Someone who had an impact on my life passed away last week. His name is Art Kemen. Art impacted my life when I was a teenage boy growing up, the last forty years we lived in the same neighborhood in Madison and I saw him often. Art never married and lived a very full life. He was 90 years old. I worked for Art part-time as a teenager for a couple of summers. Art was a carpenter or a Mr. fix it guy. If someone needed something fixed people knew to ask Art because he could fix anything. Let me tell you about my friend Art.
We moved to Madison in 1970, I was 12 years old. My family was Catholic and so was Art. We attended St. Michael’s Catholic church, and Art lived across the street from the church. Art and some other men from the church helped us move into our home which was located on Court Street behind the courthouse. I remembered Art that day because he walked so fast and always looked like he was on some kind of mission. He would stop and tease me and my brothers and sisters. Later he would come over to our home and help my dad fix things in the house that needed fixing.
When I was about sixteen years old, Art asked my mom if I could help him with some projects he was working on. I said yes because he was going to pay me. Art would pick me up in the morning in his white station wagon full of carpentry tools. My most memorable job with Art was tearing the ceiling out and renovating the upstairs of what is now Heather Nursery in Madison. It was Hauck’s Department Store at the time and they wanted to open up the store by taking out the ceiling on the first floor. That was a huge job for us, Art had two other teenage boys helping him, Tom Jacobson and Harley Hanson. Art made work fun. Every time I walk into Heather Nursery today I think of Art and the summer remodeling that store.
Art loved his church and prayed all the time. He really was a man of faith. We always prayed before we started a job or before we had lunch. I especially remember times when we had jobs out of town Art would tell me to get the rosary out of the glove compartment and we would pray the Hail Marys and Our Fathers all the way to the job site. I never heard Art swear, he would substitute a swear word with words like Saint Francis or Merry Christmas!! He always told me to do the right thing. I learned by watching Art as a teenage boy, because he always did the right thing. He always thought of other people before himself.
I found Art’s humor and wit amazing. He was so good at that, he always made me laugh. As adults we would jab each other every time we met. I always teased Art about how much money he had, because he was single all of his life and didn’t spend his money. Once he came into the radio station and I stopped him at the door and told him he must be confused because the bank is down the street for him to make his deposit! He would always fire back with “Paul you have more money than anyone in the county!” I would then say, “No Art that would be you.”
There will be nobody like Art Kemen. He was one of a kind. I would see Art walking around the neighborhood in the early mornings or late evenings, and I knew he was praying. Art was so kind to everyone. He loved God and his church family at St. Michael’s. Over the years he did so much for his church. He helped so many people. He sure has left his mark on this community. We will miss you Art. Enjoy heaven for eternity and have a much deserved rest.