Bethel Catholic priest died of natural causes rather than fire says medical examiner

The State Medical Examiner has confirmed that 72-year-old Catholic Father Theodore Kestler died of natural causes before the fire started that destroyed the priest’s house in Chefornak. The Fire Marshal’s office said the fire started from candles that were lit in the home.

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Alaska State Troopers received a call last Wednesday morning  saying a house was engulfed in flames and that Kestler who had been living in St. Mary’s before, died in the fire. Efforts to save him were unsuccessful. Chefornak City Administrator Robert Jimmie told reporter Charles Enoch that Kestler lived alone in the house.

” Father Ted, I think he was alone. Does he have family in the village? No And how long has he been staying there? Not long maybe… Off and on. He was a rotating priest,” Jimmie said.

Father Kestler served in St. Mary’s for 30 years. There will be funeral services for Father Kestler in St. Mary’s this weekend.

He will be laid to rest at Mount St. Michaels in a cemetery traditionally used by the Jesuits in the Northeast.

Charles Enoch is a reporter at KYUK in Bethel.

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