Neil McDonald Kester passed away on July 1st, 2016 in Cary, North Carolina following an 18 month fight with glioblastoma (brain cancer). Neil is survived by his wife Leyla S. Kester his four children Emily Kester, Erin Brady, Grace and Evelyn. He is also survived by his siblings Norma, Jim, Joyce, Susan and Bruce and their families.
Neil was born in Wawanesa Manitoba, Canada in April of 1958. He was one of six children born of Dr. Norman and Evelyn Kester. Emily and Erin were born from his marriage to Kimberley McNeil; they divorced in 1997. Neil married Leyla Gaytan Kawas in 2005. Born to them in Honduras were Grace, now 10 years old, and Evelyn, now 9. The family lives in Apex, North Carolina.
Neil greatly loved Leyla and his four children. Neil valued his employment, first as a Peace Corps volunteer in Zaire, and then 28 years of service with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). He really enjoyed how his work with USAID provided rich experiences for him and his children. He joined as an administrative officer for USAID in Washington in 1987. He was posted to Cairo, Egypt the following year. He served next in Nairobi, Kenya starting in 1991. Following in 1995, Neil was posted to Amman, Jordan, and then transferred to Washington in 1997. Neil was then posted to the recently liberated Kosovo in 1999, where he worked in Pristina until 2001. After a 2001 assignment in Kingston, Jamaica, Neil was posted in Tegucigalpa, Honduras between 2002 and 2007. He met Leyla in Honduras, where their two daughters were born. The family moved in 2007 to Tbilisi, Georgia where Neil also covered Azerbaijan. Between 2009 and 2013, Neil was posted in Cairo for a second time, and also covered USAID administrative matters in Lebanon and Yemen. His last overseas post was Maputo, Mozambique in 2014. He was medically evacuated from Maputo with symptoms that were later diagnosed in the U.S. as glioblastoma brain cancer.
Overseas, on postings and short-term visit, Neil enjoyed the languages he studied, including French, Swahili, Arabic, Spanish and Portuguese. In 2012, Neil was promoted to Senior Foreign Service Officer.
Neil was raised Protestant, but joined Leyla as a formal member of the Roman Catholic Church in 2015.*