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William Lee Kemper III

Posted By Families Firstcare On November 25, 2019 @ 3:13 pm In Obituaries | 18 Comments

Lee, as he was known to his family and friends, died at the age of 54, on November 24, 2019 after a tragic accident.

He leaves behind his cherished wife of 20 years, Ann Marie Burgeson Kemper and his two beloved daughters, Savannah Marie and Lily Ann.

Lee was a larger than life man who never met anyone he didn’t make his friend. He had a special way of connecting with everyone he met. Lee grew up in Houston and Austin and though he and his young family moved to the Lowcountry 16 years ago to be here for his ailing father-in-law, whom he loved dearly, he remained a true Texan at heart. He had a true passion for travel and cherished the time spent with family exploring other cultures. Lee had a Porsche race engineering business in Austin and cars and racing were always a part of him. He recently transitioned into safer Auto-cross with the SCCA Buccaneer Region, with his daughter Lily doing the race car graphics and Savannah as the driver. He was such a hands on father, making it his mission to teach and give of himself in every way to his girls and family. He was an artist and did fabulous wood sculptures, and he taught the girls a love of art, making sure they knew he valued what ever they did. He was a consummate story teller instilling a love of creative writing in the girls. He loved building sets and projects for his daughter’s schools and was a coach for the Clay Shooting Team.

Lee is also survived by his brothers; Edward Kemper, Randy Kemper, and Mike Ruscelli, as well as his sister Amy Kemper.

He is pre-deceased by his parents William L. Kemper, Jr and Sarah Barrow Seline.

Lee’s Celebration of Life will be held on March 7, at The Spanish Wells Club House on Hilton Head from 5:00p.m. to 8:00p.m.

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Condolences for the family of “William Lee Kemper III”

Condolence from Becky Kay Kemper Knesek on November 25th, 2019 10:02 pm

I am so very sorry to hear about Lee’s passing. I remember baby-sitting for him and Amy when they were little. We’d go to the River Oaks country club where they would swim. I am their oldest cousin, Becky Kay Kemper Knesek. One Christmas we went over to Aunt Sarah’s and Uncle Billy’s house and had lunch with them. Lee was probably about 7 and Amy was maybe 4 or 5. It was so warm that we were all wearing shorts and tee shirts. I haven’t seen ya’ll since Uncle Billy’s funeral, I think. He was such a gregarious and funny guy. I also remember him riding the mini-bike motorcycles up at the country at Tomball. He loved to tinker with them.
Ann Marie and girls, ya’ll are in my prayers. Love, Becky Kay Kemper Knesek

Condolence from Ann Marie Kemper on November 26th, 2019 5:38 am

Thank you so much Becky Kay

Condolence from Cathy Kemper-Pelle on November 25th, 2019 10:25 pm

Lee Kemper was one of the most vibrant people I have ever known. He could light up any room and talk to any person. He was the master of fun, whether it was jacket sledding in the Rockies, building rocket swings at the farm in Tomball, or taking his girls on exciting outdoor explorations. He also loved corgis, fast cars, nature, and his family. Savannah and Lily, please know that your father loved you with all his heart, and you can carry that love with you for the rest of your lives. You and your mom will cry often because you miss him, but hold fast to the beautiful memories. They are golden.

Condolence from Ann Marie Kemper on November 26th, 2019 5:45 am

Thank you Cathy, your description captures him well!! There are so many wonderful memories of fun adventures. He truly could talk to anyone and find something in common. He was so smart, creative, adventurous, kind and fearless… – and he passed those qualities on to his beloved girls. He never thought he could be a good father but he was an AMAZING father. Savannah and Lily will cherish their memories of him always.

Condolence from The Halperns on November 27th, 2019 9:41 pm

Both Steve and I were so sorry to read of Lee’s passing. We’re thinking of you and the girls.
With much sympathy,
Lynda and Steve Halpern

Condolence from Ann Marie Kemper on November 30th, 2019 4:36 am

Thank you so much!! Ann Marie

Condolence from Karen Christine Harrington on November 28th, 2019 9:55 pm

We are so very sorry for your loss. Please know that you, Savannah, and Lily are in our thoughts and prayers.

