Kemp felt at home in Vail |

Kemp felt at home in Vail

AP PhotoIn this July 3,1967 picture, California Gov. Ronald Reagan, right, and his special assistant Jack Kemp, discuss football in his office in Scaramento, Calif.

VAIL, Colorado ” Jack Kemp loved Vail, and he loved to give back to Vail, friends say.

“He just thought it was heaven on Earth,” said Ali Hasan, a Beaver Creek resident who has known Kemp since 2000. “It wasn’t just a vacation destination. He called it home, and this was the place where he wanted to bond most with his family.”

Kemp, a former congressman, vice presidential nominee and NFL quarterback, died Saturday at age 73. He owned a home in the Cascade neighborhood of Vail for many years and had served on the board of directors of the Vail Valley Foundation since 1995.

Having someone of Kemp’s stature on the board gave great credibility to the organization, said John Dakin, vice president of communications for the Vail Valley Foundation.

“I think that, in the end, Jack was always the quarterback,” Dakin said. “He’d walk into the room and everybody would stop and listen to what Jack had to say. And you never had to question whether he was at a board meeting or not because he had an opinion on almost everything and certainly wasn’t shy about sharing them with everyone.”

Harry Frampton, chairman of the board of the Vail Valley Foundation, said Kemp pushed the foundation toward getting more involved in educational programs.

“He had a real commitment that if we were able to help kids at a very early age, that was a great investment, and you would get a return on it many times over,” Frampton said.

Kemp was a leading proponent of the foundation’s Success at Six program, which has helped educate hundreds of local children ages 6 and under.

Kemp loved to spend time in Vail with his extended family, including his grandchildren, in both the summer and winter, friends said. Frampton recalled Kemp reciting a speech by Abraham Lincoln at the annual Bravo! Fourth of July concert at Ford Amphitheater. He also loved to ski, friends said.

“He’s just been one of those wonderful people who come to Vail and behind the scenes help make Vail a wonderful place, and don’t get a lot of credit for it, but that’s OK,” Frampton said.

Frampton said Kemp was special because he was successful in so many facets of his life ” as an athlete, as a politician, as the head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, as the member of several companies’ boards of directors, and also as a family man.

“He just had a great, neat family,” Frampton said. “A person successful in five different fields. To me, that’s very unusual for someone to do that.”

Hasan, who last year ran unsuccessfully for the state House District 56 seat, said Kemp served as a mentor to him during his campaign.

“He always treated me like a little nephew, basically,” Hasan said.

Kemp advised him to reach out not just to his fellow Republicans, but to Democrats as well. Hasan ended up knocking on the doors of every registered voter in the district and got more votes in Eagle County than his Democratic opponent, Christine Scanlan, who won the seat.

“He truly was as amazing and fun in person as he was on television,” Hasan said. “For those people that didn’t get to meet him, I’m very sorry for them.”

In recent years, Kemp was often seen at Vail-area events, including a fundraising appearance by presidential candidate John McCain in Edwards last summer, a McCain fundraiser in Beaver Creek last summer and a 2007 ceremony renaming the Vail post office for President Gerald Ford, with whom Kemp served in the House of Representatives in the early ’70s.

President Barack Obama told the Associated Press that Jack Kemp’s work in politics shaped not just his Republican Party, but also the country.

Obama remembered the quarterback-turned-politician as someone who held strong beliefs and who learned valuable lessons on the football field. Obama said in a statement Sunday that Kemp understood that divisions involving race and class stood in the way of the country’s common goals.

Kemp, a former quarterback for the Buffalo Bills, represented western New York for nine terms in Congress, then left the House for an unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination for president in 1988.

“Jack Kemp’s commitment to public service and his passion for politics influenced not only the direction of his party, but his country,” President Barack Obama said in a statement issued Sunday. Obama praised Kemp as “a man who could fiercely advocate his own beliefs and principles while also remembering the lessons he learned years earlier on the football field: that bitter divisiveness between race and class and station only stood in the way of the ‘common aim of a team to win.'”

Kemp, a former quarterback for the Buffalo Bills, represented western New York for nine terms in Congress, then left the House for an unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination for president in 1988.

Eight years later, after serving a term as President George H.W. Bush’s housing secretary, he made it onto the national ticket as Bob Dole’s running mate against President Bill Clinton’s bid for re-election.

With that loss, Kemp bowed out of political office, but not out of politics. In speaking engagements and a syndicated column, he continued to advocate for the tax reform and supply-side policies ” the idea that the more taxes are cut the more the economy will grow ” that he pioneered.

Former first lady Nancy Reagan said Kemp served his country with great distinction and called him “one of the strongest Reagan ‘cheerleaders’ we’ve ever had, spreading the message of prosperity through freedom and tax reductions.”

Kemp’s rapid and wordy style made the enthusiastic speaker with the neatly side-parted white hair a favorite on the lecture circuit, and a millionaire.

Kemp was born in California to Christian Scientist parents. He worked on the loading docks of his father’s trucking company as a boy before majoring in physical education at Occidental College, where he led the nation’s small colleges in passing.

He became a Presbyterian after marrying his college sweetheart, Joanne Main. The couple had four children, including two sons who played professional football. He joined with a son and son-in-law to form a Washington strategic consulting firm, Kemp Partners, after leaving office.

Through his political life, Kemp’s positions spanned the social spectrum: He opposed abortion and supported school prayer, yet appealed to liberals with his outreach toward minorities and compassion for the poor. He pushed for immigration reform to include a guest-worker program and status for the illegal immigrants already here.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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