My Tribute to Dad
Updated: May 5
Pastor John Wesley Kemper went to be with the Lord on Tuesday, April 20, 2021 in Longmont, Colorado at the age of 90. He was preceded by his parents: Harry Bruce and Helen (Ritchie) Kemper; siblings: Harry Bruce, Jr.; Robert Franklin; Eulalia Irene (Kemper) French; Dorothy Lee; Willard James and Helen Marie (Kemper) Runion; his first wife of 40 years, Virginia (James) Kemper; their daughter, Virginia Anne (Kemper) Robey-Graham; their nephew, Greg Daryl Gruenwald; three cousins, Virginia (Kemper) Hartman, Frances (Ritchie) Holmbraker, and Bob Ritchie; three sisters-in-law: Ardis (Dean) Kemper, Mettie Lee (James) Brown, Rebecca Sue (James) Gruenwald; and three brothers-in-law: Herman Thomas Payne, Charles Claude Brown, and Arthur Charles French.
He is survived by his wife of 26 years, Shirley (Aulino) Kemper; a sister, Lillie May (Kemper) Payne, “Sis”; children: Leonnie Sue (Robert) Moore; John Wesley II (Pauline) Kemper; and James Mark (Cheryl) Kemper; stepchildren: Stephen (BJ) Aulino; Todd and Michelle (Aulino) Foster; and Mike and Kim (Aulino) Baumbach; two sisters-in-law: Mildred Ann (Barber) Kemper and Joan Estelle (McCaskill) Kemper; two brothers-in-law: Jesse William James, Jr., Daryl Gruenwald and Paul Runion; one cousin: Virginia Ritchie. Also, fifteen grandchildren, twelve great-grandchildren, sixteen nieces, and nine nephews survive him.
John, the only one of eight children not born on the family farm near Purcellville, Virginia entered the world in the Leesburg Hospital on March 31, 1931. His parents, strict Methodists, named him for that denomination’s founder when his mother felt the Lord told her this baby would be a preacher. Her belief didn’t thrill John, a normal rough-and-tumble boy who with his brother, Robert, hid cuts, bleeding, and scars from their mother following more than one “sword” battle with farm implements.
He graduated from Loudoun County’s Lincoln High School in 1949. The next year he joined the U.S. Air Force, completing bootcamp in San Antonio, Texas with the goal of being a pilot; after which he served at Warren AF Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming and socialized at Colorado Teachers College dances in Greeley, Colorado where he met Virginia. On December 5, 1952, they eloped to Raton, New Mexico, and Loni was born a year later. After receiving an honorable discharge from Bergstrom AF Base in Austin, Texas in 1954, he worked as an electrician for two years in Virginia, where Anne was born in the same hospital he was. Continuing his electrical work, he built a log home in Brush, Colorado where Wes became the first boy in the family. In 1957, after John was saved during a revival meeting at Trinity Baptist Church in Brush, Colorado, he was called into the ministry, matriculated at Baptist Bible College in Denver and Mark soon joined the family. He first served as pastor for the youth at the First Baptist Church in Lafayette until he received his degree and was ordained in 1962. Then, he moved back to Virginia and started the Bible Baptist Church in Purcellville serving there for four years, enjoying gatherings at the family farm and family trips around the area. Returning to Lafayette as pastor of First Baptist Church, he earned his Master of Divinity degree from Denver Baptist Bible Theological Seminary in 1972.
As an adult, his battles drew less blood, but Dad competed fiercely whether debating fine distinctions of theology such as the 5 Points of Calvinism, or, well into his 60’s, pitching for the church’s championship softball teams. Though his dream of being a pilot was cut short by the Air Force’s colorblindness diagnosis, his wanderlust was fulfilled leading Holy Land tours; driving young people to church camps in several states; preaching and supporting other pastors and missionaries around the globe. He seldom missed a reunion or event with high school classmates, those with whom he served in the Air Force, college alumni or especially his family in Virginia.
After his first wife, Virginia, passed in 1993, he added Shirley and her family to his, and continued pastoring in Lafayette until 2010 when he retired to accept interim pastoral positions until his stroke in 2018.
It’s difficult to imagine the remainder of my life without Dad, but I know I’ll see him again and his prayers will follow me. He was a prayer warrior and everyone counted on him as a good Shepherd to his flock so much so that he had a telephone installed in each room in the parsonage to prevent missing someone who needed him. He guided many to the Lord while mentoring and supporting other pastors and missionaries. His passion for Christ was exhibited daily as he connected with people from all walks of life. He will be missed by all who knew him but leaves a heritage of faith, prayer, and encouragement.
Several special things I’ll always appreciate that Dad did for my family:
1.Performed our wedding.
2.Visited Adam and me in Penrose Hospital’s NICU soon after Adam was born.
3.Gifted me Mom’s spoon collection to display.
4.Spoke at two Denver Baptist Bible College reunions I coordinated.
5.Prayed at Adam’s baptism ceremony when the custodian forgot to heat the water.
6.Stood, saluted, and sang each word to the US Air Force anthem at an AFA graduation ceremony.
7.Attended a Wings Over the Rockies Museum Memorial Day ceremonial brick unveiling when Adam saved his money for a brick to honor his US Air Force grandfathers.
8.Attended Becca and Anthony Staats’ wedding.
9.Participated in Adam’s Eagle Scout program.
In lieu of flowers, please feel free to donate to the Pastor John Kemper Memorial Fund at the First Baptist Church of Lafayette, 200 West Cleveland Street, Lafayette, CO 80026.
Services were held Thursday, April 29th at First Baptist church of Lafayette beginning with Visitation at 10:00-11:00 am with the service following. John was be laid to rest beside his first wife, Virginia, at Lafayette Cemetery following the service. Pastor Brian Ricker of First Baptist Church of Lafayette officiated.