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Tod Kerstetter

Tod Kerstetter Dr. Kelvin “Tod” Kerstetter of Manhattan, KS passed away at the age of 58 on July 12 at Stormont Vail Hospital in Topeka. Tod battled pancreatic cancer valiantly for 22 months. Full of love for his family and passion for his music, he maintained his belief that he was going to live a long full life with and for his family. During this battle, he continued to teach clarinet at Kansas State University, served as treasurer for the International Clarinet Association, and created YouTube videos where he performed many of his clarinet arrangements including Bohemian Rhapsody (and joking with his children that since he had 81 followers he should sell “merch”). Be sure to look him up on YouTube and “follow” him. He’ll be laughing in heaven over that.

Tod was born in 1963 in Hays, Kansas to Elizabeth (Edwards) and Rex Kerstetter. After Tod’s father earned his doctorate at Florida State University, his family moved from Tallahassee, Florida to Greenville, SC where Tod spent most of his childhood and young adulthood. Tod was an all-state clarinetist, was awarded the John Philip Sousa Award, and was valedictorian of his class at Berea High School. He earned a B.M. from Furman University (Greenville, SC), an M.M. from Indiana University, and a D.M.A. from the University of Georgia.

Tod and his wife first met when Tod was playing saxophone on the street in Aspen, Colorado, to earn tips. A friend told them that they were both going to Indiana University the following fall, and Jackie thought to herself, “I’m going to pursue him at IU.” When at IU, Jackie had already decided after a week of friendship with Tod, that she was going to marry him. It took Tod a bit more time to figure that out, but he came to his senses and they were married in 1989. They spent the early years of their married life freelancing in orchestras near Greenville, SC and teaching part time at Furman University; they then attended University of Georgia for their doctoral work; moved to Bowling Green, KY where Tod had his first full-time position at Western Kentucky University; and then in 1999, they each were offered a tenure-track position in the music department at Kansas State University.

Tod was a loving father, and he thought the world of his sons David (13) and Jordan (10). He shared his love of music, plants, and sports with his sons, and he enjoyed playing hot wheels and flying RC planes, helicopters and drones. Mostly, he shared his love of travel with his family, meticulously making vacation plans most summers. One of his favorite vacation destinations was Hawaii, where he spent many hours snorkeling, swimming and boogie boarding in the ocean, visiting parks and other sites, and enjoying Hawaiian culture.

Tod is survived by his wife Jackie and their sons David and Jordan; by his brother Ted, wife Alicia, and child Bella (Madison, AL); his mother-in-law, Olga Fassler; and by Jackie’s siblings, Connie and family (Albuquerque, NM), Tom (Beijing, China), and Cathy and family (Bloomington, IL). He was preceded in death by his mother and father, Elizabeth and Rex; and by his father-in-law, Fred Fassler.

Tod’s K-State family and students were very important to him. Jackie has found consolation in reading all of the notes from students and friends, and she would like to share these words written by one of his former students Rachel Palmberg. These words summarize Tod’s legacy of teaching.

“Words can’t begin to describe what Tod meant to me at K-State, nor the weight of his passing. I am grateful to have gotten to know your family while I was in Manhattan; even a bit. Tod was the final deciding factor that brought me to KSU. I did a campus tour and was feeling overwhelmed before ending the day with a lesson with Tod. He made me feel warm and welcome straight away. He was one of the most genuine people I know. Even as a high school senior, I was drawn not only to his talent and knowledge, but to his kindness and empathy.

‘Tod made me feel seen and known as I navigated my early 20s. Even as it became more and more clear I wouldn’t pursue a career in music after graduation, he still encouraged me and supported me every step of the way. He valued his students as people, not just musicians. He was a father figure to so many in his decades as an educator, which deepens the weight of his loss. I am grateful not only for the short time I had with him, but also for the scores of other lives he touched. I believe God used Tod to influence a generation of young adults in the crucial time they were growing into who they would become.

‘His sudden passing is a severe injustice, but drops of his identity live on in your family, his colleagues, and his students. That is what I am choosing to celebrate between the tears.”

Tod, we will miss you deeply, but are filled with joy that your legacy lives on through your family, friends, students, music recordings, and YouTube clips.

We are grateful for the Via Christi ER staff that helped Tod on the night of July 3 and to all of the staff at Stormont Vail who helped him after that. Because of you, Tod and Jackie were able to celebrate their 32nd anniversary before he passed. We are also incredibly thankful for all the doctors and nurses who treated Tod at the Cancer Center of KS in Manhattan, at KU Med, and especially Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. Thank you all for your incredible care and compassion and for the extra months we had with Tod.

Tod’s Celebration of Life will be on September 4, 2021 at 2:00 PM in All Faiths Chapel, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS. A memorial concert by his students will occur at 3:00 PM in All Faiths Chapel on September 5, 2021.

Memorial contributions may be made out to the KSU Foundation for the “Tod Kerstetter Memorial Fund, M 47365.” Contributions may be left in care of Yorgensen-Meloan-Londeen Funeral Home, 1616 Poyntz Ave., Manhattan, KS, 66502, or sent directly to the KSU Foundation, 1800 Kimball Ave, Suite 200, Manhattan, KS 66502.

Online condolences may be left for the family through the funeral home website at

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