In memory of

William “Jim” Kembel, age 74 of Helena

December 19, 1943 – June 7, 2018

William James “Jim” Kembel age 74, passed away at home in the loving care of his family and friends on June 7, 2018.

Jim was born on December 19, 1943 in Billings, Montana to Reinhold and Freda Kembel.   He was raised on the family farm in the Yellowstone River Valley near Lockwood.  He was a 1962 graduate of Billings Senior High School and then obtained a BS Degree in Civil Engineering from Montana State University in 1966.

On June 26, 1965 Jim married the love of his life, Judy Rene’ Larsen also of Billings. The couple was blessed with two daughters, Angela Rene’ and Wendy Elizabeth. He worked for the City of Billings, the City of Helena and the State of Montana until he retired from the government in 1993.   He later formed his own consulting firm working with businesses and individuals in the area of building codes, real estate, engineering and lobbying. In his spare time he enjoyed landscaping, art, woodworking and music. His real passion was working on cars like his 1967 Corvette and his prized possession, a 1934 Ford Custom Hot Rod which he built from the ground up.

Jim and Judy were members of St. John’s Lutheran Church, where he enjoyed singing in the choir. He enjoyed his time singing as a member in the Helena Last Chancers. Jim volunteered many hours at his church and in the community. He had many friends in the Helena Street Rodder’s Club of which he was a member.

Jim is survived by: his wife Judy; daughters, Angie (Todd) Atkinson, of Billings, Wendy (Mike) Hill, of Helena; grandchildren, Mike’la and Kendra, of Billings; step-grandchilden, Jamie, Maggie, Emily, Brock of Helena; brother, Reinie Kembel (Rayne) of Bismarck, ND; sister, Jane Glenn of Hamilton, MT; and many special close relatives and friends. Jim is preceded in death by his parents and brother, Wilbur.

Jim touched the lives of everyone around him and he will be missed. The family would like to thank the caring staff with Compassus Hospice & Palliative Care.

A memorial service celebrating Jim’s life will be 11:00 a.m., Friday, June 15th at the St. John’s Lutheran Church, 1000 Helena Avenue. A reception will follow the service in the fellowship hall of the church. Memorial donations may be sent to St. John’s Lutheran Church. Please visit below to offer condolences or share a memory of Jim.


Read the thoughts and memories, then feel free to add your own.

  1. Dorothy Sitzman says:

    Judy and family, we are so sorry to hear about Jim. He surely will be missed, even tho the miles are far between family we have always enjoyed the short visits we have had in the past with both you and Jim. May God Bless you all and we will keep you in our prayers.
    Love Dorothy & Johnny

  2. Bob Miller says:

    Judy, Angie, and Wendy,

    I am sorry to read of Kim’s passing. He was an extraordinary human being and I was privileged to know him. I have many pleasant memories of running with him at the YMCA, an occasional social get together, and river journeys on canoes. He was a man to be always admired. May your pain of loss be softened by the wonderful memories you shared during his presence in this physical life.

  3. Kim J Gillan says:

    I worked with Jim when I served in the MT State House and he was lobbying. What a terrific person, a man with integrity, professionalism and good humor. My thoughts and prayers to the family. He was great man!

  4. Wilma Hirning Alexander says:

    So very sorry to hear of Jim’s passings. We were classmates in several classes at BHS. He was very friendly and funny. A joy to be around. May God bless and comfort you.

  5. Karen L Larsen says:

    Sister Judy, nieces Angie and Wendy, great nieces Mike’la and Kendra,
    Memories are the legacy of love, and may all your happy memories of Jim help you find your smiles and carry you through this sorrowful time. Take comfort in knowing you were a part of such a beloved life. I am sure he is with his parents and brother, as well as singing songs with his friend Shorty and painting pictures with friend Kay. Jim is missed more than words can say and more than your hearts should have to feel.

  6. Mark Barry says:

    Jim will always be remembered as a very fine and wise man. I had the opportunity to know Jim through church and through many legislative sessions. He was always a wonderful friend and I enjoyed our many conversations. Such a gracious man will be greatly missed but we are all better for having known Jim.

  7. Robert Freistadt says:

    I met Jim in 1980 as we missed our flight connections in Salt Lake. The airline bought us rooms at the Utah Hotel, so we spent the night and most of the next day killing time. I was a bit stressed after having spent some time from home and Jim was so kind and understanding, and it was gratifying to have the opportunity to spend time together and experience his positive attitude. While our paths crossed seldom over the subsequent years, it was always such a pleasure to see him again.
    I ran into him a few months ago at the health club and he informed me of his more recent health problems but I was impressed by his simple acceptance and continued positive outlook on life.
    I know that we’re a product of all those relationships we’ve made over the years. I know that just a little bit of what made Jim such a kind and caring soul rubbed off on me and I’m forever grateful to him. I’m saddened by his passing but I’m also so pleased that all of us who crossed paths with him had that opportunity to become better people because of him.
    I hope you’ll remember the happy times you shared and be thankful for the gifts he gave us all.

