Edward A. Kemper, 71, a prominent Toledo attorney who was one of the founders of the popular German American Festival, died of cancer Sunday in the Heatherdowns Convalescent Center.
Mr. Kemper was described as an inspiration and a good friend who overcame cerebral palsy to become valedictorian of his 1949 class at Whitmer High School, graduate from the Toledo College of Law in 1956, and become a district president of the National Exchange Club.
“His story is that you can overcome any handicap,” said Jeanne Kemper, his wife of 30 years.
“He was told that he would never practice law but he did. Once you met Eddie, you would never forget him. He turned his handicap into an asset.”
Mrs. Kemper said her husband's love for the legal profession led to his involvement in many activities within the Toledo Bar Association. Mr. Kemper was part of the association's grievance committee for 12 years. He was a member of the bar's membership, ethics, and advisory committees.
Earlier this month, the bar awarded Mr. Kemper its Distinguished Toledo Lawyer award.
Mr. Kemper was active in the Trilby Exchange Club, serving as vice president and president.
He was National Exchange Club district president in 1977, a post that encompassed more than 70 local exchange clubs in Ohio and West Virginia.
“He was involved with the Exchange Club for 38 years,” Mrs. Kemper said. “He would go to different clubs and give speeches when he was district president. He really enjoyed the work the club was doing.”
George Sarantou, a Toledo financial planner, said he remembers seeing Mr. Kemper in action during his first job as a bailiff in Sylvania Municipal Court. Mr. Sarantou said when he was involved in starting the Westgate Exchange Club, Mr. Kemper provided constant support.
“I remember being absolutely astounded about what an excellent attorney he was,” Mr. Sarantou said. “Later, I was working at the Bureau for Vocational Rehabilitation and Mr. Kemper was a real inspiration to the people there. He was truly outstanding.”
Mr. Kemper was one of the founders of the German-American Festival, held annually just north of downtown Toledo. He provided legal counsel for the organization.
“He was a great guy to work with,” said Pete Petersen, one of the festival organizers. “You can't say enough about him.
“He grabbed life by the neck and lived it to its fullest. We never felt sorry for him, and he never felt sorry for himself. To us, he was just Eddie.”
Mr. Kemper spent a significant amount of time working with United Cerebral Palsy of Ohio. Mrs. Kemper said he would travel to Columbus every month for meetings. He was a trustee and regional vice president.
He was on the Ohio Development Disabilities Planning Council and a subcommittee for child development.
“He was someone who served his profession and constantly gave back to his community,” Mr. Sarantou said. “He really did make a difference.”
Mr. Kemper was an attorney in the Toledo area for 31 years. He was a member of the Fort Industry Lodge No. 144 F&AM, Scottish Rite Valley of Toledo, and the Zenobia Shrine.
“He was just a jewel of a person,” Mrs. Kemper said. “He was kind, patient, and understanding. He was a good husband and a good stepfather and stepgrandfather.”
Mr. Kemper is survived by his wife Jeanne; stepchildren Jane Hansen, Kim Birsen, and Kevin VanNest; and seven grandchildren.
Visitation will be from 2 to 5 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. today at Bersticker-Scott Funeral Home, 3453 Heatherdowns Blvd. Services will be at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow at the funeral home. The family suggests tributes to the Toledo Bar Association Pro Bono, National Exchange Club for the Prevention of Child Abuse, or Visiting Nurse Hospice.