M. Ruth Howard was born in Missoula, Montana; while John Kempisty was born in Brooklyn, New York. Ruth’s parents, Walter and Myrtle Howard, were Army folks. Her family, which also included three brothers, Frank, Jim, and George, lived and worked in several southern towns. John’s parents, Chester and Lottie Kempisty, raised seven children in Brooklyn–Stanley, Pauline, “Custer,” Josie, John, Helen, and Frank. Ruth and John met at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, while both served in the Army Transportation Corps. Ruth was a Rail Manager and John worked in Trucking. They were married in Chicago, on April 9, 1946, shortly after being discharged from the Army. Their union was blessed with three children: Catherine Ann Torti, Barbara Lee Batini, and John Howard Kempisty. Their pride and joy are their grandchildren: Charles Garvey and John and James Kempisty. They also spend time with their great grandchildren, Joseph and Philip Garvey, who live in North Lindenhurst.


Ruth went to elementary and high school in Buhl, Idaho, earning a full scholarship to a business college in Twin Falls. John, on the other hand, attended PS 8 in Brooklyn and Brooklyn Industrial High School. His special interest, at that time, was carpentry and cabinet making. Before enlisting, as a WAC, in the U.S. Army in 1943, Ruth worked for seven years as a Traffic Manager for Buhl Seed and Grain Company, which later became known as the J.H. Shields Co. In 1938, John joined the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and was drafted into the Army in 1942. After their marriage, Ruth worked for the phone company, and when the children arrived, became a “stay-at-home” Mom. John worked for several large companies as a long distance, “over-the-road” truck driver. When asked how long they lived in Maspeth/Middle Village community, Ruth responded: “forever.” They have been homeowners here since 1951.


Civic Activists is indeed a fitting characterization for this stalwart husband and wife team. Regardless of what meeting one might attend in the Maspeth/Middle Village area, the Kempisty’s are already there seated and smiling when one arrives. A partial listing of some of the organizations to which they belong might include: COP 104, COMET, United Veterans and Fraternal Organizations of Maspeth, Kowalinski Post #4 (of which Ruth is the only woman veteran member), Parks Service Committee of Community Board 5, Maspeth Anti-Crime Task Force, Graffiti Removal Special Interest Group, and the Juniper Park Civic Association. Ruth serves on a State Senate Veterans Advisory Commission, while John supports the annual Three Man Basket Ball Tournament in Frontera Park, by serving up hamburgers and hot dogs. Living close to Frontera Park, as they do, they consider it their special mission to make sure that the park is maintained in pristine condition and regularly report rowdy individuals bent on vandalizing the park.


For such sprightly octogenarians, one might wonder how they have time for hobbies, aside from attending to activities of daily living, and going to meetings. Nevertheless Ruth talked about her special interest in gardening and nurturing flowers and shrubs to add to the beauty of their home and Frontera Park. John proudly displayed miniature wooden replicas of ships, planes, and tanks which he builds in his spare time.


John succinctly summarized what might be considered this remarkable couple’s motto: “Go to meetings and there you can voice your opinion.” One might also add a quote from Albert Schweitzer: “The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”