Cover photo for James Jerrold Kempa's Obituary
James Jerrold Kempa Profile Photo
1942 James 2022

James Jerrold Kempa

May 10, 1942 — January 8, 2022

Jim Kempa left this earth on January 8, 2022, with his beloved wife Karen by his side, and knowing his sons Jeff and Josh were in flight from their homes in Berlin, Germany and Portland, Oregon. He taught them from a young age the importance of travel, adventure, independence, and living life on your own terms. He led by example.

God thankfully broke the mold on May 10, 1942 when Jim was born in Buffalo, New York. There he started, and continued to raise hell until joining the Navy as a way to see the world. Life has been a whirlwind adventure ever since.

He met the love of his life, Karen, at the Holiday Valley bar, apres-ski in 1968, where Jim hoodwinked her into thinking he was a charming individual with decorum. Boy, was she ever wrong!

Family and friends were very important to Jim, and his long career at American Airlines afforded the family an opportunity to move around the USA: to Texas, Washington, Colorado and North Carolina. However, his favorite of all was “The Great Northwest.”

In recent years he and Karen developed a love for cruising the high seas to experience even more new places. His curiosity for life, meeting new people and learning new things never waned. He ultimately visited well over 80 countries, where dear friends were made along the way with shenanigans, memories, and relationships that lasted a lifetime.

Growing up in Jim’s household was never dull. He was a fierce and loyal Buffalo Bills fan, despite living in a very divided household! Jim supported and encouraged his boys in all their endeavors (even if it meant NOT being a Bills fan) sharing his passion for travel, camping, hiking, fishing and hunting, all of which they frequently did together. He never stopped reminding them how proud he was of them and how very much they were loved. He also imparted his interesting and colorful way of pronouncing everyday words, elevating the mundane to head scratching hilarity.

The family is asking to remember him fondly and, if you must make a donation, you can make one online at Saint Jude’s ( or Shriner’s Children’s Hospital ( In all honesty, what would have made him the happiest is for you to go have a beer with a friend and "BS" about his antics or play a harmless prank on some unsuspecting sap. He despised formality and stuffiness and would really be ticked off if he would have been responsible for you showing up to anything in a suit—even for his own memorial!

Everybody has a Jim story and we'd love to hear them all. Jim faced his death and his mortality, as he did with his life: face on. He never took for granted the friends, adventures and experiences he had. It was a life well-lived. To “The Great Jimsy,” may your newest adventure be as spectacular as the one you had here with all of us. Cheers to that.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of James Jerrold Kempa, please visit our flower store.


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