Marie Eloise Gomulkiewicz Kemper
Holding Court on Sacred Ground
My mom has been gone, but not too long. Today 4/21 is/was her birthday. She would have been 95 years
old. April 21, 1920-August 29, 2012. A good run. She was a party girl. There are things I can say that
could not be said in the eulogy for Marie Eloise (Gomulkiewicz) Kemper. Pop always said he could never
recognize the person that was in the casket that the preacher was talking about. It was if death erased all
sins from human memory. She was human, she had faults. Sometimes she was catty or down-right mean.
She taught me to always make sure the phone was hung up before she went on a rant. She would beg for
forgiveness. She had favorites. Who doesn't? The first dirty joke she ever heard not told in the eulogy:
Blind man walks by the fish store every morning. Same greeting every day, "Good morning girls!"
Some are lucky to escape such flaws. But she was a lover--she collected heart rocks and friends. She had
five children and we all turned out okay--perhaps just not the vision she wanted us to see. There were years
when I would call the family home and she would not say anything in greeting but, "I'll get your father." After
I was married to Marieke for a while, she became friendly. Marieke and I have no explanation for this
change in behavior towards me; but we enjoyed many years of greater love. She was human. All of her
flaws don't mean a thing.
What's in this eulogy does. It was hilarious to me that she would ask me to give her eulogy long
before she was dead.
About 10 years ago Mom asked me to give her eulogy but made me promise I wouldn’t
cry. I’ll try MOM.
I say to you what many of you have already experienced: We Kemper kids are both
motherless and fatherless children but we are not here to grieve
for ourselves. We are here to celebrate our Mother, our friend, such an extraordinary
woman who died at the age of 92. She passed from this world with little monetary worth
but the legacy of riches she left are here sitting right next to you. Many friends are
missing: our Dad, her sister Ann, brother Stan, Grandson Gabriel, Mart Klinger, Dee
Sullivan, members of the circle guild, Saint Joseph’s banner makers and so many that it
would fill this church to standing room only. But we the living are here-Sister Connie,
Brother Paul, nieces and nephews and many good friends.
Yes she died with few assets but she died the way she lived, the richest woman in the
world-the queen of hearts. A heart so big it could hold us all. She had a collection of
Heart rocks that she found on the beach or anywhere she went, but it could not fill a
Dump truck compared to the hearts she held in her soul.
My sisters Geni and Lisa, brothers Tom and Steve and their families and mine, I cannot
name you all, it would be longer than an Easter vigil service, but you know who you are,
look around again, see how she brought us all together to share her love.
How the prettiest girl at McCoy auto company chose our Father to go on a 65 year dance
of love sometimes baffles me -for they were fire and water. Maybe the cliché is true:
opposites attract, but no one could ever deny that our Dad loved her and cared for her
Pop and Mom
until his last breath. His final job was to find a safe home for her to live where she would
be lovingly taken care of, with some old friends Allah and Sergei Tokorov.
When she was settled in her new home, his last act of taking care of her, he said, “I am
tired,” and he left her and us. She would always say, “I miss Pop,” and look lovingly at
his picture: but it didn’t stop her from continuing to live large. She was taken care of by
an angel, Venice. She wasted no time in making friends with everyone in her new home,
including a little old lady, Phyllis-our Mom never ever considered herself old-well I guess
I am 92.
Later as Phyllis lay dying, Venice and Mom sat by her bedside, holding her hands and
praying because no one should die alone. She loved everyone and was strong in her faith.
She grew up in the hands of the Sister of Providence, back when they could still smack
the back of your hand with a ruler. Geni graduated high school from the same academy
and Tom had the starring role as the little Maestro in his kindergarten play there.
She worked in the shipyards and after the war went to work for McCoy Auto company.
There her virginal naiveté met our worldly wise Father, a handsome rake, wearing an
earring from his navy days. When they were out with friends and someone told an off
color joke, (I could tell you the first one she ever heard but that is at the reception if you
are interested) but my Dad would patiently explain the joke to her.
The courtship was guided by the old church, laws of mixed up, oops, I mean mixed
marriages. I can picture our Pop, a loose Protestant, who even confessed to me that he
had gone to a few holy roller tent revivals for fun. Saying anything to the Priest, signing
anything and agreeing to anything as long as he got that girl.
And then came us-5 children. Mom and Pop’s rhythm was great on the swing era dance
floor at Jantzen Beach-not so good in the bedroom, but all of us were wanted and loved.
Always she loved and supported our Dad. When we had little capital to begin the service
station, she even let him put her beloved piano up for collateral-a piano that Geni and Lisa
learned to play on and that now her Grandchildren make music on. She loved music. She
always had season tickets to BRAVO that she enjoyed with her good friend Joan.
Ah, the widow years of the service station when Pop would have to work 16 of 24 hours.
She would bring him lunch and dinner and make part runs. She did everything she could
so we could survive and the service station thrived.
She felt it was of the utmost importance to dress her children in their Sunday finest for
church, although having me wear my fine wool pants for baseball practice was a little
over the top. She had running accounts with Meier and Frank and Nordstroms. Several
times our Dad would become exasperated with the balances and he would demand she
hand over her cards and would make a show of cutting them up. But oh Mom had a little
naughty in her and as soon as things quieted down she would take one of us for a first
communion suit or confirmation dress- go to the billing office and say she lost her card.
She could not let her children want.
We lived in a little 3 bedroom house on 13th street next to the best friends, the Klingers, 3
boys in one room, 2 girls in the other. Trying to keep a small house tidy was no small
feat and when it was not and our rooms were messy she would go on the warpath,
Chasing us with a switch singing, “the war is on, the war is on,” and we would begin to
Laugh and join in the chant, the war is on, the war is on and then she would say, “wait
until your father comes home.”
