KEMP WILSON: A LIFE WELL SPENT

I’ve pretty much been MIA since my Dad’s funeral a few weeks ago. I’ve slowly been catching up with life and sleep. I did feel compelled to post the blog below this one since it was near the Pennsylvania primary. One of the things my Dad and I were very passionate about over the past year is Barack Obama and his run for President. So, in honor of my Dad and the country, I’m continuing to work hard to support Senator Obama’s nomination and place as our next President (I hope you Montanans reading this will vote for Obama in the upcoming primary! My father was an excellent judge of character and he saw the qualities possessed by Obama as those of someone who can make a significant difference and change in the current machine politics of Washington and perception of the U.S. to the world.)

My Dad’s wake and funeral were beautiful! Many friends and family from throughout his life attended and shared their stories. As I’ve said many times, my father was a kind, generous, and brilliant man. He was also determined to always better himself and provide support and guidance for those around him.

Eulogies at the funeral were delivered by two of my Dad’s closest friends — Judge Tom Olsen, who he had known since high school; and Rich Bruner, who he knew for almost 20 years as part of his close circle of friends in Red Lodge. I loved hearing their stories from my Dad’s past.

Judge Olsen shared his memories of the time he spent with my Dad at Montana State University as undergraduates and at University of Montana as law students. He recalled their time together as football players for the Bobcats and as members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. At the end of my father’s freshman year, he received his grades and given his love for social acitivities that year, it was no surprise that he received C’s and D’s. When it came time to present his grades to his parents, who had helped to pay for his tuition, he couldn’t provide them with a good explanation for his low academic performance. Their response — “You can work for the railroad if you need funds for college.” My father took this seriously and spent the following three summers working as a gandy dancer for the Great Northern Railway.

Judge Olsen was a year ahead of my father in school and my father followed in his steps to the University of Montana to attend law school. At the end of my Dad’s first year, Judge Olsen was present when my father received his grades. He looked over my Dad’s shoulder as he read them and what he saw was (and during the eulogy he named each class) every grade was an “A” with honors. He then looked at the column next to the grade and every one of them had a check next to it, which indicated that my father had received the highest grade in the class. My father graduated from law school at the top of his class, which is the reason he was awarded his position as a clerk to Judge James R. Browning of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. Judge Olsen then conveyed at the funeral that while the vaults of the University of Montana’s Law School are highly secret, it is still believed to this day that my father received some of the highest grades ever given. My eyes (and many others) welled up with tears because I never knew any of this. My father was a man of great humility and never felt the need to show off his accomplishments.

Judge Olsen then went on to recall how my Dad responded to the news in the mid-seventies that he had high blood pressure (my grandfather died at the age of 52 of a heart attack). As Judge Olsen noted, most people would change their diet a bit and start doing some exercise at the local YMCA. Not my father. He started running…12 miles a day. And then he started training for marathons. My parents also became health nuts with regards to our diet and we went from my mother’s gourmet cooking and lots of wonderful fatty baked goods to homemade granola, homemade spinach pasta with homemade soy cheese sauce, and whole wheat flour cookies that seemed like they weighed a pound each. My father ended up running 6 marathons before his knees gave out in the early eighties and he had to have both replaced. But that didn’t stop him. He started biking…20 miles a day — to begin with. In the mid eighties my Dad and my Uncle Gary biked from Vancouver B.C. to Mexico in 16 days, averaging 100 miles a day, with 150 miles in one day at their peak (my memory was that this was a month long trip, but while my Dad wasn’t one to boast, he did love accuracy, and he corrected me on his last visit). My father was also an avid cross-country skiier, mountain climber, fisherman, and hunter (not for sport — for food — and he’d skin, gut, clean, and prepare every animal he killed) up to his final year.

Following Judge Olsen’s tribute at the funeral, Rich Bruner took the podium. I was both touched and felt a kinship with Rich by his need to bring out a huge handful of tissues. I had cried so intensely the night before at the wake that Rich shared that he was nervous about his eulogy the next day at the funeral. His homage to my Dad was beautiful and so heartfelt. He shared how he was there when my father received his diagnosis and my Dad actually had to calm the doctors down and let them know that it was okay. He also shared a story about my Dad that I’d never heard. Reflecting on my father’s kindness and the fact that my Dad didn’t expound much on his nature of being so good-hearted, Rich pushed him further and asked my father if there was ever an instance he could recall in which he had been completely selfless. My Dad sort of tossed it off, but then said well, yes, there was one time. He was driving home from work in Billings and saw an elderly woman with a bag of groceries who had slipped and fallen. He drove by, but realized he couldn’t not stop to help. So he did. He made sure she was okay and then gathered up her groceries and walked her home. She invited him in for tea. He followed. She asked him what she could do to repay him. His response was: “My daughter Megan is having a hard time right now, could you please pray for her.” Rich continued with his observation that it was so in the spirit of my father to ask someone for their help to pray for someone else as a way of helping him. Of course, this also hit me deeply since he was asking for prayers to help me.

I love you Dad… and that’s all I’ve got.


My Dad and his grandfather Harry Kemp.


Dad


Dad


Dad


Dad with his mother Jean and brother Sande


Dad on the far top left, his brother Sande on the far top right with cousins


Dad


Dad and his father Jeff Wilson


Sande, Kemp (dad), Jeff, and Gary Wilson


Dad — Red Devils football team


Dad — #86, Red Devils football team


Dad


Dad and Mom’s wedding — Gary Beisswenger (close friend), Sande Wilson, Dad, Reverend, Beverly (my mom’s twin), Gary Wilson, and Mom at desk.


