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  • "We first met Gene & Phyllis back in the late 1980s when we..."
    - Dwayne Anthony
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AARON E. (GENE) KEMBLE 1/2/1929 - 7/19/2013 Aaron E. (Gene) Kemble died at home on Friday, July 19, 2013 in Cortez, Colo. He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Phyllis; daughters, Ellen Okuma of Hilo, Hawaii, Julia and her husband, Elias Hesse of Mancos; grandchildren, Angelica (Stefan), Christopher (Amy) and Rose. Great grandchildren are Stella, Fiona, Wyatt and Josephine. Gene's parents and sister, Maxine, preceded him in death. Gene was a member of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque Catholic Church in Cortez. A memorial Mass will be celebrated on Thursday, July 25, 2013 at 10 a.m. A Rosary will be held on Wednesday, July 24, 2013 at 6 p.m. at the church. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to Hospice of Montezuma, P.O. Box 740, Cortez, Colo. 81321. Gene was born on a farm near Crawfordsville, Ind. in 1929. His father suffered from the effects of mustard gas in Europe during WWI and was unable to do much physical work. At an early age, Gene learned farming, harnessing and handling teams of horses and running a tractor to help his father. He ran a very successful trap line and milked cows by hand before going to school. As a 4-H member he raised prize-winning cattle and hogs. Gene and his family moved to Big Bear Lake, Calif. in 1945 hoping the dry climate would relieve his father's breathing problems. Gene began his 34 year career in the U.S. Forest Service at Big Bear on the San Bernardino National Forest, at the age of 16. WWII was in progress and the Forest Service was short of able-bodied men so farm boys who knew how to work and handle tools were in high demand. Gene was hired immediately and as he was signing his name in the District Office, the fire siren blew and he was off to his first fire. He graduated from Big Bear High School and attended Cal Poly at San Luis Obispo. In 1949, Gene married Phyllis Richter and at age 20, had his first assignment as foreman at the Kenworthy Guard Station on the San Jacinto District (California). The station was in beautiful, remote Garner Valley where their two daughters, Ellen and Julia, were born. A lifetime love of horseback riding, camping, hiking, and enjoying outdoor life began and continues for both girls to this day. Six years later Gene was transferred to the Dispatcher's Office in San Bernardino where he spent two years but he missed action on the fire line. From there he transferred to Windy Knob, a guard station on the Cajon District. In 1961, at Lytle Creek Ranger Station, he was promoted to District Fire Management Officer on the Cajon. Six years later, due to his outstanding record in wild land fire control, he became the first non-professional GS-11 District Fire Management Officer in the nation, on the Arroyo Seco District of the Angeles National Forest. Two years later, he transferred back to the San Bernardino National Forest as Assistant Forest Fire Management Officer. In 1977, Gene helped develop the Forest Service Incident Command System, which is used today for emergency situations by other agencies as well as fire management. In 1979, Gene retired from the U.S. Forest Service and started a successful Christmas tree farm in the high desert in Hesperia, Calif. where the couple built their dream home. As a side interest, Phyllis and he had begun digging and collecting old bottles in 1966, which sparked their love of antiques. They developed an antique business that involved traveling across the country buying, selling and trading until 2000. In 2003 they moved to Cortez, Colo. to be near their daughter, Julia and husband, Elias. Gene's long-time interest in Native American culture was enhanced with the move. For five years they enjoyed visiting the Ancient Puebloan sites in the Four Corners area and seeing the scenic wonders of the Rocky Mountains, until his health began to fail. Phyllis and the family thank the staff of Hospice of Montezuma who took loving care of Gene during his final months. Arrangements are being made through Ertel Funeral Home. For further information or to send condolences, log on to www.ertelfuneralhome.com and click on the obituary section.
Funeral Home
Cortez, CO 81321-3213
(970) 565-3468
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Published in the Daily Press on July 24, 2013