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'Carpenter' a tribute to unappreciated dad

Thoughtful people write a Father's Day note to their fathers.

People with a head full of thoughts write a Father's Day book.Kenny Kemp is among the latter.

An energetic soul with a personal history that includes -- among other things -- being an attorney, contractor, musician, illustrator, actor and novelist, Kemp wrote "Dad Was a Carpenter" (Alta Films Press; $13.95) as an elegy, as a slender farewell to the man at the center of his life.

The essay won an Association for Mormon Letters Award, then quickly bloomed into a book.

"My father was never an important figure," Kemp says today, "but at his funeral all these people kept coming up to my mother and saying 'You don't know me, but your husband helped me fix my car.' It opened my eyes."

Ironically, as Kemp points out in the first line of his book, his father was never a carpenter at all. He simply embodied the practical, hard-working traits that one associates with the trade.

In other words, Father Kemp was a man who "measured twice and cut once."

Especially in spiritual matters, often a sticking point between dad and son.

"In our family, I was the one who came late to the party," Kemp says. "I finally realized what served me best were the things I had fought against every step of the way. One of the things that leads people to feel important is how much they allow God to be involved in their lives. My father knew that all along. Still, I didn't want this to be about Kenny Kemp's journey back from the dark side. I wanted it to be about my father."

And O.C. Kemp does take center stage.

In each chapter, Kemp shares an anecdote about his father that illustrates a positive quality. His father was a plumb line, for instance, a compass, a clamp and the glue that held things together. And like the dots of paint in a pointilist painting, those anecdotes eventually blend together to reveal the portrait of a quiet, civil man.

"In our family, we all feel that dad was unappreciated," says Kemp.

So have his brothers and sisters reacted favorably to Kemp's "portrait?"

"Generally," he says. "They've disagreed with some things. You have to understand, we're all Type A in my family. There's still some sibling rivalry in my home. Even now."

After reading the book, readers will be assured to know Father Kemp would have understood, completely.

Kenny Kemp will sign copies of his book, "Dad Was a Carpenter," on Saturday, June 26, from noon to 3 p.m. at Waldenbooks in the Fashion Place Mall.