her late seventies. She celebrated her 80th birthday canoeing under a Roman aqueduct in France, a country she returned to at 94 “to eat snails one more time.” Her astute present-day observations about people and places led her to become a contributing writer for “International Travel News” and for “Transitions Abroad,” while her love of the past led her to research and write “The Wills Family of Newburyport, Massachusetts,” a nine-generation genealogy.
A life of the mind and ideas was always important to Arnie. She belonged to the same book group for 50 years. When she moved to a retirement community in 2021, she promptly joined a new book group and continued to trade book recommendations with friends and family until the end of her life. She followed politics closely, and – having been born just five years after women gained the right to vote – delighted in seeing a woman elected vice president before she died.
Charlie and Arnie lived in Lynnfield, Massachusetts for 72 years. In 2021, they moved to Edgewood Retirement Community in North Andover, to enjoy a more active social life without the cares of home maintenance.
Please join the family for a Celebration of Life at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023 at the Lynnfield Meeting House, 617 Main Street, Lynnfield. In lieu of flowers, please donate to the Journey Song hospice singers at JourneySong.org.