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Jerome Allen Van Kempen

March 28, 1925 ~ April 12, 2018 (age 93)

Jerry Van Kempen was born March 28, 1925 in Minneapolis, the son of Steve and Marie (Scherer) Van Kempen.  Jerry grew up in Long Prairie. He served in the US Army from June, 1943 until June, 1946.  Shortly after his army discharge and using his G.I. bill, he began taking flying lessons in St. Paul where a friend of his introduced him to Margaret Fitch.  They were married in September, 1949 and moved to Alexandria.

Jerry was an entrepreneur and an entertainer while working his regular day jobs.  He announced stock car races, co-emceed Jingle Bells, was a member of Jaycees, Lions, VFW and Legion, co-hosted the Harland and Jerry Mess on KXRA, was a Police Commissioner for over 40 years, and the list goes on.  He and Margaret owned and operated more than 15 different businesses from selling/installing burial vaults, to selling Honda motorcycles, recreational vehicles, unfinished furniture… ending with taking their own sound system to air shows around the state where Jerry would announce different aerobatic acts with Maggie at his side keeping him organized. Over the years he spent his spare time at the Alexandria airport where he honed his flying skills.  Debbie Gary taught him aerobatics; that sent him in a new direction.  During one of the airshows, Red Baron Pizza/Schwan’s asked him to announce one of their acts. This began a 14 year partnership and at age 65 Jerry became the official narrator for the Red Baron Stearman Squadron, while Maggie worked the crowd doing public relations. He would educate the spectators about the Stearman’s role in WW II while explaining the techniques of the performers.  He and Maggie got to travel the U.S. during this time, and enjoyed every day.  They retired at age 79.

Jerry had more awards on his walls or in his file cabinet than one could count.  He was proud of them all, but his most coveted was the Sword of Excellence presented to him at the International Council of Airshows in December of 2002 in Las Vegas.  According to ICAS, “the Sword is widely considered to be the single highest honor an individual air show professional can receive”.  He was that good.

Dave Weiman of Midwest Flyer Magazine said: “Jerry’s style was unique.  By varying the pitch of his voice and letting his emotions run wild, he is exciting, touching and humorous all at the same time”.  Whether he was giving a sermon at the Episcopal Church (he was a Deacon), announcing stock car races, emceeing Jingle Bells or live with Harland on KXRA, his style was surely unique. 

Jerry and Margaret lived in their home until January of 2017 when they moved to Knute Nelson. Jerry passed peacefully with family at his side in the early morning of April 12, 2018.

Jerry is survived by his wife, Margaret; children, Mary Campbell of Maple Grove, Ellen Van Kempen of Edina and Jeri (Chuck) Jost of Detroit Lakes; 9 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren.  He was preceded in death by his parents.

A Celebration of Life Service will be held at 2:00 PM on Sunday, July 8, 2018, at Chandler Field-Alexandria Municipal Airport.  Visitation will be held for one hour prior to the service; with fellowship and refreshments to follow the service.

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