Spirit of St. Louis – Pick Your Charity, Pick Your Car

Local, state dignitaries attend funeral of St. Louis fire captain

ST. LOUIS – Family, friends, fellow firefighters, and government leaders said goodbye to a fallen St. Louis City firefighter. Captain John Kemper died last week as a result of injuries suffered in a July 5 fire. He was 59.

Kemper’s widow, Terry, led the procession as firefighters escorted Kemper’s casket into an auditorium at Harris Stowe State University.

“For 160 years, men of John’s caliber have protected the people of Missouri,” said Governor Eric Greitens.

Inside, political leaders saluted Captain Kemper’s dutiful commitment to the city.

“Twenty-four years as a member of the St. Louis Fire Department and right to the end of his life, John Kemper quietly touched every neighborhood in the city,” said Mayor Lyda Krewson.

There was applause from those gathered when Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed presented a special proclamation in Kemper’s honor.

We learned more of his personal life from people closest to him. Kemper’s sister told how Captain Kemper was one of a dozen children, that his brothers and sisters were divided when they were young and entered foster care. People talked about Kemper’s love of cars, especially Buicks, his carpentry skills, his storytelling, and his love for family.

John’s sister, Linda Stapleton, read a letter to him from his daughter.

“Throughout everything, my daddy taught me. He didn’t teach me one thing: how to live without him,” she said. “I couldn’t ask for a better father or grandfather for my boys. He means everything to us.”

The fire chief and deputy chief remembered their comrade. The military presented his widow with an American flag. And firefighters gave the family items like his helmet and badge.

“He dedicated his life, he committed his career, to the service of humanity,” said Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson.

There was a 21-gun salute and the playing of taps. Then Captain John Kemper was carried to his final resting place, always to be remembered in the hearts and minds of those whose lives he touched.​