Kuempel will be Grand Marshal

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Tom Kuempel retired in March after 55 years of service at Kuempel Hardware. He was chosen by the Chamber of Commerce as the Stars and Stripes Celebration Grand Marshal. (Press photo by Sheila Tomkins)

By Molly Moser

Guttenberg Chamber of Commerce has selected Tom Kuempel to serve as Grand Marshal in the June 30 Stars and Stripes Parade. “With his 55 years as a business owner in Guttenberg, Tom Kuempel is a shining example of dedication to our community,” said Chamber Director Mandy Ludovissy.

Kuempel retired this spring after selling the family business, Kuempel Hardware, to John Finch of Meuser Lumber Co. Kuempel had been a part of his family business for 55 of its 118 years, running Kuempel Hardware in the same location where it was started in 1900. He and his brother, Jim Kuempel, purchased the business when their father retired in 1968, after a 60-year career in hardware. In 1983 the brothers purchased the adjacent Cerny Building (formerly a grocery store, gas company, paint shop, and carpet store), adding to today’s total square footage of 4,950. He became the sole owner of the business – delivering and installing appliances; taking service calls on nights, weekends and holidays; and taking care of the store Monday through Saturday – after his brother retired in 1995.

Kuempel graduated from St. Mary's School in 1957 and attended Loras College, then worked for his brother, Bob, at Kuempel Plumbing and Heating. In 1961, he was drafted into the Army and was stationed in Fort Hood, Texas, in a heavy weapons infantry. During the Cuban Crisis in 1962, Kuempel was part of the first mobile infantry activated. He shipped to Georgia and was put on a tank landing ship, which was designed to support amphibious operations by carrying tanks, vehicles, cargo, and landing troops directly onto shore with no docks or piers. He spent one week 30 miles from Cuba. 

Kuempel’s unit returned to Florida to train other units regarding invasion of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration habitat islands. When president Kennedy was shot, his unit was sent back to Fort Hood and he continued to serve in reserved duty from 1963-1967. 

Kuempel and his wife, Helene, met at the bowling alley in Guttenberg in 1964. They married in February of 1965 at St. Mary's Church in Guttenberg. The couple has four children and eight grandchildren: Diane Brondyke resides in Dubuque, Paul (Erica) Kuempel reside in Cedar Falls, Marc Kuempel lives in Guttenberg and Marcia Kuempel lives in Garnavillo. Grandchildren are Lily, Carrie and Anna Brondyke, Sydney and Spencer Kuempel, Kenna Strohman, and Kai and Kade Kuempel. 

The businessman also served on the Guttenberg Fire Department for 20 years and was one of the first trained volunteer EMTs, serving for four years. He has enjoyed gardening, watching old television westerns, water skiing (many years ago, he notes), walking and playing Solitaire. He spent four years as a part of the Clayton County 4-H Extension Council, teaching many 4-H youth to create stained glass artwork.  

“The people of Guttenberg are grateful to Tom for his years of service in the hardware and appliance industry, and the Chamber felt one way we can show our appreciation of Tom and his family is to honor him in the Stars and Stripes celebration,” said Ludovissy.

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