My grandfather & grandmother Templeton, Mom & Dad, and grandmother & grandfather Wilson


Mom & Dad


Mom & Dad’s wedding reception


Dad’s father, Jeff, Dad, Dad’s mother, Jean


brother Gary, Father Jeff, brother Sande, and Dad


Dad, brother Gary, and brother Sande


Dad and Dougal


Dougal


Dad and me


Dad, my brother Brad, and me


Dad, my brother Stewart (in arms), my brother Brad, and me


MyAunt Emily, Dad, My Aunt Gail, and my Uncle Sande


Me, Dad, and my cousin Trevor


My Uncle Gary, Dad, and my Uncle Sande


Dad


Dad


Dad and Linda


Dad


Dad and Linda’s wedding — my brother Brad in front


Dad and Linda at their wedding


Dad and his mother Jean


Me, my brother Stewart, my brother Brad, and Dad


Dad, my brother Stewart, brother Brad, stepsister Heidi, and me


Me and Dad at high school graduation

DOUBLE BILL

The more things change … the more they stay the same. This past week Hillary Clinton continued to exude her desperation in the primary campaign by grabbing at whatever tiny threads of insignificance she can in her attempts to unravel Obama’s character.

I’m referring here to her remarks on Senator Obama’s comments about Americans being “bitter” and turning to close held traditions such as their faith when life seems out of control. Again, I was impressed by Obama’s ability to stand by his words, yet admit that he could have communicated his point better. And his statement was right on the mark. I think it’s clear that Americans are embittered by the current state of the economy, the health care system, the war in Iraq, the perception of America by others around the globe, the environmental crisis etc. etc. etc. However, rather than acknowleding this truth, Clinton chose to continue with her grade school antics of playing bully.

It also seemed like a reckless move for Clinton to bring up her 8 years in the White House as wife to the president as a demonstration of her experience and ability to lead the country. Really –

DOES CELEBRITY, LEGACY, NAME RECOGNITION = EXPERIENCE?

AND LET’S NOT FORGET …


Dad’s brother Sande, Dad, and his brother Gary at Montana Pride in the seventies
(JUST KIDDING!)


My Dad’s always perfect … and timeless sense of fashion!!!

KEMP JEFF WILSON 1939 – 2008

It’s been a wonderful, yet challenging year! My Father was diganosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer a year ago. Over the past year our family has spent a great deal of time together, celebrating our happiest moments and acknowledging the difficult times. For me it’s been an amazing experience and I’ve had the opportunity to spend quality time with my Dad laughing, crying and just being together. On April 5th in the early morning, my Dad died. It was very sad and painful, yet I feel such a strong sense of relief that he’s out of pain and moved on to his next life. I had a dream that night prior to his death that we were together and I was telling him about different struggles that I was experiencing and his response was “Meg, just laugh.” And that was who my father was (and is) — a very supportive, loving spirit who had the gift and ability to laugh when things became difficult. He was always wise and knew when to laugh and use humor to help people put things into perspective.

When I was a senior in high school, I had to write an essay in my government studies class on the person I admired the most. I chose my dad. I wish that I still had the essay, but I’m sure that many of the things that I admired about him then, are what I admire about him now. My Dad was a man of great integrity and true loving kindness. I remember as a child time when we’d be out somewhere and someone would act pissy. I’d comment on this, and my father would say “Meg, you never know what’s going on in someone elses life and it’s always better to be kind.”

My father loved knowlege and history and was always reading to learn more. He made a career as an oil and gas attorney, but when I asked him on his last visit if he were to do it over again, would he have gone into law — he said “no,” he would have been a journalist — as he was as an undergrad at Montana State University. One of the things that I’ll miss about my father’s absence is that he was always the person I could call on for information — if I had a political or historical question, he was always well read and versed on the subject.

My father was also very committed to family and family history. He’s the one who has inspired my interest in this as well, I have become the family archiver and have taken the role with great love and commitment. My father and I often spoke about collaborating on a book about our family history — since it is such an interesting one — and I hope to fulfill this project with my father’s guidance.

I love you Dad.


Dad with his dad, Jeff Wilson 1939


Dad with his grandmother Ana Wilson, 1940


Dad with his dad, Jeff Wilson, 1940


Dad with his dad, mother and little brother Sande, 1942


Dad with his grandfather, Jack Wilson, 1941


Dad with his grandfather, Harry Kemp, 1940


Dad and his brother Sande, 1944


Dad with his brother Sande and grandfather, Jack Wilson, 1944


Dad with his brother Sande and grandfather, Jack Wilson, 1949


Dad with his brothers Sande and Gary, 1950


Dad, 1957

2008 OLYMPICS IN BEIJING


Hundreds of thousands of Chinese in Beijing have been left homeless due to the destruction that has been launched in preparation for the 2008 Olympics. While images of Chinese wandering the streets of Beijing, sobbing amidst the debris they once called “home” are being viewed on televisions throughout the world, the bulldozers continue with the demolition sanctioned by the Chinese government and millions continue to make plans to attend the 2 week event. The price that is being paid by so many families in Beijing is for a government that cares more about its global image and lining the pockets of an elite few, rather than the majority of its people.