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Obituaries » James Kemis

James Kemis

July 2, 1951 - February 25, 2024

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James Romey Kemis, 72, passed away peacefully at home with his family in Ankeny, IA on February 25, 2024 after a short but courageous battle with pancreatic cancer.

Visitation will be held from 4:00-5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, February 28, 2024 at Memorial Services of Iowa (4208 N. Ankeny Blvd) with a prayer service at 5:30.  A memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, February 29, 2024, at Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart Catholic Church (510 E. 1st St, Ankeny).

Jim was born in Estherville, IA on July 2, 1951 to Ruth and Francis Kemis.  In October, 1981, he married Mari Rehm in Ames, where they lived for 35 years.  Together they had two children, Anna and Jason.

Jim had a deep and powerful connection with music and was an accomplished musician as a guitarist and vocalist. He was a member of several rock and roll bands through the late ‘60s and ‘70s.  In 2011, he was proudly inducted into the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, along with the rest of the members of the band ‘Sticks and Stones’.

Jim graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in elementary education.  He was a passionate educator at Colo-NESCO middle school where he taught 6th and 7th grade science, social studies and computer skills (to both teachers and students) for 22 years. He dedicated himself to his students by bringing excitement to his classroom with his enthusiasm, curiosity and unique sense of humor.

As a devoted husband, father and grandfather, Jim loved to spend time with those close to him, and particularly with his granddaughters.  For several years, he picked up the girls from school and they came back to a big snack and reading and math lessons.  He loved being Papa to the girls and was so proud of all of his family.

Jim was an avid sports fan, coach, referee, and volunteer, and also served as Youth and Adult Sports Coordinator with the Ames Parks and Recreation Department and as a Coordinator of the annual Iowa Games for several years. Jim coached his children’s sports teams for almost 20 years with other parents and friends, and developed lifelong friendships and memories. He loved his Iowa State Cyclones, the Chicago Cubs and anyone competing against the Iowa Hawkeyes. He was a longtime season ticket holder for ISU basketball and you would find him cheering on or sideline coaching the Cyclones. Jim endured the Cubs through all the good, bad and ugly seasons and found one of his dreams realized in 2016 as the Cubs won their first World Series title in 108 years. As part of his job with Parks and Rec, he took other Cubs fans to Wrigley Field for many games, and witnessed three of four grand slam home runs by one of his favorite players, Jody Davis. Jim’s last trip to Wrigley was in 2017 to watch them prevail over the Washington Nationals on a rainy, windy and gloomy, yet perfect day. Any day on the ballfield was a perfect day for Jim.

One of Jim’s lifetime hobbies was cycling.  He rode RAGBRAI many times with good friends and family from Team Skunk.  In 1980, he and his best friend, Jimi Krafft, did a 150-mile road trip in one day from Ames to their home town of Estherville.  After careful planning and training with serious local Olympic hopefuls on the hills around the Des Moines River near Boone and carb-loading for days, they rode in often pouring rain.  It didn’t matter, they had a wonderful trip and were met by friends at the end of their journey, as well as by the local Estherville paper.

Jim tried hard to be good at water skiing, but let’s face it, he was a terrible skier.  He loved to play cards and games, watched all types of movies, had an extensive collection of music, collected baseball cards, often slept late because he operated on band time, loved playing and watching sports, tried all sorts of craft beers, digitally restored old family photographs and album covers, researched his family’s genealogy, was fiercely loyal to his friends and family, and was a genuinely nice guy.

Jim is survived by his wife Mari of 42 years, daughter and son-in-law Anna and Adam Douglas of Ankeny, IA, son and daughter-in-law Jason and Julia Kemis of Littleton, MA, and granddaughters Scarlett, Sloan, Olivia, and Rowyn Douglas. He is also survived by Mike and Kim Rehm of West Des Moines, IA, Jeannie and Tom Frana of Bloomington, MN, and Bill and Kimberly Rehm of Chaska, MN; as well as nieces and nephews, Derek (Ashley) Rehm of Parkville, MO, Samantha (Brett) Irigoin of Glendive, MT, Rebecca Rehm of St. Louis Park, MN, and Jack Artley of Webster City, IA.

He is preceded in death by his father Francis and mother Ruth, sister Mary Shean, Uncle Chief, father-in-law Don Rehm, mother-in-law Joy Webster, many aunts and uncles, and several dogs, especially Roxie.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a memorial contribution to the Ankeny Fire Department.

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