Those we hold most dear never truly leave us…They live on in the kindness they showed, the comfort they shared and the love they brought into our lives.
Bill Kemble, a native Californian moved to Fresno with his mother and siblings at 8 years old after his father’s death.
During WWII he served on the US Navy fleet oiler USS Ashtabula as a radar man. Carrying fuel oil and high octane aviation gasoline, they were attacked by 3 Japanese torpedo planes during the battle of Leyte Gulch. The center tank was hit, which was, thankfully for all on board, empty. The other 2 tanks were full.
He married his “Terry” (Theresa Pereira) while completing his engineering degree at Fresno State then spent the rest of his years working in the water pumping industry in and around Corcoran where he was co-owner of Kemble Hydrotech with his son Richard. He also was co-owner of Schaefer Pumps and Motors in Hanford for several years.
He always said most people work to do what they love, I get to work at what I love. I am blessed.
Bill was involved in several organizations for several decades, including VFW, Lions Club, Knights of Columbus, and the Christmas Tree Committee to name a few. Bill also played an active role in Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church. He was honored as Kings County Homecoming Parade Grand Marshal 2001, shared King and Queen status with his wife in that same parade 2009, Corcoran’s Man of the Year in 1993, had the Lions Club building named after him, and a recent Corcoran Christmas Tree dedicated to him after 60 years of wearing the red and white suit.
He was MC for many of the St Patricks Day dinners, hosted “roasts”, and mentored high school students. Jokes? He had a briefcase full of them.
As an avid SF Giants fan he loved to go to the games even when they lost. He also loved to pilot small planes, take photographs, supply and perform magic tricks with the local cub scouts, was official timer in Fresno county marathons, and judged cow pie derbies and spitting contests.
Given his first harmonica at 5 years old, he often had a harmonica close to him, loving to play Danny Boy, Stardust, or Darktown Strutters Ball among other tunes. Sometimes he would break out his mouth harp while in line at the grocery store or when there was a lull in the Corcoran Cotton Parade he was announcing. He had a captive audience.
He had a huge appetite for reading preferring first person singular WWII books, becoming quite the historian and obtaining a library of those documents. After he became legally blind he found the Kindle’s large font perfect for burning through a multitude of terrific mystery novels.
The following is an excerpt from one of the notes he received when put on Hospice. You have stood tall and provided an illuminating beam of wisdom, good satire, and most of all, a guiding friendship. He was loved and will be missed.
He passed on from this world in Hanford on New Year’s morning. He had lived 90 wonderful years. He is pre-deceased by his wife of 62 years, Theresa, his brother Robert, and his grandson Samuel. He is survived by his sister Mary Lee Zander (Philip) of Bakersfield, daughter Marjorie “Midge” (John) of Los Osos, sons Kenneth (Lyn), and Richard of Corcoran, and the pride of his life, his granddaughters Camille and Jasmine of Colorado Springs, CO. He also will be missed by his numerous loving nieces, nephews, brother and sister-in-laws and great nieces and nephews.
His funeral mass was held at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church at 2 p.m. Wednesday. Jan. 6, 2016. In lieu of flowers please consider donating to the Veterans of Foreign Wars.