Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Homosassa car dealer donates SUV to struggling Pasco firefighter-paramedic

Matthew Kemper, 33, stands in front of the Isuzu Rodeo SUV he received from Eagle Buick GMC in Homosassa on Tuesday.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Matthew Kemper, 33, stands in front of the Isuzu Rodeo SUV he received from Eagle Buick GMC in Homosassa on Tuesday.

HOMOSASSA — Matt Kemper did his best to fight back the tears. He wiped his eyes, swallowed hard and gripped the steering wheel of the white 2000 Isuzu Rodeo that had just been given to him.

For the first time in more than a month, his world was looking a little brighter.

Two and a half weeks ago, his mother, 66-year-old Trudy Kemper, and 34-year-old sister, Tamerla Kemper, perished in a mobile home fire on Seaview Drive in Spring Hill.

A week before that, his wife left. Things only seemed to get worse for the 33-year-old Pasco Fire Rescue firefighter-paramedic. While dealing with the grief from the sudden loss of his family, the engine on his aging car went bad.

For the next three weeks, that meant taking a cab every day to his job. And sometimes hitchhiking.

What Kemper didn't know was that there were people looking out for him. Tuesday afternoon, a man he barely knew drove him from Spring Hill to the Eagle Buick GMC dealership on U.S. 19 in Homosassa, where a change in luck awaited him. When dealership president Robert Phillips handed him the keys, it was all Kemper could do to contain his emotions.

"I don't know what to say except thank you very much," Kemper said.

Representatives from Citrus County Fire Rescue, the Citrus County Sheriff's Office and the Florida Highway Patrol turned out to show their support. But the man for whom he seemed to have the most gratitude was Dave Williams, a St. Petersburg philanthropist, who over the years has volunteered to help the families of Tampa Bay firefighters and law enforcement personnel get through personal tragedies.

Williams dismissed his efforts to help get Kemper some much-needed transportation, saying, "Here was a guy who really needed a break, and thought I could help him."

After hearing of Kemper's, plight he called his friend, Phillips, to see if there was any way he could make something happen. Phillips, who had read about the tragedy, said he could.

"(Firefighters) put their lives on the line every day," Phillips said. "They don't get thanked enough."

The late-night blaze on Sept. 22, which investigators said was started by faulty wiring, destroyed the 924-square-foot mobile home in Weeki Wachee Acres, where Kemper lived for a time.

Although neighbors attempted to rescue his mother and sister, they were unsuccessful. Both were pronounced dead at the scene. Also lost were Kemper's two dogs, a dachshund and a beagle-dachshund mix. A third dog, a 6-month-old Chihuahua named Cisco, escaped but was picked up by a neighbor and later sold.

Kemper said that, if nothing else, the tragedy has taught him a lot about what he considers the important things in life.

"You learn a lot about yourself and your determination to go on," he said. "I'm thankful to have had good people around me to get through all of this."

Logan Neill can be reached at lneill@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1435.

Homosassa car dealer donates SUV to struggling Pasco firefighter-paramedic 10/19/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 19, 2010 8:28pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. No touchdown, but fun lesson for Bucs' Adam Humphries

    Bucs

    It didn't end up being a touchdown, but one of the Bucs' biggest hustle plays in Thursday's win over Jacksonville saw receiver Adam Humphries scoop up a loose ball just before halftime, after what looked like an incompletion but was correctly ruled a Jameis Winston fumble.

    Bucs WR Adam Humphries runs to the end zone with QB Jameis Winston trailing -- his alert play wasn't a touchdown because teammates cannot advance a fumble in the final two minutes of a half.
  2. Bucs' Demar Dotson should be back from injury next week

    Bucs

    The Bucs got good news on starting right tackle Demar Dotson, whose MRI showed only a mild right groin sprain and should be back at practice next week.

    Bucs tackle Demar Dotson, shown last year when he signed a three-year contract extension, should only miss a week of practice with his groin injury and can return healthy for the Bucs' season opener at Miami in three weeks. [Octavio Jones | Times]
  3. Comedy legend Jerry Lewis dead at 91

    Obituaries

    LOS ANGELES — Jerry Lewis, the manic, rubber-faced showman who jumped and hollered to fame in a lucrative partnership with Dean Martin, settled down to become a self-conscious screen auteur and found an even greater following as the tireless, teary host of the annual muscular dystrophy telethons, has died. He was …

    In this Sept. 2, 1990, file photo, entertainer Jerry Lewis makes his opening remarks at the 25th Anniversary of the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon fundraiser in Los Angeles. Lewis, the comedian whose fundraising telethons became as famous as his hit movies, has died according to his publicist. [Associated Press]
  4. Mastermind of lottery rigging scam that netted millions faces 25 years

    Nation

    DES MOINES, Iowa — For a decade, computer programmer Eddie Tipton reliably showed up for work at the central Iowa office of the Multi-State Lottery Association and earned the confidence of his co-workers, a team of technicians entrusted to build computers used to randomly pick numbers for some of the most popular …

    FILE - In this June 29, 2017, file photo, Eddie Tipton, the former Multi-State Lottery Association information security director who admitted to masterminding a scheme to rig lottery games that paid him and others $2 million from seven fixed jackpots in five states, is seen in court in Des Moines, Iowa. Tipton is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday, Aug. 22. (Rodney White/The Des Moines Register via AP, File) IADES501
  5. Pasco County man killed in wrong-way crash on New Jersey Turnpike

    Accidents

    MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. — Authorities say a Florida man driving the wrong way on the New Jersey Turnpike was killed when his SUV crashed head-on into another vehicle.