Remembering Jack Kemp, a hero
Vail, CO, Colorado
I just wanted to share some thoughts and facts little known about Jack Kemp and the role he played in so many people’s lives.
I have just returned from a short trip to the desert outside of Moab and heard the news of Jack Kemp’s death. While not shocked, it has made me go back to when I first met Jack in the 1960s.
I grew up in the town of Orchard Park, N.Y., now the home of the Bills. Back then, we would ride the bus into Buffalo to War Memorial Stadium and watch a guy named O.J. run, and the QB was Jack Kemp.
Jack was from the town of Hamburg, and as such, he played golf at the Orchard Park Country Club. Quite often he played with my dad, Tom, and for about three years, I was honored to caddy for Jack and my dad.
When I entered the Marine Corps and graduated from boot camp, I received a personal letter thanking me for my commitment to our country.
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The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.
Upon returning from my tours in Vietnam ,I learned that Jack was now a congressman representing New York. I remember thinking, “I know that guy deserves to be leading our country.”
I followed his career, and when I moved to Vail in ’77, it was not much later that our paths crossed again.
Jack loved Beaver Creek, and he always made time to hold a business breakfast in those early days. I never missed one, and I re-introduced myself and thanked him for the letter and all he had done.
He remembered those days of golf. He was an avid golfer, and I learned that he was a man of deep integrity and solid values and a genuinely nice guy. Most of all, I saw that he cared about others. Mostly, though, he cared about his community, and, when elected to Congress, he displayed a true belief in doing what was right, not just the way of the party.
Then, last year, while leading Marine Veterans for McCain in Eagle County, I worked with Jack and several other great people to raise money for John McCain’s campaign. We met several times over the next several months, and he always took the time to stop, say hello and answer my naive questions about how or what could a regular guy like me do to help better our country.
His answer was always the same. Stick to your values. Don’t give in to what others will tell you. If we as Americans can do this, then we will remain strong.
That night leaving Ali Hasan’s home, having heard Jack speak for what would be my last time, I remember feeling so honored to have had him in my life and that he had truly touched the lives of so many others.
Jack Kemp was a true American hero to me and others. I will always treasure the Bills games and golf with him and my dad, most of all because Jack Kemp stayed true to his beliefs.
I’m proud to call Jack Kemp a friend of the family.