Even in retirement, David Kemp swings a hammer for others in need

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Sunday, March 25, 2012
— David Kemp worked his way up from swinging a hammer to managing construction projects for Janesville's J.P. Cullen & Sons. Now retired, he hasn't stopped working or inspiring others with skillful leadership.

Rich Cullen, vice president of field operations, spent most of his career working for Kemp and counts him as a friend.

"There was nobody like him. A patient man, very good craftsman and a very good contractor all around. I would put him up against anybody in this country, as far as his abilities to superintend a project and bring it in on time, under budget and safely," Cullen said.

Kemp said he had been a Christmas-and-Easter Christian for years. He and his wife, Karen, returned in earnest to the church in 2004.

Why the change? No traumatic event, he said. It's just something that often happens when you reach a certain age and start thinking about life and death.

It was through Cargill United Methodist Church that Kemp first traveled to Louisiana in 2007.

He organized and led groups of eight to 12 volunteers in each of the succeeding years to rebuild homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina in the New Orleans area.

"As a Christian, I feel I am called to serve others and help when I can," Kemp said. "Since I retired, I feel I have the time; I have the tools, and I enjoy it. I've always liked being productive and working with other people."

The latest trip was to rebuild the gutted interior of a home in Slidell, La. The owner, a nurse named Sharon, helped out when she could. She told the builders that she had descended into depression since the flood.

"She said we were a gift from God because the volunteers really brought her out of the depression," Kemp said.

As is usually the case, Kemp said, volunteers get more out of their efforts than the people they help.

Kemp said he also gets much from his church, where he is a trustee and is involved in two Bible study groups.

Kemp's knowledge and initiative have also helped close to home. He is overseeing a $1.7 million renovation of his church, and he has organized groups to re-roof a needy church member's house and help others move.

"He has just been remarkable giving in many ways and skilled at what he does," said Cargill's senior pastor, Forrest Wells.

When the Janesville Fire Department had to figure out how to display a beam from the Twin Towers in Firehouse Park last year, Lt. Dave Sheen thought of his friend and fellow Cargill member.

Kemp took the reins, recruiting an architect friend from Detroit to design it.

"He's a wonderful man. I'm lucky to know him and happy to call him a friend," Sheen said.

Last updated: 7:53 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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