A Tribute to Matt Kempe
Matt was born in Connecticut on May 7th, 1979, but his family moved to Sunnyvale, California when he was only three months old. He had a sister, Kristin, who is two years older, and a brother, David, who is 2-1/2 years younger. Because of Matt, David also became a member of SE-R.net and the two of them shared so many hours together hovering over the computer with the List.
His parents knew that Matt was pretty special right from the beginning. He had a kindness about him that stayed with him always. In fact, their nickname for him was Mr. Nice, even when he got to be a teenager. He was a very quiet child, preferring to observe and "take everything in" and only spoke if he felt he had something to say. However, he was always active and busy and managed to get himself into quite a bit of trouble a lot of the time - he just did it very quietly. His love of cars started at a very early age. His favorite toys were always cars and trucks, even when he was just a toddler. You should have seen the impressive, winding, two-lane road he drew on the carpet with a marking pen from one end of his room to the other. As he sat on his bed for a very long time-out, watching his mother scrubbing the carpet, he was sad to see it go - it was such a good road. This was the beginning of a lifelong passion for cars and for living life to its fullest. He always saw the risks or penalties involved and, if it was something he really wanted to do, went right ahead with it. He felt the joy of the moment was worth the punishment or danger that might come with it.
Matt was a very bright and capable individual and an excellent athlete. He loved the outdoors, especially the mountains for bike riding and running or hiking. He also really liked to read and to have philosophical or political discussions. Just like when he was very small, he was never one for idle chit-chat, but tended to speak only when he had something to say. Because he spent a lot of time observing and listening, what he had to say was usually worth listening to! He always seemed older and wiser than his years.
A graduate of Homestead High School in 1997, Matt was a quiet, behind-the-scenes leader. He was involved in student government and was a leader on the cross-country, soccer, and track teams. He had really bad knees that caused him a lot of pain while running (sometimes even while walking) but he trained hard every day and was an inspiration to his teammates. His cross-country coach - and every other coach from Little League through high school - called him the consummate team player. He always tried his absolute best, always followed the coach's directives, and always played to help the team, never for his own glory. Off the playing field, his loyalty to friends and his strong sense of doing what was right knew no bounds. He couldn't stand duplicity, unfairness, or unkindness, and would stand up to anyone if he felt a wrong needed to be made right.
After high school, Matt went to the University of Colorado at Boulder where he studied first geophysics and then mechanical engineering. His friends in Colorado described him as a quiet, hard-working leader who effected change in student government at the university even though he was there less than two years. He returned to California in the spring of his second year after deciding that his future and his career should involve his passion for cars and that automotive design was his real calling. He was in the process of taking classes at a local community college to enhance his portfolio for admission to a design school at the time of his accident.
It was when Matt returned to California, now the proud owner of an SE-R, that he became immersed in the car club, in upgrading his own car, and enjoying the camaraderie of the other local SE-R net enthusiasts. Friends on the List (as he referred to it) have described Matt as an affable, articulate, and caring individual who never hesitated to answer any question or contribute to a discussion, whatever the topic may have been. As a track event "junkie" he was well-liked and well-respected for both his driving skills and his good humor, even in the face of trying circumstances. Many of us will always remember the Cheshire Cat grin after he came off the track at the last event he attended at Buttonwillow Raceway. Matt and his car were covered with mud after a spin off the track, but instead of griping or being embarrassed, he stood proudly next to his vehicle as several people took photographs. I think we all agree that it is his spirit and enthusiasm that we will all remember most.