Mildred “Fay” was born November 19, 1930 in Biloxi, Mississippi to a rich girl from New England and a poor Presbyterian minister from Iowa.
Fay was the youngest of 10 children, with some of her siblings already married and out of the house by the time she came along. Her father, Daniel Martin, died when Mom was 12 years old and her mother, Christine took a job running the cafeteria at the local high school in Lakeland, Florida, which is where Mom spent most of her growing-up years. The only thing Grandmother couldn’t do was drive a car, and that’s where Mom stepped in. At 12 years old, Mom got her Hardship Driver’s License and she has loved traveling ever since.
Despite hard times and poverty, Mom’s family pulled together and flourished.
Mom attended Austin College in Sherman, Texas, graduated with a teaching degree and moved to Houston, Texas to teach elementary school.
She had the reputation at her school for being a hard teacher. She would teach you whether you liked it or not, and her students came to appreciate (after they graduated out of her class) that they had learned more from Mrs. Kemper than all the other teachers combined and they were proud of what they had accomplished because she had pushed them.
Here she met my Dad, Tom Kemper. He was a handsome young lawyer, working with his dad and brother in their own law firm in downtown Houston. Mom thought, hmmm…this looks good. Dad looked at Mom and noted that she was gorgeous (which she was- she was on Florida beach postcards, “Wishing You Were Here”) and thought, hmmm…this looks good. So they got married and raised four kids: Becky Kay, Tom Jr., Lois, and Charles. But then after 25 years of marriage, they decided things weren’t as good as they had looked, so they divorced.
Mom was able to retire early from teaching and moved to a little town outside of Houston to pursue her love of gardening and enjoy the rural life. She joined the local chorale (she had a beautiful soprano voice) and the Democratic Party (which really rankled her John Birch Society sister) and the Red Hat Society (which allowed her to finally enjoy pure silliness).
But the road was always calling to her and she would travel, either by herself in her VW camper or with family and friends, to places far and wide. I think she drove to and camped in every state in the Union except Hawaii and she visited Europe several times as well.
Mom began to show signs of memory loss almost 20 years ago and over the past 5 years, her memory slipped away to the point where she could not remember how to walk or talk or ultimately, how to eat. She passed peacefully – just went to sleep and then forgot to breathe.
She had been living for the past 6 years at the Scotland County Care Center and I thank the staff from the bottom of my heart for taking such good care of her and being her friends. Also, many thanks to Dr. Davis and Stephanie Henley-Pippert for their respectful, loving medical care for Mom.
Being forever the pragmatic, Mom has donated her body to the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine. When they return her ashes to me and once the COVID is under control, we will travel back to a beach in Galveston, Texas where we spent happy days soaking up the sun and splashing in the surf.
I am sure that Mom is not sitting around waiting for me or her ashes to get moving. I imagine she is already on the road again. Happy Trails to you, Mom and thanks for everything! We love you and miss you!
Your loving daughter,
In lieu of memorial flowers, please donate to whatever cause you deem worthy. She particularly liked animal rights and wild places.