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Jim Guidry Commentaries Hurricane Ike Remembered
In Remembrance
Ruth Levy Kempner
J. Levy and Termini Funeral Home

Ruth Levy KempnerRuth Levy Kempner was born at John Sealy Hospital in Galveston, Texas on November 26, 1917 to Marion J. and Alma L. Levy.   She died on June 16, 2008, at her home in Galveston. 

Mrs. Kempner graduated from Ball High School in 1933, and earned a BA degree from the University of Texas at Austin, graduating Cum Laude in 1937.   She was a Galveston school teacher prior to her marriage to Harris L. Kempner on April 24, 1939.  They had two sons, Harris L. “Shrub” Kempner, Jr. and Marion Lee “Sandy” Kempner.  Sandy, a lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps, was killed in Vietnam in November, 1966.

She is survived by her son, Harris L. Kempner, Jr. and his wife Hetta T. Kempner of Galveston, her grandchildren, Harris L. Kempner III and wife Kim of Knoxville, TN, and Randall T. Kempner of Washington, DC.

Her life was devoted to various charitable and civic endeavors.  She was President of the Family Service Bureau and served on the boards of Galveston Public Health Nursing Service, Galveston Community Council, and the League of Women Voters among many others.

She was chairman of the Red Cross Disaster Relief Committee during the Texas City disaster in 1947, and worked tirelessly on the scene searching the wreckage for the dead and injured, bringing home temporarily orphaned children at night. It was her nature to see a need and immediately accept the challenge to meet it.

She was President of Friends of Rosenberg Library and volunteered in the Library’s Cataloging Department for 20 years.  She also served on its Board of Trustees.

From 1959 to 1960 Mrs. Kempner served on the Galveston City Charter Commission and was instrumental in changing Galveston’s form of government from a city commission to a council-city manager operation.   When the new charter was adopted, Mrs. Kempner was elected to serve on the first Galveston City Council from 1961 to 1963.  She thereby became the first woman in Galveston's history to serve on any governing body of the City of Galveston. In this, as in many things, she pioneered the way for women in the City.

Ruth Kempner was one of two lay persons appointed to the Texas Civil Judicial Council and served for 8 years, from 1965 to 1973.  In later years, she was active on the Development Board of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston and was Chairman of the Breast Imaging Committee.  She was a generous benefactor to the UTMB mammography and osteoporosis screening van, “the Oleander”, and enthusiastically participated in its dedication in 1999.  In 2003, her grandsons established the Ruth Levy Kempner Professorship in Radiation Oncology at UTMB in honor of their grandmother's dedication to the medical branch and the Galveston community.

She was the recipient of many community awards over the years including the Galveston Historical Foundation Steel Oleander Award and the 1894 Grand Opera House Community Enrichment Award.

She was delighted to list her profession on her passport as “Housewife and Civic Busybody”, but she will be remembered for her intelligence, her candor, and her dedication to every cause she believed in.  Equality for all people, regardless of sex, race or religion was one of those causes, and she fought for it staunchly at a time when it took much courage. She was particularly a role model for many women who responded to her gracious toughness, and her willingness to express herself very directly.  Mrs. Kempner was a courtly hostess, a steadfast friend, and a formidable enemy to injustice of any kind. She took great pride in her family, and was passionate about Galveston and its citizens.  Vice versa.

She occasionally admitted that she had poor math skills. We believe that she thought one and one equals three because she always knew that the whole was greater than the sum of its parts.  We will miss her.

A memorial service will be held at 4:00pm, Thursday, June 19, 2008 at Temple B'nai Israel, with Rabbi James Kessler and Father John Donovan officiating.  The family will be available for visitation at the Temple at 3:00pm.

Memorials may be sent to:   

The Ruth Levy Kempner Professorship in Radiation Oncology at UTMB            
The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston
Office of Development 301 University Blvd.            
Galveston, TX  77555-0148

The Ruth Kempner Endowed Fellowship in Breast Imaging            
The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston            
Office of Development 301 University Blvd.            
Galveston, TX  77555-0148            

Temple B'nai Israel            
3006 Ave O            
Galveston, TX  77550            

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