The Texas Capitol lost one of its most beloved figures on November 4, when State Representative Edmund Kuempel [R, Sequin] passed away at age 67 from a heart attack. Kuempel served his constituents since 1983, when he was elected to the Texas House of Representatives from Seguin, Texas.
He was third in seniority in the 150-member House. At various times through redistricting, he represented Comal, Guadalupe, Gonzales, Kendall, and Wilson Counties. He had been employed by Commercial Metals Company in Seguin for over 45 years. One of the friendliest and most outgoing personalities in the Capitol, Kuempel began each day of the legislative session by welcoming everyone on the House floor and was known for greeting women with an old-fashioned kiss on the cheek or hand. He was affectionately known inside the Capitol and out as “Kissin’ Kuempel.” Kuempel served as chairman of numerous committees during his tenure, including the House Committees on Retirement and Aging, Administration, State Recreational Resources, and Licensing and Administrative Procedures.
During his chairmanship of the House Administration Committee, Kuempel helped oversee the restoration of the Capitol and the construction of the underground extension from 1990-1993. This massive undertaking provided greater safety for the building’s workers and visitors, and greatly expanded legislative office space while carrying forward the Capitol's historic integrity.
He demonstrated his dedication to the great State of Texas by ensuring greater development and support of the state’s parks and recreation areas and practical environmental regulations. Kuempel was also instrumental in passing important legislation for the state, teacher, municipal, and county retirement funds. Throughout his district, Kuempel was a frequent speaker at every community gathering. He often served as an auctioneer and fundraiser for many local charities. He was very proud of his “Perfect Attendance (+2) Award” from the chamber of commerce; Kuempel actually showed up at two extra meetings that had been cancelled without his knowledge. He received numerous awards throughout his career - the Texas Municipal Retirement System John Traeger Award, Man of the Year Award from the Texas County Agricultural Agents Association, Career Achievement Award from the Texas Chamber of Commerce, Leader of Excellence Award - Free Market Committee, Texas Chamber of Commerce Legislative Leadership Award, and countless others. He was particularly proud of his support for Rep. Joe Straus, a lifelong friend, who became Speaker of the House in 2009.
To many, Kuempel was symbolic of the “old days” of the Capitol before partisanship became part of the legislative process. With friends on both sides of the aisle, he was known as a true gentleman and one who tried to resolve conflicts reasonably. He truly loved his job as the State Representative from Seguin, and he represented the interests of his constituents first and foremost. His constant sense of humor made the Capitol a warmer place—Kuempel often made fun of himself to lighten any tense moments. He liked to tell the story in which he was called a “two-faced” politician. “If I had two faces,” he replied, “do you think I would be wearing this one?” He was always laughing about his Jay Leno-sized chin and pulling pranks on fellow legislators. President George W. Bush called him to wish him well immediately after a surgery and didn’t believe Kuempel understood who was calling. “Do you know who this is, Edmund? This is the President of the United States! ” Kuempel, still somewhat under the effects of anesthesia, immediately hung up on him. Will Rogers never met a man he didn’t like, and the same was true of Kuempel. First-time acquaintances became friends, and friends became family. A local cartoonist once depicted Kuempel as a pig in a campaign ad; Kuempel called the cartoonist, bought the cartoon, and had it framed in his office. The cartoonist became a strong supporter and friend. He never met a stranger in the halls or the elevator of the Capitol, or anywhere for that matter. Whether they were from Paris, Texas or Paris, France - he always invited Capitol visitors to tour his office, take pictures, ask questions, and just feel like an honorary Texan for the day.
He was born and raised in Austin, graduating from Austin High School. Kuempel received his B.A. in Business from Texas Lutheran College in Seguin while playing baseball. Many remember him as an outstanding pitcher. He was a strong advocate and supporter for the school. He and his wife, Birdie, were also lifelong members of Faith Lutheran Church in Seguin. Kuempel suffered a serious heart attack in May of 2009 during the last days of the legislative session. His return to the House floor later that year was especially touching as every representative and senator came by his desk to welcome him back. He returned to full duty, working on issues for the upcoming meeting of the Legislature. A fellow legislator noted that “we were blessed God gave us the additional time to tell Edmund how much we appreciated him.” Kuempel was devoted to his loving family. He is survived by his wife Roberta (Birdie); daughter Margaret Brady and her husband Walter; son John Kuempel and his wife Michelle; granddaughter Rose Brady; twin grandsons Will and Sam Kuempel; his father Henry Kuempel; his brother Robert Kuempel and his wife Jamie; aunt, Marilyn Kuempel Smith; and many other family members. His mother Ludora "Ludie" Langston Kuempel passed away in 1995.
Rep. Kuempel will lie in state at Tres Hewell Mortuary on Monday, November 8, 2010 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Funeral services will be conducted on Tuesday, November 9, 2010 at 10:00 a.m. at Faith Lutheran Church in Seguin with Pastor Tim Bauerkemper officiating. Graveside services and interment will follow at 12:30 p.m. at the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. A reception will follow from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the University of Texas DKR Stadium, Carpenter- Winkel Centennial Room, 9th Floor, Belmont Hall entrance. Serving as pallbearers will be the four state troopers credited with saving his life on May 12, 2009 and four local game wardens. Honorary pallbearers will be the Honorable John Zerwas and Jennifer Irby who were also instrumental in Edmund’s recovery on May 12, 2009.
Memorial contributions may be made to Faith Lutheran church Endowment Fund, 1326 E. Cedar, Seguin, Texas, 78155, Texas Lutheran University, Edmund Kuempel Memorial at TLU, 1000 West Court Street, Seguin, Texas, 78155, ThriveWell Cancer Foundation, P. O. Box 29331, San Antonio, Texas, 78229 or the Edmund Kuempel Tranquility Garden Fund, University Medical Center Brackenridge Seton Fund, 1201 W. 38th St., Austin, Texas, 78705.
For more information visit: www.treshewell.com
[Editors note: McGraw-Hill Construction wishes to extend its deepest sympathies to the family. Information on funeral arrangements, as well as Kuempel’s lifetime accomplishments, courtesy of the Associated General Contractors of Texas, Austin.]