Fixing Up the House
Raised by his mother and grandmother, Kenneth Kumpel, 42, spent much of his adulthood filling in the gaps left by an absentee father. He was a self- taught handyman and craftsman around the house; an endlessly patient, delighted father of Gregory, 11, and Carl, 9; a buddy who sought, through work, the camaraderie of other guys, first as a New York City police officer and then, more happily, as a firefighter.
Because firefighters can have a few days off between shifts, Firefighter Kumpel, a steady, warm presence, had time for his sons. He cooked, cleaned, coached, volunteered and endlessly fixed up their house in Cornwall, N.Y., perfecting his stained-glass windows, tiling and floors.
That was his castle, his home. But the firehouse — Ladder Company 25 on Manhattan's Upper West Side — was Firefighter Kumpel's home away from home. He would fix up the firehouse, too. Oh boy, would he.
Why is that bed slowly sinking to the floor when a firefighter flops on it? Someone propped it on empty soda cans! Who switched the handles and hinges on the refrigerator door? Smeared peanut butter on the phone receiver? "The Fire Department definitely helped complete him," said Nancy Kumpel, his wife of 18 years.
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on December 31, 2001.
KENNETH KUMPEL, 42, of Cornwall, N.Y., a firefighter with the New York Fire Department, was a prankster and a craftsman. He built the family's home in Cornwall after renovating their former home in West Brighton. As a practical joke, he once switched the handles and hinges on a firehouse refrigerator so it opened from the opposite side. At a memorial Mass, an FDNY marine unit fireboat sprayed plumes of water, making rainbows in the air. The display honored Kumpel's love of the Hudson River and the family's boat, which was christened the Batboat.
Copyright © 2001 The Associated Press