With love and sympathy,
Dan, Karen, & Daniel Harrington

Condolence from Ann Marie Kemper on November 30th, 2019 4:38 am

Thank you so much!!
Ann Marie, Savannah & Lily

Condolence from Joel Ogden on November 30th, 2019 8:07 pm

I met Lee Kemper in the eighties when he was the new kid at Austin High School. People were talking about him. Perhaps it was because he was witty, friendly and had incredible stories to tell, always with a twinkle in his eye. It may also have been because he was a snappy dresser, sporting a stylish white jacket and slacks (and this was before Miami Vice came out). His bright red Porsche in the school parking lot was impossible to miss. He seemed to have what we all wanted yet he was very approachable, really down to Earth. We became good friends in those teenage years and shared what I regard as some of the most fun moments of my life. Days spent boating on the lake, several trips down along the Texas coast, starry nights out in the Hill Country. I recall one summer afternoon at his family ranch: he and I were playing around with this new thing they called paintguns. We were standing about twenty feet apart when I asked him, so, how do we do this? Do we just hide in the bushes and try to hunt one another? How does this start? He cocked his head and grinned, pointed his pistol at me and announced: it starts… right… NOW- and he pulled the trigger. The paint pellet whizzed past, only missing me by a whisker. I yelped and ran for cover into the foliage. We spent an hour stalking each other through the cedar trees, taking random shots where we could. Then, I heard him shout out Dang! (or words to that effect). His paint gun was jammed, he wailed. Was he serious? Was this some feeble ruse? Taking a gamble, I tumbled down the embankment and sprinted across the dry creek bed to his position. Lee could hear me huffing as I closed the gap and he howled and cursed as he frantically tried to clear the jam. I ran up the other side and there he was, wide-eyed, terrified, defiant, laughing. Time slowed down. He turned and leapt into the thick brush behind him, I mean he jumped hands first and threw himself into it, surely getting pretty scratched up along the way. As his body disappeared into the bushes I raised and aimed my gun and shot him squarely on the bottom, Pow! I didn’t miss him then. I will always miss him now. My life was made better having him in it. Thank you, Lee, love you, bro. See you on the other side.

Condolence from D. Briggs Donaldson on January 11th, 2020 9:59 pm

I just found this website and am so glad that I did!! My wife, Susannah and I have been crying about Lee’s passing off and on for months now. I loved Lee very much and he was a great friend to Susannah and me. I have a bunch of great memories with Lee and have prepared a few below. Joel, I am glad that you submitted a memory. Please e-mail me at [email protected] and tell me how and what you are doing.


I met Lee in High School at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in Austin, TX in 1980. He was a very nice, caring and giving person and his friendliness and good humor was infectious. Here are a few events that I experienced with him that make me smile and love him so very much!

1) Once when I was a senior in High school, Lee, Jefferey Riggan and I went to his ranch to shoot guns and party and were returning late one night. We were the only car on the road traveling through Westlake and a cop flashed his head lights at us trying to signal to Lee that his bright lights were on. The cop passed us and turned around, turned on his lights and was coming to pull us over. Lee took a right at the first street and then a left into the parking lot of a grocery store. We were busted and worried we were all going to jail. The cop came up to his side door and Lee got out of the car and handed the officer his license and registration. I was in the front passenger seat and Jefferey was in the back seat behind Lee. The officer took Lee’s License and registration and asked why he didn’t dim his lights when he flashed us. Lee quickly replied that he drives a sports car and the dimmer switch is on the steering column in his car and this Cadillac he’s driving is his mom’s car, which he is bringing back to town for her, and that the light dimmer is on the floor in the Cadillac, and he just couldn’t find it in time. The cop took that as a pretty good answer and shined his flashlight in the back seat. Jeffrey was sitting so that his legs were over an AR 15 Rifle in the floorboard and when the cop saw the gun he asked, a bit agitatedly, “Is that an M16?” and Lee replied, “No sir, that’s an AR15”. The cop asked again, “Is that an M16?” and Lee replied again, “No sir, it is an AR15”, at which point Jefferey opened the door and gave it to Lee and the officer. Lee showed him the gun, which surprisingly seemed to be the first time that the officer had ever seen an AR15, and said “Is this gun illegal?”. Lee’s AR15 was the original Colt Model, which looks identical to the M16, so Lee showed the officer where it was imprinted with the AR 15 stamp on the barrel and said that it was perfectly legal. Lee and him talked about the gun for a few minutes and then the officer said, “Let’s put this (gun) in your trunk”, so Lee popped the trunk and lo and behold, Lee has a 6-foot long broad sword in the trunk. The cop said, “Now that’s illegal!” We were all scared that we were going to jail and when we heard that, we thought our fate was sealed. Please also note that I had a .357 magnum pistol under the seat upon which I was sitting which I had borrowed from a friend and the legality of it was highly questionable! Once the cop saw the sword, and said that it was illegal, Lee quickly said, “Well sir, I am a member of the Society for Medieval Anachronisms and I take this sword to our meetings and presentations.” The cop then said, “My brother in law is a member too, do you know Tim……?”, (I forgot the last name) and Lee said, “Yea, I think so, is he about this tall and dark haired?”, the cop said “YEA, and a mustache too” and Lee said “Oh my gosh he is a great guy, he has some cool words too!” The cop said, “Yea he does, he’s got a great collection”. Lee then said “Why don’t you come join us at a meeting sometime?” the cop said, “Tim’s asked me, but I just haven’t found the time to go.” Lee said, “You would really enjoy it and I look forward to seeing you there”. The cop then gave Lee back his License and registration, they shook hands and we got in the car and drove away. AMAZING how Lee was so calm and cool and was able to become friends with this total stranger and a cop for that matter!!!! Just to clarify, Lee, to the best of my knowledge, was never a member of the Society for Society for Medieval Anachronisms and I know for a fact that he didn’t know the cop’s brother in law.

