John Lee Kemph, an innovative leader whose expertise in information technologies left a lasting impact on various companies in Birmingham, died at his home in Vestavia Hills, Ala., on Oct. 6, 2013, after battling pancreatic cancer for more than a year. He was 65 years old.
Known as “Jack” by his family and friends, Mr. Kemph was born on Aug. 2, 1948, in Auburn, Ala., to John Wilson Kemph and Leola A. Taylor Kemph.
Described as “an upright, downright honest boy” by his classmates, Mr. Kemph was a member of the Boy Scouts of America and played trumpet in the Auburn High School jazz band.
After graduating high school in 1966, he attended Auburn University, where he was a member of the Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity. In 1970, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business and economics. That same year, Mr. Kemph moved to College Station, Texas, and successfully pursued his master’s degree in economics at Texas A&M University.
He returned to Alabama in the summer of 1972 to join the Alabama Department of Education in Montgomery as an economic analyst and “taught economics for fun,” as he used to say, at Troy State University as well.
While living in Montgomery, Mr. Kemph met the love of his life, Constance I. Crauswell. They married on Jan. 12, 1974, in Montgomery. Two years later, they moved to Birmingham so that Mrs. Kemph could attend medical school and joined Homewood Church of Christ, where the young couple helped launch the youth group program.
In 1976, Mr. Kemph was nationally recognized as one of the Outstanding Young Men of America for his professional achievements, service to others, and contributions to the community.
From 1976 until 1994, Mr. Kemph worked for the BellSouth Corporation Inc. as an economic analyst and manager of corporate budgets. After taking an early retirement to spend time with his wife and two children, Marie and David, Mr. Kemph launched Computer Business Applications Inc. with longtime friends Chris Robinson and Jim Thompson.
He was later recruited to join Colonial Properties Trust in 1998. For more than 15 years, Mr. Kemph managed and developed the information technology personnel and infrastructure at Colonial Properties. He retired in July 2012 from his positions as the senior vice president of technology services and chief information officer of Colonial Properties.
Although he excelled in the corporate world, Mr. Kemph was best known for his love of Jesus Christ and his humbleness.
Whether it was becoming a school bus driver for Hoover High School just to say, “I did that in life,” opening his home to numerous foreign exchange students from Gratz, Austria, or to teaching his children how to fish and how to build furniture, Mr. Kemph lived a passionate life that was never boring.
Mr. Kemph was also a member of the Mid Alabama Corvette Club for several years, and he thoroughly enjoyed reminiscing about the good ‘ole days when hot rods ruled the road.
From spending countless hours volunteering his time to helping fund several medical mission trips to South America and Eastern Europe, Mr. Kemph always remained devoted to spreading the word of Jesus Christ and teaching his children just how blessed they were to be Americans, living in the prosperous city of Vestavia Hills.
In 1998, Mr. Kemph helped found Crossbridge Church of Christ. For several weeks after its founding, services were conducted inside his home while the congregation made plans for its future. He remained actively involved with his Crossbridge family until the day that he died.
As many have noted over the years, Mr. Kemph epitomized the American Dream and what it meant to be a good husband, father, brother, son and friend. He will be forever missed.
Mr. Kemph is preceded in death by his father, John Kemph, and mother, Leola Kemph; his father-in-law, U.S. Air Force Chief Warrant Officer III Curby Steel Crauswell; and several aunts and uncles.
Mr. Kemph is survived by his wife of nearly 40 years, Dr. Connie Kemph; his daughter, Marie Burton, and her husband, Ryan Burton, of Murfreesboro, Tenn.; and his son, David Kemph, of Vestavia Hills.
He is also survived by his mother-in-law, Mary Grace Crauswell, of Montgomery; brother-in-law, Barry Crauswell, and his wife, Elaine, of Montevallo, Ala.; sister-in-law, Cindy Bourne, and her husband, Don, of Greystone in Birmingham; as well as a brother, Jeff D. Kemph, and his wife, Sally, of Atlanta, Ga.
The lifelong Auburn fan is also survived by a large extended family from Cordova, Ala., where each year more than 30 descendants of the Howell family gather for a Christmas celebration, which he lovingly dubbed the annual “Howell Hog-in.”
In addition, he is survived by his goddaughters, Savannah and Emmy Waldon, daughters of longtime friends Phillip and Christie Waldon, and countless other friends – many of whom he has known more than three decades.
A visitation will be held Thursday, Oct. 10, from 5 p.m. till 8 p.m. at Crossbridge Church of Christ, located at 3039 Brook Highland Parkway in Birmingham. A celebration of his life will follow at 11 a.m. Friday, Oct. 11, at the church.
A graveside service will follow the celebration of his life at 2 p.m. at Mount Carmel Cemetery in Cordova.
Dr. Garry Brantley, senior minister of Crossbridge, will officiate the services, with David Kemph, Ryan Burton, Barry Crauswell, Don Bourne, Phillip Waldon and Jim Thompson serving as pallbearers.
Online condolences may be made at www.ridoutsvalleychapel.com.
Ridout’s Valley Chapel
1800 Oxmoor Road
Homewood, Ala. 35209