Her capacity to adopt people as her own is testament. When Marieke so grieved for her
mother, Mom took her hand and said, “I will be your Mother now” and she did love her
as a daughter as she did Melanie. When Melanie’s mother died, feeling so lost, the only
place she wanted to be was at Mom’s dining room table, getting fussed over along with
Perhaps that is why she loved her baby Lisa, her favorite, although we were all her
favorite. I would always say to her, “you’re favorite son is here,” and she never denied it.
What could you say of hell
One would perhaps brimstone smell
The chimnea embers danced hot
Butter on the skillet gone forgot
Could it be as they say
A presence never to visit or stay
I know the beauty of today
Heaped up around us lay
Sad never to hear see joy
Being grandparents to a baby girl or boy
She loved her grandchildren and great grandchildren--not all pictured.
Lisa inherited that adoptive nature and gave her 7 beautiful grandchildren that she loved as
To all of her grandchildren she was GrandMarie, Yes she was grand, Grant, Tyson, Gabe,
Noel, Alisa, Nicole, Madeline, Joe, Rose, Lily, Joe, Grace, Clare, John and Anthony.
Remember making valentines and decorating cookies? The hand made Christmas tree
skirts and stockings? She loved children-let the little children come unto me.
When she was semi-comatose the last full day before she died, Alisa brought her youngest
Great granddaughter. She put the amazing Maisy close to her face and Maisy jibber
Jabbered and mom came awake like Lazarus. She opened her eyes, smiled, tried to
sit up and reach to hold the baby, though we had been with her for hours. During those
last lucid minutes I kissed her and she said, “ I love you.”
Her language was a language of love. Though she had forgotten her Polish, when
neighbor Miraslavs mother visited from Poland, they communicated as only
grandmothers do. When Terrie, who loved and helped keep our mother and father in
their home until it was no longer possible, brought her mother from Ethiopia to visit,
although they could not speak a word to each other, they communicated with hugs and
kisses as if they had know each other for years. No color, but the red hearts of love.
She was a party girl--taught our Dad when unannounced guests arrive to say, “ the more
the merrier.” Even though the last month of her life she would say to Geni on one of her
many sleep-overs, “Why doesn’t the Lord take me to be with Pop” Lisa added that the
night before our 27th annual festival, of which she had never missed one. Mom said, “I
can’t go to heaven until after the party.” Alas, she couldn’t come but she called 3 times
to see how the festivities were going. She never missed Annie’s St. Patties Day party
and Annie continued to be her friend bringing her communion and flowers.
Her cooking was legendary. Everyone knows about her German chocolate cake that went
for 1000 dollars at the St Joseph’s auction. She had the flourish of Julia Child when
cooking without the measuring. She would taste and add a dash of this, a handful of that,
and OOOH the spaghetti needs more fresh basil. Her mantra was butter, but I could
never figure out when the 5 of us were at home we only had margarine. She inspired
Steve to be the gourmet cook that he is.
Oh vanity thy name is Marie. Can you imagine what person has 70 scarves to choose
from and that was after the number had been pared down by 1/3 when they moved. She
was always a stylin lady, up on the latest fashions, pouring over Nordstrom and Nieman
Marcus catalogs. When she was in her late 80’s she found a $500, dusty rose purse at
Nordy’s and said, “Oh Gene I have to have it.” I might add his favorite saying “whatever
Marie” Our Father could never say no to the love of his life.
The last few years almost everyday she would be fixed up like she was going out and
when she did go out Venice or Allah would apply make up and jewelry and a spray of
perfume. Gerda would come and fix her hair and always bought flowers. On her 90th
birthday Gerda hired a limo and many of Mom’s friends were waiting inside-they did the
Can I mention all the people that touched her life, the Westgates for years of friendship,
Norann with all those shopping excursions that she loved best, Mary Natta for bravely
taking her to lunches even though mobility was a problem. Linda and Dell for bringing
their daughter and grandchildren as Mom held court in her wheelchair and as they left
Joan, Cathy and Fran, with Shaina and me circling around her, adoring fans in the
Sunshine of her last week. Can I mention you all-loving neighbors, always ready to lend a
hand, Mike Klinger honored to play his original composition for her here today, Joe
Kemper for the picture history of our Mom and the Mckeirnan kids for playing for their
Grandmother here and at her home for the other members pleasure.
Finally Mom must thank Melanie, who took her to all of her medical appointments, out for
lunches, was unflagging in her devotion to her mental and physical heath. And to Tom
who sacrificed and took her to church and worked hard so many years to manage the
Mom thanks all of you who shared her LOVE!!! .
Gin and I Ponder Death
The time has been well spent.
Did you want to repeat
What you said
Only a little
Was it worth saying at all or
Did you believe it was
A joke then but
Now it makes
There was someone else who believed
Not like a crowded church parking lot
Rows of Japanese maple clones are waiting
To be worshiped like emperor one
She said the words I have been thinking
For a long time maybe 90 years she said
What’s the matter with going to sleep?
We have no promises of smiling reuniting
Memories only that become the recorded word
Of every brain’s man-consciousness
Saying I have not crushed the hummingbird’s dreams
I have built compost and planted all colored maples
I am happy to go to sleep each night
As long as I was aware the day before
And the day before that
And if I was sleeping while it was light
If you are the person
Who must have a clear cut around your home
Then you have not committed to faith and love
You have risked nothing
You have lost even
Where will you spend your whordes
What will you get for it
The time is coming fast
Then it is over
As we have known it
The Omega prophecy is here
Not some ticker board bouncing speculator numbers
Happiness fat gardens friends
All will dwell in love and harmony