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Pamela Kempe (1926-2022): dedicated and unassuming volunteer worker

Pamela Kempe (Photograph supplied)

A charitable driving force who preferred working behind the scenes was the inspiration behind a major Warwick Academy fundraiser that ran more than 50 years.

Pamela Kempe, who came to Bermuda from the United States in 1949 to open a new nursery school, was recalled by her daughter Kathy Watson as civic-minded and keen to give back.

Ms Kempe was also so unassuming that after decades of throwing her energy polishing silver and brassware for the Bermuda National Trust, she kept quiet about getting an award from the charity.

“She didn’t like attention,” Ms Watson said. “She didn’t tell us about it — we only found out subsequently.”

Whether volunteering for the Hospitals Auxiliary as a Pink Lady or devoting time to the Garden Club of Bermuda, Ms Kempe was “a worker bee who gave a lot of her time to the community”, her daughter said.

Born in New Jersey and brought up in Rowayton, Connecticut, Ms Kempe was “a very adventurous spirit”.

At the close of the Second World War, she threw in with friends on a trip to board a warship to war-torn France where they helped to build hostels, bringing packages of sugar with them to pay for accommodation.

After meeting and befriending a Bermudian in Connecticut, Jane Trimingham, Ms Kempe moved to Bermuda “sight unseen” in 1949 to open and teach at a new nursery school.

She had taught preschool in her home state, having trained at Bennett College in Millbrook, New York.

Ms Watson said the Bermuda school began in the building known as the Lady Asser Hut on the Bermuda High School property, and later became the Strawberry Hill Nursery School.

Shortly after arriving in Bermuda, Ms Kempe — née Howe — met Wilbur “Winky” Kempe at a dance at Elbow Beach, and the two soon married in Connecticut in early 1950.

Mr Kempe went on to found Bermuda Forwarders Limited.

The couple had four children — Kathy, Toby, Hal and Lela — whom they put through Warwick Academy.

Ms Kempe and Ms Trimingham founded the Warwick Clothing Mart school fundraiser in 1956, based on a second-hand clothes market concept from back in Connecticut.

A Garden Club plaque enjoyed a place of pride at her garden at “Kempdon” on Harbour Road, Warwick.

Her husband, who built Bermuda Forwarders into a major freight company, devoted his time to yachting after retirement. He died in 1997.

Ms Kempe was “game for anything” into her later years, from cross-country skiing at age 79 to go-karting in France at 86, her daughter said.

Self-sufficient and independent, she enjoyed mowing the fields on her tractor at her house in the Litchfield Hills back in Connecticut.

Ms Watson said: “She loved her family — she was always warm, with a sparkle and smile.

“She was very calm and even-tempered. We have had so many letter and messages about how gracious and welcoming she was.”

· Pamela Howe Kempe, a teacher and devoted volunteer, was born on January 4, 1926. She died on May 13, 2022, aged 96.

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Published June 01, 2022 at 7:57 am (Updated June 01, 2022 at 7:50 am)

Pamela Kempe (1926-2022): dedicated and unassuming volunteer worker

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