Earlier this week, Coral Cook was asked if she could help provide food to two school-aged children who recently came into the care of their grandparents. In her mind, she said, she could hear the voice of her recently departed friend and co-founder of Seaside’s Food4Kids program Rosemary Kemper-Riddock saying, “Well, of course we’re going to take care of them.”
“If she knew someone was hungry, they wouldn’t be hungry for long,” Cook said. “I’m sure she’s going to be looking over my shoulder for now on.”
Kemper-Riddock, 73, died as a result of health issues Oct. 19 at St. Vincent Medical Center in Portland. She leaves behind a legacy of being a doting grandmother, outstanding jam-maker, longtime educator and gracious person who contributed tirelessly to the people and projects she cared about.
Kemper-Riddock lived in the Seaside community about 10 years. From 2007 to 2010, she worked for Seaside School District 10 as the director of curriculum and the principal of Cannon Beach Elementary School.
Cook met her about four years ago, during a meeting to discuss starting a program to feed local students over weekends during the school year. Kemper-Riddock was involved with a backpack program for Cannon Beach Elementary School and Cook previously oversaw a summer lunch program for local students, so they were a natural fit to start the program, called Food4Kids.
The program started in 2011 with Seaside Heights Elementary School. Gearhart Elementary students were incorporated in 2012 - the same year Food4Kids received its nonprofit, 501(c)(3) status — and then Broadway Middle School sixth-graders during the 2013-14 school year.
“I know as a retired educator, if kids don’t eat, they can’t concentrate as well in school and they don’t learn as well,” Kemper-Riddock said last December while preparing bags of food to distribute to kids for winter break.
Cook said she is determined to keep the Food4Kids program going, even without its co-founders and co-chairwoman. Already, several people offered to step up and help.
“We’re not going to let this program die,” Cook said.
Thoughtfulness was characteristic of Kemper-Riddock.
She was a “very involved” member of Our Lady of Victory, a Catholic parish, according to Father Nicholas Nilema. She volunteered for numerous groups at the church, including the hospitality committee.
“She was always there to welcome new people to the parish,” Nilema said. “She was so generous of her time, her talents and her treasure.”
Kemper-Riddock sang with the choir at Our Lady of Victory, along with Cook. Sometimes they would sing at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, as well, Cook said.
Kemper-Riddock volunteered at the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry. She loved to cook and made delicious jam she shared with her friends and other parish members, Cook said. She enjoyed sewing and making quilts.
Friends of Kemper-Riddock talk of how compassionate and caring she was. Nilema said she spoke often of joy. When he asked her what joy meant to her, she responded it is putting others before yourself.
“She was always thinking of other people,” Nilema said.
Cook believes Kemper-Riddock was driven by her personal faith to live a life of giving.
“She had a tremendous faith, and so that, of course, leads to what we’re supposed to do, and that’s take care of others,” Cook said. “That’s just what she did.”
Kemper-Riddock was first married in 1963 to Nolan Kemper. They traveled extensively together as schoolteachers for the U.S. Department of Defense and then settled down in Banks, where they raised four children. Kemper died in 1983.
A few years later, she met and married Michael Riddock. They married in 1987 and moved to Seaside about 20 years later. Riddock died in 2012.
She is survived by her four children; her brother and sister-in-law; and six grandchildren.
A funeral service for Kemper-Riddock was held Saturday, Oct. 24 at Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations in Kemper-Riddock’s name to the Food4Kids program, mailed to PO Box 2611 Gearhart, OR 97138.