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Longtime WSO editor Kemper dies at 103

“Charlie” Kemper was honored at the 2019 WSO Convention in Altoona.


Chippewa Falls — Dr. Charles A. Kemper, 103, editor of WSO’s quarterly journal The Passenger Pigeon for more than two decades, passed away on Feb. 11 at his Chippewa Falls home with his family at his side while under hospice care.

Memorial services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 15,  at Christ Lutheran Church in Chippewa Falls. Interment with military honors will immediately follow at Prairie View Cemetery in Chippewa Falls. Visitation will be held one hour prior to services at the church.

In 2004, the WSO Board of Directors presented Kemper the Sam Robbins Lifetime Achievement Award. The award had been created three years earlier to honor individuals who continue to give outstanding service to the society after receiving both the Silver Passenger Pigeon and a Certificate of Appreciation. The award also pay tribute to the late Sam Robbins and the level of commitment to WSO that he exemplified.

Kemper was awarded the Silver Passenger Pigeon in 1965 and the Certificate of Appreciation in 1983. His service to WSO began in 1953 when he took the job of Spring Field Notes Editor for The Passenger Pigeon. He continued his work for WSO and birds by serving as Conservation Chair from 1956 to1961, Publicity Chair in 1963, Autumn Field Notes Editor in 1964-‘65 and then Passenger Pigeon Editor from 1967 to 1987. He also was chair of several WSO conventions in  the Chippewa Falls and Eau Claire area.

KEMPER jump photo 3 23

Photo by Chippewa Falls Herald
Just about everyone locally knew him as “Doc Kemper” and of his published accounts of the region’s birdlife.

Kemper banded birds as far back as 1934 and conducted a long-term study on television tower collisions of birds. A bander for decades , Kemper was a past president of the Inland Bird Banding Association and published his “Birds of Chippewa, Eau Claire and Neighboring Counties” in The Passenger Pigeon in 1973.

In 1987, WSO President john Idzikowski paid tribute to Kemper’s tenure as editor in his  President’s Statement in The Pigeon, noting: “He has for 21 years provided  a forum for all of Wisconsin’s ornithologists, amateur and professional. Charles Kemper would look upon any recognition of his accomplishments “as reading one’s obituary while you’re still alive.”

Ironically, that was more than 35 years ago. WSO was able to honor Kemper again at age 100 during  its 2019 convention in Altoona, near Kemper’s home. The convention was honored to have on hand all three living recipients of its Lifetime Achievement Award: Kemper (2004), Daryl Tessen (2012) and Bettie Harriman (2014).

Besides his longtime family practice in Chippewa Falls, where just about everyone in town knew him as “Doc Kemper,” his other lifelong interest was ornithology. His published accounts of the numbers and kinds of birds found at various TV tower kills around Eau Claire was pioneering in that it both provided excellent indications of the actual relative abundance of migrants, while also documenting the peril posed by the proliferation of communication towers and their supporting wires.