  8. Don and Sandy Regnier says:

    Judy and Family,
    So very sorry to hear of Jim’s passing. Sending our sympathy to you and your family.

  9. Steve Meloy says:

    Judy, Angie and Wendy,

    My heart goes out to you at this time. Jim was my friend, boss, work partner, bicycle to work pal and a wonderful and kind human being. I know my life has been enriched by knowing Jim and sense that the world will not be quite the same without him in it but happy for all the good will he has left behind.

  10. L. Nelson says:

    So sorry to hear of Jim’s passing. He was the kindest person I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing!

  11. Robert Spencer says:

    Robert Spencer:
    Jim and I spent many, many hours and days at his place by the river. We both liked old cars and spent a lot of time looking for things to fix up that had been thrown in the river. So many good times with Jim at school also. I am so sorry Judy for not keeping in contact over the years.


  12. Mark Bruno says:

    Kembel Family,

    I met Jim when I began working at the Department of Commerce in the late 1980s. He had one of the toughest jobs running all of the licensing boards and building codes and weights and measures – yet he was always positive and had a wonderful sense of humor, and was fun to visit with. I always wanted to emulate his management style. Later , I would run into him at the Capitol in his lobbying days and we usually chatted. You are in my thoughts.

  13. Sharon Meyer says:

    Dearest Judy and Family,
    My deepest sympathy and prayers to each of you in your loss of Jim. I am so grateful that I was able to know Jim he was one of the most wonderful and gracious people I have ever known. Anyone who knew Jim is fortunate to have known him he was one of a kind. Keep your memories close to your heart and know he is with you each and everyday. We all have another Guardian Angel watching over us.
    You are all in my thoughts,
    Sharon Meyer

  14. Teri Juneau says:

    I had worked at the Department of Commerce for a short while when Jim retired. I would see him once in awhile after that and we always had a short chat. He was a wonderful person who always had a smile. We were all fortunate to be able to share time with him. You are in my thoughts and prayers.
    Teri Juneau

  15. Jeff Regnier says:

    Judy, Angie, Wendy and family.
    Sorry to hear about Jim. He always made me laugh when he came to visit at my parents house in Billings. That’s a great looking picture of Jim on this page. Won’t be able to get to Helena for the service, but my thoughts and prayers will be with you and your family.
    Jeff Regnier

  16. Joe Roberts says:

    Judy—- J. Anne and I share our sadness over Jim’s passing. He fought a lot of health battles very courageously, and finally lost one. He always had such a positive attitude and a contagious smile—- aside from being a true gentleman. I also had the pleasure of singing barbershop with Jim and I know that he was a valued member of that group. Sorry that we will not be able to attend the service on Friday, but our thoughts and prayers will be with you and the rest of Jim’s family.

  17. Cal Cumin says:

    Judy: Sorry for your-our loss. Still have the good memories though: Jim & Judy, Cal & Carol; Ron & Rose.

  18. Roger A. Hagan says:

    To the Family of Jim: I am so sorry for your loss. I first met Jim in the halls of the state legislature several years ago. Jim and I became good friends as fellow lobbyists and I always enjoyed his bright, smiling outlook on life. He brought more than one day of sunshine into my life during our visits. I will miss his positive outlook and great friendship.

  19. Chiko olson says:

    I will never forget his smile and his encouraging words. I’ll be praying for you sweet Judy and all who are hurting at the tremendous loss.

  20. Lindsey Vroegindewey says:

    Jim was such a friendly face in the halls of the Capitol – I always enjoyed visiting with him. He surprised us by showing up last Valentine’s Day with the Helena Last Chancers to serenade us. We were so impressed, we asked them to perform for the entire House! It was so good to see him again. Sending my thoughts and prayers to his family.

  21. Connie and Steve Welsh says:

    Judy, Wendy and Angie: Jim was one of the finest men we ever knew. I remember first meeting him while working in the Governor’s Office and his kindness and professionalism. Later we were so fortunate to spend time getting to know Jim and Judy as friends. He was fun, kind, thoughtful, engaging, and had a love for his family and deep abiding faith that was truly inspiring. Most people dream of leaving the world better than they found it, but Jim was one who truly did so in all aspects that he touched. Our love and prayers go out to you.

    Connie and Steve Welsh

  22. Paul and Jenny Gyapay says:

    I am so sorry to hear of Jim’s passing. We met over 35 years ago at the YMCA. Jim was a special person and a true friend. He was also quite the character. You two were my favorite couple. Take care, you are in our thoughts and prayers.

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