Lee and Arly Kempf: A Life Invested in Learning

Arly and Lee Kempf

A few years ago, when Lee and Arly Kempf suffered some injuries and were struggling to get around the house, they heard about SAIL, an organization that could help them out while injured and after they got back on their feet. Once their daughter got them signed up, they used SAIL’s Vendor Directory to find contractors that installed an outside railing and handgrips in the bathroom and garage, making getting around much easier! “Our daughters live in Minneapolis and Austin, TX,” Arly explains, “so they are not able to help out often. The SAILors have been a godsend and have made it possible to stay in our home.” We love to hear that!

SAIL is lucky to have members like the amazing Kempfs! The two spent their lives as educators, meeting in Michigan as teachers in the same district. From 1960-64, Lee taught at a US dependents school just outside Madrid, Spain. Arly also did some substitute teaching there while taking care of their young daughters. It was in Spain that they discovered their love of travel, camping all around Europe any time they could go on vacation.

In 1964, the Kempfs moved back to the US, and Arly headed to UW-Madison to get her Master’s of Library Science degree. Lee taught in a series of middle schools but spent most of his career at Schenk (now Whitehorse) middle school, while Arly served as an elementary school librarian for 25 years.

While they were enriching young lives as teachers, Lee devoted time to officiating high school sports. “We had little time for volunteering,” Arly explains, “but did get quite involved with WHA-TV and did many pledge drives and also helped with the TV auction they had each spring.”

After retirement, the Kempfs kept doing what they love: Travelling, educating, and learning. “We indulged the travel bug we had picked up while living in Spain,” Arly says, “and we took many trips all around the world. We often went with a group called Elderhostel, (now Road Scholars) because there was such a strong educational component to their tours.” The couple also sought out volunteer opportunities and found one that they absolutely loved. Arly says, “This was just when Monona Terrace was built and they started training docents. We signed up and it proved to be exactly what we wanted. It was such fun to show off this beautiful building to visitors from around the country and, often, around the world. They began doing outreach to schools and students and we helped with that. Unfortunately, neither of us can physically do this anymore, but after 20 years [of service] we’re allowed to be Docents Emeritus!”

The couple now stays a little closer to home. They were happy when the Fitchburg Library opened, as it was convenient for them, and participated in fundraising for that location to feed their lifetime love of reading. Arly stays active in her Book Club, and Lee plays Sheepshead at the Senior Center. They also participate in SAIL activities and have made friends and found activities to keep them busy.

One thing is very clear: The Kempfs have a passion for learning and constant growth. They have spent their lifetimes promoting education for themselves and others, which is truly inspirational. Continuing to learn and sharing what we learn is one of the most gratifying parts of aging.

The couple has done so much and been to so many places. “It’s hard to condense 87 years into two sentences,” Arly jokes. Thank you, Arly and Lee, for being part of SAIL, and for the many lives you have touched in your decades as educators!


Do you have an interesting life story to share with SAIL? A tip you’ve picked up? A great experience you’d like to share? Contact SAIL at 608-230-4321 or info@sailtoday.org so we can interview you for our blog. Readers are following us and data shows that articles about SAIL members are the most popular. Take care and we look forward to hearing from you!

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