Obituary: Esther Rose Kemp, Aug. 25, 1944 – Feb. 18, 2019
Esther Rose Kemp passed away peacefully at her home in Longmont, Colorado, on Monday, February 18, 2019. Esther was born on August 25, 1944, the fourth of seven children, to Rose and John Thomas. As a young girl, Esther milked cows before going to school, helped can produce during hot summer months and toughened her feet while racing her siblings on the gravel roads surrounding her family’s farm outside of Michigan, North Dakota. Esther graduated from Michigan High School in 1962 and became a lifelong student at CSU (Common Sense University).
Esther embraced an enterprising spirit that she learned as a farm girl. When she and her sisters lacked proper transportation to get into town, they would tie scarves over the curlers in their hair, throw heavy coats over their “town clothes” and drive into town on the family’s John Deere tractor. The five-mile ride took over an hour as none of the girls knew how to drive the tractor. The girls would park just outside of town, take the curlers out and go have a good time with their friends.
The Thomas siblings lost both of their parents within a span of three months in 1966, one to heart disease and the other to cancer, and the family farm was auctioned off soon after. This tragic turn of events likely spurred Esther and her sister, Jane, to pack their car and travel to a small Colorado mountain town they had heard of from a friend. The two sisters arrived in Vail, Colorado, in 1967, with plans to stay for “just one season,” which turned into 40 seasons for Esther. Esther started waitressing at the Red Lion and began building a large circle of friendships that would last her entire life. During happy hour at Donovan’s Copper Bar one afternoon, Esther met Jim Kemp in a most unusual manner. The two quickly started dating and were married in Minturn, Colorado, in November 1969.
After living in Minturn and Avon, Esther and Jim purchased a two-and-a-half-acre parcel of land in Edwards, Colorado, which was the site of the old Edwards General Store and which served as the Edwards Post Office. Esther focused most of her time on raising their two daughters, Jennifer and Genet. Esther was a great mom. Fresh-baked cookies or banana bread greeted the girls when they got off the school bus in the afternoons, which were usually accompanied by questions of how the day had gone. She made sure that her daughters felt heard, and they knew that she was their biggest cheerleader. As her daughters grew older, Esther always welcomed their friends, many of whom considered Esther their second mom.
Esther continued to care for and love children in her jobs at Beaver Creek Ski School and Prater Lane Preschool and was an expert at helping children both develop deep roots while growing strong wings. She could often be heard telling children such things as “if you climb all the way up there, you are going to need to figure out how to get down.” Or when they fell, “whoops! Now get up quick and it won’t hurt as much.” If any child, or fellow employee, was having a tough day, Esther would make them hot buttered toast, because “toast just makes you feel better.” If you were having a really tough day, she’d say, “go find your rock!” The rock being the place where you would sit with your annoyance or anger or bad actions until you could decide to let it go or apologize.
After her divorce, Esther lived in Eagle, Colorado, for 10 years before moving to Longmont, Colorado, in 2007 to be closer to her grandchildren. Esther quickly became a vibrant member of the Old Town community, attending neighborhood parties and local concerts and volunteering at various festivals and at her grandchildren’s school. She loved living on Longs Peak Avenue, where she could easily get a “backstage view” of Longmont’s many parades throughout the year.
Esther found her dream job as a teacher at the Sunflower Farm Sprout House program, and after decades spent working in various daycare facilities, she didn’t think that there was a better way to educate children than in a natural farm setting. Esther could often be found encouraging children to climb the hay bales as fast as they could or teaching them how to calmly collect eggs in the hen house. Her group of children would tromp across the fields to the “magical forest” where secret forts were made, and imaginations could run wild. She wore a “Farm Girl” t-shirt many of those days.
Esther’s big heart and contagious laugh will be sorely missed by those who knew and loved her. Esther is survived by her daughters Jennifer Kemp (Scott Holwick) and Genet Kemp-Arden (Josh Arden), her grandchildren Eva, Adam and Rose, her six siblings and their spouses and a whole slew of nieces, nephews, cousins and pseudo-adopted children.
A Celebration of Life will be held at the United Church of Christ (1500 9th Ave, Longmont) on Saturday, March 23, 2019, at noon. A reception for friends and family will be held following the service at Sunflower Farm. Another gathering will be held in the Vail Valley in mid-July.