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Thursday, June 8, 2023
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Thursday, June 8, 2023
Eunice M. Kemp passed away peacefully on June 5, 2023, at CCMH in Atlantic after a life of 97 years filled with so many blessings, lifelong friendships, and a family she loved and continued to nurture until she took her last breath.
Eunice Mae Petersen was born January 13, 1926, on the family farm near Jacksonville, Iowa, the daughter of Peter E. and Tillie M. Petersen. She attended country school Jackson #2, and graduated from Harlan High School in 1943.
Miss Petersen was eager to begin her teaching career at Jackson Township #6, where she taught Kindergarten through 8th grade. Some of the students were close to her age and she would sometimes walk to school or drive recklessly on muddy roads to get there. Years later, she still giggled about “those cute but ornery boys”, her former students, whom she thought were the most fun, a couple of them being Mike Mikkelsen and his brother, Merlin. She loved talking about “school days” every time she saw them. After three years, Eunice taught one additional year at Polk Township #8. During these years she also gave piano lessons at her home.
On August 13, 1947, Eunice married the love of her life, a sailor boy, right out of the Navy, James W. Kemp. While he cruised on that gigantic naval ship across the South Pacific, James was worth waiting for because in later years Eunice told her daughters, “Your dad was tall, dark and so handsome!”
Eunice continually set the example of the perfect homemaker. She made three meals a day, always meat and potatoes and pie for her farmer husband, and three daughters, Julie, Donna and Kim. Eunice always declared, “We make everything from scratch in this house!” Eunice had a huge garden, did lots of canning and freezing, dressed chickens and they butchered their own beef. They planted an orchard of apple trees and cherry trees which in fact meant a kid’s work was never done! When Eunice wasn’t cleaning, cooking, sewing or doing laundry, she was helping her husband with outdoor chores and yard work from early in the morning until late in the evening. They were a team, married 69 years before James passed away in 2016, and never did you see one without the other.
Eunice didn’t advertise it publicly but to her children she demanded that they always do the right thing and lead a Christian life. She expected excellence in everything and stressed, “Be honest, be loyal, work hard, and most importantly, be kind.” She insisted with constant reminders, “And walk like a lady and act like one!” Personally, she didn’t once stray from those words and when her children weren’t always the example for which she set, she would say, “I’ll keep trying!”
Eunice loved jewelry, beautiful clothes, a new and always clean car and among her goals in life, she believed her family should have the look of perfection when they left the house because she truly believed anything less, reflected on her not doing her job. She would whisper in church about the shirt of a man sitting in front of her and say, “His wife should iron that shirt before he comes to church. You girls will learn how to iron so your husband’s shirts don’t look like that!”
Eunice and James loved to travel and their favorite place to go every fall was Nashville. Maybe that was because they left the children home and off they went. Eunice made a picnic basket full of fried chicken, potato salad and so many desserts, and they all went to the State Fair. In the summers, they would rent the same cabin every year at Okoboji, and the family would enjoy vacation on the edge of Arnold’s Park with lots of swimming and fun at the park. Of course, Eunice made all the food for the week to enjoy every meal under a shade tree. No one could enter the cabin upon arrival until she had cleaned and sanitized it from top to bottom because she knew it wasn’t clean enough. After Eunice’s family was raised, Branson was their favorite place to go.
Eunice adored her grandchildren with such love and attention. They fondly remember their grandparents attending all of their events and they loved Grandma’s homemade noodles, coconut cream pie and always a full cookie jar. Eunice didn’t stop with her grandchildren; she loved all the neighbor kids and invited them in for cookies and conversation. Eunice’s home was always the one where she added a plate at the table and said, “Eat with us!”
James and Eunice retired in 1977, building a new house in Atlantic, where they stayed until James passed away, at which time Eunice moved into the Allen Place. The love, care and continual special attention she received from the staff at Allen Place allowed her to stay in assisted living until the date of her death. She loved the people at Allen Place and they loved her.
Eunice is survived by her three daughters, Julie (Kent) Gade of Atlantic; Donna (Dan) Duggan of Omaha; and Kim (Mike) Gaul of Ames. She is survived by four grandchildren, Holly (Brian) Swartz of Charlotte, NC; Jay (Mary) Simms of Council Bluffs; Michael (Stephanie) Duggan of Ham Lake, MN; Megan (Randy) Caraveo of Ankeny; two step-grandchildren, Shana (Kevin) Elwood of Treynor; and Levi Gade of Elliott; 9 great grandchildren and 7 step-great-grandchildren. Other survivors include brother-in-law, John Kemp of Colorado Springs, Colorado and several nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents; her husband, James; her brother, Vernon Petersen and wife, Alice; her brother, Leland Smidt; her sister, Ruth Hansen and husband, Orville; brother-in-law, Lawrence Kemp and wife, Maxine; and sister-in-law, Velma Kemp.
The funeral service will be held on Thursday, June 8, at the Roland Funeral Home at 10:30 a.m. Burial will be in the Atlantic Cemetery.
Memorials may be directed to the United Church of Christ.
Roland Funeral Service is caring for Eunice’s family and the arrangements. Condolences may be left at www.rolandfuneralservice.com.