Chris Kestyn had a knack for making his presence known, in a manner maybe irritating to some at first, as explained by friends, then later becoming part of an enjoyable exchange as their acquaintance grew.
“Sometimes he could be the most irritating guy in the world, but you also knew Chris was a great person,” said Kenny Farmer, a longtime friend and colleague of Kestyn’s.
Other friends and colleagues are remembering Kestyn fondly. The longtime assistant girls basketball coach at Oakton High School and former summertime American Legion basketball manager died in his sleep Dec. 19. He was 53.
Kestyn coached under current Oakton girls coach Fred Priester for 28 years, the last 27 at Oakton. Priester explained that Kestyn had been doing well since having heart surgery more than a year ago.
“I had just talked to him Tuesday [Dec. 15],” Priester said. “Chris was one of the most loyal people I have ever met. He was always looking out and taking care of me because he cared. Chris always wanted to be part of our program.”
Kestyn also managed the summertime Centreville Post 1995 American Legion baseball team to significant success during a stretch. His teams won five District 17 championships from 1998 to 2004. The roles were reversed when Priester sometimes was a Post 1995 assistant under Kestyn.
“We have so many stories,” Priester said.
He told one of a halftime incident long ago when Priester was upset and threw down a weight. Kestyn always wanted halftimes held in weight rooms after that.”
Kestyn was a current physical education teacher at Liberty Middle School in Clifton. The Fairfax County native was a member of one of the last graduating classes of old Groveton High School in the Alexandria area of Fairfax County, where he was a baseball player.
Before joining Priester’s staff, Kestyn was an assistant girls high-school basketball coach of another team when Chrissy Kelly played for that squad. She became a standout point guard, going on to play in college. Kelly is the current head girls coach at Osbourn Park High School.
She credited Kestyn for a pivotal turning point in her career.
“I’ll never forget my sophomore year,” Kelly said. “I was a hot head and lost composure one day. He [Kestyn] pulled me aside and told me the importance of composure and not allowing my emotions to get the best of me. In order to be successful at this game – especially as a point guard – you have to be able to do your job without losing my cool. That was a very important moment in my career. It’s heartbreaking what happened. Chris was a good guy.”
Current American Legion Springfield Post 176 baseball manager Al Vaxmonsky and his team were big rivals of Kestyn’s Post 1995 squad.
“This is a tragic loss,” Vaxmonsky said. “Chris was a fabulous coach, he had a lot of energy and got results. He had a superb knowledge of the game and he could super motivate young players. I loved to go against his teams because they were well prepared. We had some good battles.”
Farmer knew Kestyn for years, first coaching him in youth baseball. Later, Kestyn was an assistant coach under Farmer in high-school girls basketball and baseball.
“Chris was such a multi-task person and picked up on things fast,” Farmer said. “You would give him a task and you could count on him to get it done.”
Farmer explained that some might have considered Kestyn’s sometimes no-holds-bar personality and comments irritating, at least until you got to know him.
“He was such a great person. We stayed close,” Farmer said.
On Dec. 22, Liberty Middle School principal Adam Erbrecht facilitated a session for the school’s staff to share memories of the impact Kestyn had on their lives. He said 72 former and current staff members joined a Google meeting to honor their colleague.
“The Liberty Middle School family is shocked and saddened,” Erbrecht said. “Mr. Kestyn leaves a legacy of love and learning that will not be forgotten. Coach Kestyn’s big persona and stature were dwarfed by his big heart. He had a unique gift for being both tough and vulnerable, funny and sincere, hard working and easy going all at the same time. He helped open Liberty at its founding in 2002, then contributed to shaping its culture.”
Kestyn is survived by his wife, April, and sons Bobby and Johnny.