John Pemberton Kemper passed away peacefully at home in Torrance after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 88. John was born in Anaheim, California on February 22, 1924 and died on April 12, 2012. He was married to his high school sweetheart, Jacqueline Murphy, for 62 years, until her death in 2007. He leaves seven children, twenty grandchildren, nine great grandchildren, one great-great grandchild, and numerous friends and colleagues. Growing up on his parents' orange ranch in Anaheim, he lived through the 1937 flood. After reading in the local paper that a "radio ham" provided the only viable communication until telephone service was restored, he determined to become one. He built his first crystal radio transceiver from scratch using instructions from a Popular Mechanics magazine. At age 15, he passed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) radio amateur exam and received his license. He was an avid "ham" all his life. John turned this passion into a professional career. After WWII began, John, only 17 at the time, worked at the FCC Santa Ana Monitoring Station to intercept and monitor war-related radio transmissions. He was a top rated Morse code operator, able to simultaneously translate both sides of a communication. Later, as a Staff Sgt. in the U.S. Army, John was assigned to an intelligence unit that monitored and decrypted Morse code transmissions from the Pacific theater. After WWII, John returned to the FCC as an Electronic Engineer/Inspector, eventually managing the inspection program for three states. In 1948, he created and built the first FCC monitoring measurement vehicle for field engineering work. In 1949, he designed a Microwave Monitoring Vehicle, the first in the country, which became the FCC standard. In 1961, he was recruited by the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA), where he continued his legacy of "firsts". He was the inventor and producer of the K-95 Handheld Radio Direction Finder and was instrumental in the development of several electronic frequency management devices still used today. After retiring in 1982 as FAA Chief, Frequency Management and Leased Telecommunications for the Western-Pacific Region, he continued his government service, working as an author, trainer and consultant until late last year. One of his proudest achievements was developing a new Remote Controlled Direction Finder for radio frequency interference, now standard equipment throughout the country and abroad. During his forty years of government service, John received twenty special service and performance awards. John still found time for volunteer work. He was instrumental in revitalizing the Society of Airway Pioneers and was honored in 2009 with the Paul McAfee Award, recognizing his 67 years of leadership in the field of RFI, including designing and overseeing the production of equipment to resolve threats in the National Airspace System. He was a founding member and zip captain of the Torrance Amateur Radio Association (TARA), which assists the city with disaster preparedness and provides emergency communications during a major outage. TARA honored John with a special award last year, recognizing his 25 years of service to the organization. A dedicated family man, John fought his disease with a stoic and brave grace that was unique among men. He will be greatly missed by his thirty seven descendants as well as all who knew him. A Rosary and Tribute is 7pm Friday, April 20 at White and Day Mortuary in Redondo Beach. The Funeral Mass is 12:15pm, Saturday, April 21 at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Hermosa Beach. Burial is private.

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  1. Thanks for the many years of being my father-in-law, family, friend and mentor. You will be sorely missed. Chuck PS- Give Jackie a hug for me.

  2. John – You were more that just my Elmer you were a friend – to say I will miss you seems most inadequate. Give my best to Jackie.

  3. Thanks John for your help and kindness in the past. It was very much appreciated. My sincere condolences to the family. 73’s WD6FUZ

  4. John was my mentor in TARA. He was a wonderful gentle man who was always willing to lend a hand where needed. I will miss his smile and wonderful smile.

  5. My deepest sympathy to you. John was a good man, always willing to help anyone. May he rest in peace and the Lord Jesus be with him.

  6. John’s leadership assisted in leading TARA in Emergency Communications for the Torrance Police Department and the City. As well as a leader and mentor John was a great friend and a true gentleman. My prayers go to his family for the strength to face a future without his sparking eyes, but I know there are great memories to look back on, and will be shared by many. 73s, old friend.

  7. John was a mentor to so many of us HAMS. What was challenging for me, was second nature for to John, but he was always patient and encouraging. Such an honorable and capable gentleman!

  8. So happy our paths met and I was lucky enough to have you in my life. You’ve always been a wonderful friend and you will always have a special place in my heart. I will miss you dearly. May you rest in peace.

  9. My dear friend of many years, had great experience through out those years, his many cancers of which he overcame with his determination to get on with it, he had too much to do, and his love of his work and family. We,my office staff and I will always be thankful to have had the pleasure of knowing him and will pray for his soul in heaven.

  10. John was my dear Second Cousin and his mother Esther my dearest and wisest First Cousin. I remember John had a neat large steamroller and steam shovel as a child. He was always very bright and always very well organized and precise. When I attended Fullerton J.C., He inspired me to major in Science and Math which lead to my qualifying for the Navy V-12 program and assignment to a Navy Physics Major Unit at University of Wisconsin, Madison and degrees in Physics and Biochemistry. I completed Premed, followed by research appointments in Cardiovascular Pharmacology, Cardiology, Hughes Aircraft Radar Systems Group, and a NASA patent jointly with JPL, Pasadena, California. During recent phone conversations, I shared his courage and dedication to family and his new and brilliant developmental projects. He will be missed and has earned this rest which he can share with Jackie, who I knew at Fullerton J.C. Blessings to his large and loving close family, an inspiration to all who knew him. I know he is enfolded within the Grace of Our Creator and the Heavenly Host.

  11. Please accept my heartfelt sympathies during this very difficult time and I wanted to share how John touched me and everyone he encountered with love, warmth and like a family member and celebrate John for that – He reminded me of my Dad with similar background from Radioman in War, to Amateur Radio who taught me everything in this field and John would always treat me like that and I could see the same love, joy and passion so John was truly so fortunate like me and my Dad to love what you do but he like my Dad went one step further to share his love, joy and passion with everyone he touched. So I would like to extend condolences for myself and the rest of the FAA Spectrum Management Los Angeles Office who John was so fond of and we are so very grateful that he blessed us over the years with his knowledge and love even volunteering many times to bring us into his home for training and going to the extent of serving us food that he prepared himself. He has been an inspiration to us all and his effect on the world and people will continue to send ripples out from those he has touched so we all are very grateful to have had the great fortune to share in his joy, love and passion in this work over these more than 20 years in my case.

  12. So many great memories hanging out at your house as a kid. I will always remeber your warm smile, gentleness and how much you loved Mrs. Kemper. I still crack up when I think of your vegetable garden that was getting attacked by gophers – so you put in an underground electrical perimeter. Rest in peace Mr. Kemper! I wish I could be there today with all the Kempers – thinking and praying for you all.

  13. Sherry and Chuck and Family, I am soo sorry to hear of your loss. Our Prayers will be with you. Love John and Janet

  14. I was fortunate to have known both John and Jackie when I worked at the FAA. Your family is even more fortunate to have him as a father and grandfather. I will keep him in my prayers and you.

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