2020 Alexis de Tocqueville Society Mentors: Dick and Lynn Kempthorn

Richard and Marilynn Kempthorn were lifetime residents of Canton Ohio, settling on a farm in Jackson Township after their marriage in 1956. Never ones for the spotlight, they raised their family surrounded by the quiet setting of rolling hills and noisy barnyards.

Dick was the only child of James and Lucille Kempthorn and was taught early about the benefit of hard work by his father James, the founder of Kempthorn Motors. Lynn was born in California to Colonel Howard and Alvena Couch and like most military brats, traveled the country as her father was moved from city to city as a military commander. Colonel Howard Couch was killed while flying the ‘Hump’ in WWII, an event that forever changed Lynn’s idyllic childhood.

Dick Kempthorn was a fixture of the Canton community starting with his heroic efforts on the Canton McKinley Bulldogs football team beginning in 1942. After high school Dick was admitted to the Merchant Marine Academy and served on the crew of the ship USS Wild Hunter, which participated in the invasion of the Philippines. After World War II he went to the University of Michigan, where he was described as “the roughest young man we’ve had around here.” He was a star player on the undefeated national championship teams in 1947 and 1948 and was the most valuable player on the team in 1949.

The Korean conflict broke out soon after graduation from Michigan and he chose to serve his country again, this time in the United States Air Force as a fighter pilot. Dick flew more than 100 missions and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery for pulling a fellow serviceman out of a burning aircraft. Upon returning from the war Dick could have named his own price and played for any team he wanted in the NFL but chose instead to return to Canton and join his father’s Dodge-Chrysler Auto dealership. He bought the dealership from his Father in 1964 and went on to develop one of the largest auto malls in northeast Ohio composing of 10 auto franchises at one location. Until his passing in February 2019, he reported to work at 1449 Cleveland Ave nearly every day.

Lynn was the silent strong type giving of her time freely to civic causes and working in schools as a speech therapist. The farm was her first love and she raised their three children, Jim, Dana, and Eric to appreciate hard work and the simple life. Lynn was always at Dick’s side with support and she was the backbone of the family, keeping the “trains running on time.”

Having had three children within 4½ years, the hectic schedules of school athletics and a farm full of animals needing attention was not a job for the faint of heart. Eric recalls, “Dad never walked in the door from a day of work without finding his beloved ‘Lynn’ and planting a kiss on her.” As the kids recalled, “She was his world during those crazy busy years, and he showed us by example how great marriages work.”

Richard and Marilynn taught the family that “to whom much is given, much is expected” and they didn’t just say it but lived it. They gave generously to hundreds of causes but near and dear to their hearts were the United Way of Greater Stark County, YMCA, and their beloved church family, Bethel Temple Assembly of God. Revered by his employees as a leader, coach and counselor, he lived by the bible verse, “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.”

The legacy that Dick and Lynn left their family and company is one of setting goals, persevering, and caring for family and their community.
“Above all, we continue to be inspired by their positive and giving spirit,” say Eric, Jim and Dana.

Dick and Lynn Kempthorn are being honored by their sons, Eric and Jim Kempthorn, their daughter, Dana Parker, and the Kempthorn Motors Employees.