2) David Moore, another great friend to Lee and me, had a birthday party at a nightclub on 6th Street in Austin, TX one night and Lee drove his Ferrari there and parked it in the front of the club. We had a great time, as always, and although we only allowed men with an invitation into the party, any cute woman was encouraged to come in and party with us with or without an invitation. So, as the night went on Lee was talking to a couple of girls, invitation free, at the bar. One girl was enthralled about Lee’s Ferrari and Lee showed her the key which had a cool old Ferrari symbol key chain on it. One of the girls asked to see the key and, as usual, Lee obliged the request and the girl dropped the key into her boot. As time went on and she and her friend began to walk towards the door, with Lee’s key still in her boot, and Lee came up to me and told me that she had his Ferrari Key in her boot. I went up to confront her by the door and she denied having it. Lee’s still being nice to the girls, of course, but I confronted her and demanded she give the key back at once. I never saw her actually drop the key in her boot so when she continued to walk to the door, I pushed her up against the wall and pulled one of her boots off. That one didn’t have the key in it and as she tried to get away from me again, I picked her up, turned her upside down and shook her until the key fell out. Lee was very thankful I got his key back, because he would have allowed them to leave believing that they would come back and give the key back. He was a very trusting person. People could and would take advantage of Lee’s kindness and generosity and I, and all of his true friends, tried our best to prevent it whenever we could.

3) A story that Lee loved to tell often occurred once at Lee’s ranch. We used to go out there and shoot guns, ride motorcycles, swim and have fun. We always had a wonderful time. His brother had a Honda CR480 and Lee had a small minibike there at the ranch. We would take turns riding the minibike until one day, Lee bought a Honda 125. After that, Lee would ride the 125 and I would ride the 480 and we would ride for hours and hours. We created a race track and jumps and would race each other all day. We weren’t the smartest people as our race track traversed along a road with a barbed wire fence on one side and lots of trees on the other. Well, one day we were racing along that stretch with the barbed wire fence and the trees and Lee was a few feet in front of me, and as it was a bit muddy, he wiped out right there in the middle of the road. Since I couldn’t go left or right of him, nor could I stop, I tried to jump over him. I pulled up the front tire, gunned it and I jumped over his motorcycle, and my back tire grazed Lee’s chest. I was able to stop a few feet after that and asked if he was OK, and he said, “You ran over me!!” I said, “I tried to miss you!” then we laughed and he jumped back up on his bike and we kept on racing. Once we got home, he took off his shirt and he had tire track marks across his chest. We laughed about that every time we saw each other.

