Elkan Vern Kemp, 98, of Rotonda West, Fla., passed away Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013.
He was born in Denver, Colo., Aug. 31, 1914, and was raised in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he became known as “Shorty, the best hill-climbing motorcycle racer in the county.”
Elkan served in the U.S. Army Air Corps prior to World War II, based in Hawaii. There he met the “Love Of My Life,” Nettie Emerine Sisam, a schoolteacher on tour with friends. They were married after his discharge from the service, and settled in Los Angeles, Calif. From 1940 to 1947, Elkan worked at Douglas Aircraft Co., where, as a self-taught engineer, he designed a number of improvements in armaments subsequently used by aircraft in all the military services, during and after the war. Nettie redirected Elkan’s priorities, introducing him to Christianity. As a result of critical injuries suffered in a head-on motorcycle and semi-truck collision, Elkan was twice pronounced dead, during which his out-of-body experiences further changed his life priorities, resulting in his call to the ministry. In 1950, he received, from the University of Iowa, both his BA degree and an MA degree, focusing on Christian family relations. Graduating from San Francisco Theological Seminary in 1953, he began his parish ministry in Corning, Calif. Then taking advantage of a scholarship for advanced studies awarded by the seminary, Elkan studied for two years at the University of Edinburgh, in Scotland, the birthplace of Presbyterianism. His Ph.D. thesis was titled “Life, Death, and What Comes After,” based upon his own experiences and study of scriptures in their original texts. After serving six different parishes in Iowa, Nebraska and Arkansas, Nettie and Elkan “retired” to Rotonda West, where, with Nettie serving as his most valued editor, Elkan authored four books. His first, “Breaking Down the Walls of New Jericho,” is in its third printing. For several years he wrote the Common Sense Religion Column in the Herald-Tribune. For 30-plus years he taught weekly Bible classes at Community Presbyterian Church in Englewood, Fla., drawing from his regular reading of scriptures in the original languages of Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic. He urged his students to read the entire Bible, from Genesis through Revelation, each year. Many people in the Rotonda area knew him as the old man walking through the neighborhood early each morning. Elkan met and talked with many folks along his 5-mile daily walk, sharing their triumphs and troubles, as he traversed what he fondly called his “5-mile parish.” Elkan’s greatest wish was that all people would know and understand the love of God and our fellow humans as well as he did.
The family requests any memorial gifts be directed to the Stephen Ministry of Community Presbyterian Church in Englewood.
Arrangements are by Lemon Bay Funeral Home and Cremation Services.