Writing offers outlet for Cape Girardeau woman

Monday, May 16, 2005

Friends and well-wishers gathered at the Lutheran Home Chapel Sunday evening to celebrate the 99th birthday of Paula Kempe.

The Cape Girardeau resident has been writing letters to the editor of the Southeast Missourian for 14 years, at the rate of about one a month. She has also contributed to "Good Old Days" magazine.

"I love to write," Kempe said. "In 1942, the Missourian put on a limerick contest. I won first prize and $20, which was a lot then."

Kempe said she "writes constantly." She gets ideas for her pieces by watching the news in her private room at the Lutheran Home, where she's lived for 14 years.

The party at the home was packed with about 50 of Kempe's friends and enough food to feed them all. A table was brimming with many homemade cakes and desserts, hors d'oeuvres and fruit. Although she hadn't yet eaten any cake at the start of the party, Kempe was already reaping the rewards of a life well lived.

"I've received gobs of presents, from all the nurses and my friends," Kempe said. "I've gotten 60 cards so far, with promises of many more."

Kempe was the recipient of more than cards and gifts at the occasion. State Rep. Nathan Cooper presented Kempe with a resolution that the House had passed, commemorating the woman's life and achievements.

"It's a wonderful way to celebrate a great life lived," Cooper said. "It's important to recognize our elders and what they do for society."

In addition to the framed resolution, Kempe was read numerous letters from government officials celebrating her birthday. She received correspondence from President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Rep. Jo Ann Emerson and Sen. Kit Bond.

Bond's letter read, "Your special talents have added to the uniqueness of this world."

Kempe's special talents may not have been revealed to the world without the encouragement of her nephew, Dr. Walter Kempe, who came from Tulsa, Okla., for the party.

"When Paula's twin sister, Mary, died, she was devastated. She moved into the Lutheran Home, and I told her to write about the experiences she had. Now she won't stop," he said.

"A lot of people watch for her letters in the paper because they're so positive and uplifting."

Shirley Young of Scott City, Kempe's friend since 1953 and the organizer of the birthday party, couldn't agree more. "Paula is such a wonderful, caring person," she said. "Everyone loves her because she's so positive. It's nice to see how many people care about her."

"I didn't know I had so many friends," Kempe said. "It's such a blessing."

Kempe said that although her time is limited, she'd like to see the River Campus built, who the next president will be, and the end of smoking. The opinionated lady believes it's possible:

"In 99 years, you see a lot of change."

nstanfield@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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