4) When Susannah and I started dating in May of 1995, I lived in an efficiency apartment by UT and she lived with a co-worker and her boyfriend in North Austin. She and her roommate didn’t get along very well and they didn’t like me either. Lee offered, well, he insisted, that we stay in his extra room until we could get out of our leases and find our own place. That was tremendously generous of Lee and it was incredibly fortunate for us! One Saturday morning, soon after we moved into Lee’s Condo, Susannah and I were sleeping in because we went dancing late the night before and she had a day off from working at Dillard’s, which didn’t happen very often. Having a Saturday off from Dillard’s, that is, as we went dancing quite often. Lee was making a lot of noise while we were sleeping and we were getting perturbed about it. We continue to try to sleep and then we hear the vacuum cleaner start. He started vacuuming the stairs and then he comes up to the room and vacuums by the door bumping the vacuum cleaner against the bedroom door. Susannah and I bust out laughing because we realize he was making all of the noise in an attempt to wake us up because he missed us and wanted to be with us. Please note that Lee never really cleaned his place, much less, vacuum. As a matter of fact, I didn’t know he actually owned a vacuum cleaner until that day. I don’t remember ever getting mad at Lee and this memory is proof that even if I start to get angry with him, I realize that his intentions are purely loving and all the anger melts away to his love and kind soul!

Condolence from Cathy Cooper on January 16th, 2020 12:13 am

I’m so very sorry to hear this. I remember Lee well from high school as a fun-loving person who always saw the positive in every situation. His friendship helped me through a lot of teenage angst. My heart goes out to his family.

Condolence from Ashok Sudarshan on January 16th, 2020 12:25 am

To Lee’s family:

I was a classmate at St. Stephen’s in Austin with Lee many moons ago. While we did not know each other super well, Lee was always smiling, affable, friendly, and genuinely interested. We talked about lacrosse (which I did not understand), cars (which I could not afford), and life itself.

He was a super guy and in his own way a calming influence to many out there especially his fellow boarders who were a long way from home.

I trust you all will be able to take comfort at some point that he is in a better place and at peace now.

Condolence from Ann Marie Kemper on February 29th, 2020 5:24 am

Thank you Ashok! We do indeed take comfort that he is in a better place and at peace.

Condolence from Eric Rodrick on January 16th, 2020 10:40 pm

Lee and I met at st Stephens high school. What a beautiful fun loving soul. My fondest memory of Lee was one spring break, being a bording student, I did not have anywhere to go, he asked if i knew how to snow ski? Being a poor kid of limited funds on scholarship, I said are you kidding I can barely pay attention. He said well I’m taking you to Vail and I’m going to teach you… he would not take no as an answer. So we went for a week, stayed at the vail athletic club.. and after a day or two of me eating a ton of snow he had me skiing the vail back bowls.. he was a great and patient ski teacher, and I owe him for my love and proficiency of snow skiing. Every time I see snow , I will always think of him.. Love you LEE. Look forward to skiing with you in the next life my friend, my brother.

Condolence from Ann Marie Kemper on February 29th, 2020 5:22 am

What a wonderful story, and so Lee!! He always wanted to share what he had with others. Thank you for sharing your story.

Ann Marie Kemper

Condolence from Ron Cecil on March 3rd, 2020 1:35 pm

Ann Marie, Savannah, Lily and your Mom – Mary Ann;

We just saw this and am so deeply sadden by Lee’s death. Please accept our deepest sympathy and prayers.
Lee was a wonderful individual who I was fortunate to meet and know here in our neighborhood.
Take care and God Bless.
Ron & Linda Cecil.

Condolence from The Messrs. Hexamer on March 3rd, 2020 3:12 pm

We are sorry for your loss. Lee was Lars’ second cousin although he was still a small child when Lars last saw him. We are sad to have been so near in Austin without knowing. Lars is an amateur genealogist and can offer the girls an extensive history of their Ewing ancestors in the event they are ever curious.

Condolence from Gabrielle Bains on August 13th, 2022 11:59 am

Belated. I met Lee and Amy when I switched schools in junior high. It was a very socially awkward time for me. I had been raised to fight the French Revolution, and I was being exposed to a whole new set of values regarding wealth. It was abundantly clear that although I would be intellectually competitive in this new society, and even though we wore uniforms, I would never compete socially. Amazingly, Amy became my best friend, taking the place as a less threatening “brother”, as my own brother’s social role became more important. Lee and I became first boyfriend/girlfriend. In hindsight, I am awestruck at their naive and unconditional acceptance of me. Lee was an incredible gentleman. We loved one another intensely for a couple of years. They were and have been incredibly generous over the years, and although I have not known Lee’s wife or children, I am sure that he was an exceptional father. May he be blessed for the blessing that he was in my life during the difficult times of all of our adolescence. They shared and saw me through the lens of their hearts, and not that of society. They did not judge.

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