The world lost an amazing man on Oct. 8.
In nearly everything he did, John Kimpel put the ‘great’ in Greatest Generation. Where he was concerned, that label held no hyperbole.
He was always Uncle John to me, although we weren’t related. He was my next-door neighbor growing up, and for those 18 years in Overland Park, it was like having the best mix of all my grandparents right next door. I am who I am today in no small part because of his influence and his example. I loved him dearly.
He would have been 97 in a few week’s time. And while his death was neither sudden nor completely unexpected, it has hit me harder than I expected. So, to process his passing, I decided to design and then digitally paint a tribute to his life.
- John grew up on a dairy farm in Fairway, KS, just a short trip down Johnson Drive from my old high school. There wasn’t anything John couldn’t fix, build or grow, as represented by the tools.
- The school bus was one of his first jobs and how he met the love of his life. After the war, he repaired and occasionally drove busses for the Shawnee Mission School District. It was here he met his future bride, Theodosia (Aunt Ted to me), who worked as the principle’s secretary at Shawnee Mission North. They had been married for 41 years when she passed away in 1993.
- John served in the U.S. Army starting in August 1944. In March of 1945 near the German border with Luxembourg, he was severely wounded by a Nazi mortar. He carried the scars and some shrapnel that they could never fully remove from his back for the rest of his life.
- His career was building hand-made golf clubs for Kansas City club manufacturer Kenneth Smith. He carved the heads for persimmon woods and helped design and build the machines that made the irons.
- When he retired, he spent 25 years volunteering for the Johnson County Christmas Bureau. He hauled donated food and gifts for kids in his green pickup truck, making it essentially a 6-cylinder Santa’s sleigh for several months of each year. He also built toys, like the doll’s cradle shown here. He hand made dozens and dozens of these for multiple years well into his late eighties.