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Judith Kemper (Payne) Behnke

October 16, 1936 ~ September 18, 2020 (age 83)

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Psalm 34:18 - The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. 

Judith Marilyn Kemper Behnke (nee Payne)

October 16, 1936 - September 18, 2020

Judy raised four children: Cliff (Deborah) Kemper, Tod (Cynthia) Kemper, Claire (Mark) May, and Brad (Aidi) Kemper; she was a loving wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister, aunt, step-mom and friend. 

Born in Oakland, CA, Judy was a University of California (Berkeley) Phi Beta Kappa who graduated with a Chemistry degree.  She entered Cal at age 17, having skipped a grade and serving as class valedictorian at Sonoma High School in California.  It was at Cal in her freshman year that she met Vic Kemper who later became her husband.  She graduated from Cal just one month before giving birth to their first child, Cliff.  Judy and Vic went on to have three more children over the next five years. While rearing the children, she was also involved in the United Methodist Church in Fair Oaks, CA, serving as a Sunday School teacher, Official Board member, Officer in the Methodist Women’s Group, and was director of the Little Methodist School (the church nursery school) for nine years.  After 16 years at this church, the Kempers felt the Lord leading them to leave the UMC and move to the Reformed Church in America.  There she became the first woman deacon in 15 years and served on multiple committees.  

When Judy & Vic retired to Las Cruces, NM; Judy didn’t slow down.  She got involved at the Sonoma Springs Presbyterian church, helping to start a healing ministry and sharing her love for God in many other ways as well, including becoming a lay pastor.  Vic and Judy made many lifelong friends in Las Cruces.  After 55 years of marriage to, and the loss of her husband Vic in 2010, Judy didn’t anticipate finding love at 77.  But then came Don.  They were married on August 27th, 2015 in Tampa, Fl.  They met at church, bonded over their mutual love of the Lord, faith, family, a good book, and spicy food!  Don doted on her daily.  She seemed to respond by entering a new phase of her life filled with confidence, wisdom, and joy.  Don & Judy had 5 very happy years together.

God answered prayer and about 3 years ago, Judy joined the staff of Eastside Covenant Church in Tucson.  She became the pastor of discipleship and small group ministries, which was a big need being prayed about at the time.  She was already a licensed Spiritual Director by that time.  She then became an ordained Minister in 2018 and continued to bring support to Pastor Taylor and preach at the church. Judy also served as the chaplain for the United States Submarine Veterans Inc. in Tucson.

Judy’s hobbies included reading, sewing, gardening, birding, hiking, traveling, baking, genealogy, life-long learning, and Mata Ortiz pottery.  Judy was generous with all of her resources.  She supported various organizations, missions, and causes that supported the disenfranchised, abused, and persecuted.

Judy had a way of making people around her feel at ease and important.  She was a voracious reader that loved a good mystery (she was already reading adult detective stories at home when she was in the First Grade), she loved nature, had the best infectious laugh and warmed a room up just by being in it.

More than anything, Judy had a deep, abiding faith in God and love for His son, her Savior – Jesus.  She is with them now, and would want you to join her when it is your time to pass into eternity.  One of her favorite songs from Vacation Bible School goes like this: “I want more of Jesus, more, and more, and more.  I want more of His great love, so rich and full and free.  I want more of Jesus, so I’ll give Him more of me.”  She would lovingly invite you to do the same.

She will be missed by so many. We encourage you to share your stories, memories, and photos of Judy with her family here.  You may also share photos, videos, and memories on http://www.never-gone.com/memorials/judybehnke

When arrangements are finalized, they will be shared.  Judy requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to RIP Medical Debt https://ripmedicaldebt.org and specifically Pima County where Tucson is located.

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