Former longtime Palos Heights resident Edward C. Kamper, widely credited with bringing local firefighting into the modern era, died Aug. 11 at Presence St. Joseph Medical Center in Joliet. He was 96 and most recently lived in Elwood.
Mr. Kamper was the Palos Heights fire chief from 1950 until his retirement in 1976. He joined the department in October 1941 and was instrumental in building the current fire protection district headquarters, 12300 S. Harlem Ave., in 1961 with a bond referendum of $95,000.
Under his leadership, the department received awards for fire prevention activities and became what was said to be one of the premier fire districts in the south suburbs. He earned a reputation for acquiring the latest firefighting vehicles and equipment and being an advocate for firefighter training, according to news accounts.
The chief was “the man who was responsible for building the Palos Heights Fire Protection District into what it is today,” said current Chief Tim Sarhage in a tribute to Chief Kamper, announcing his death to district staff and personnel.
Mr. Kamper briefly made national headlines in 1958, when he was part of a team that worked to revive a 32-year-old Tinley Park truck driver who had collapsed in a Palos Heights doctor’s office. The man’s heart had stopped beating for 90 minutes, yet the physician and firefighters revived him, only to see him die 24 hours later.
Mr. Kamper worked for 25 years as a comptroller for the Vaughan Seed Company in Downers Grove.
In Palos Heights, he was an active member of St. Alexander Parish and was viewed as a pioneer in the young community, and the Kamper family name was as familiar as Blys, Rini, Fencl, Fagan, Strader, Wangeman, Corsi, Anderson and others, according to a recollection penned by Virginia Richards for The Regional in 1979.
After retiring from the Palos Heights Fire Protection District, he moved away and served for seven years as chief of the fire department in Lago Vista, Texas.
Mr. Kamper is survived by his wife of 23 years, Doris Turner Jones Kamper; three sons, Ronald (Audrie) Kamper, Richard (Francie) Kamper and Randy (Mary Jane) Kamper; a daughter, Joyce (Patrick) Curtin; step-children, Alice (David) Botkin, Patricia Jones and Charlene (Michael-2014) Hosey; 13 grandchildren; 19 great-grandchildren; and a brother-in-law, George Turner.
He was preceded in death by his first wife, Helen E. Exner Kamper; his parents, Edward and Amelia Kamper; two brothers, Gerald Kamper and John Kamper; and a sister, Delores Koch.
A Mass of Christian Burial was said last Thursday at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Wilmington. Burial was at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood.