GREENVILLE — Since the early 1970s, Stanley Saussy — “Kempy” to those who knew him well — was a fixture at Danish Festival parades. Dressed in World War I, Civil War and World War II regalia, Kempy marched proudly through the streets of Greenville in honor of the many area veterans who served in the military.
When he died March 24, Kempy left behind an enormous collection of military memorabilia, much of which was donated to the Fighting Falcon Military Museum. Located at 516 W. Cass Street, the museum contains one of the area’s most extensive assemblages of military weapons, uniforms, literature and photographs.
According to museum volunteer and part-time curator Jerry Krick, Kempy’s addition not only allowed the museum to establish an entirely new display, but filled in many “holes” in its established collection.
“We received a large quantity of military books — five or six boxes,” Krick said. “(Kempy) was particularly interested in Special Forces and paratroopers. We also received a number of replica arms, like a trap door Springfield rifle.”
Also included in the donation were a replica Uzi and other original and replica firearms. Several uniforms also were included.
“We displayed the uniform and pack that he used quite a bit for the parades,” Krick said. “We also have photographs of him in both his uniforms, the Civil War and World War II uniforms.”
Many uniforms, hats and other gear from the Civil War came in as well. Other items included World War II German and French helmets, hats, bayonets and machetes. Though some of the items are replicas, these are virtually indistinguishable from the real thing.
“These are reproductions,” Krick explained. “But they look pretty darn real. The only difference is the rifles were never made to fire.”
The bulk of Kempy’s collection was put on display by Krick and fellow museum representative Bill Delp. Most of what remained was used to complete collections representing other eras around the museum, including Desert Storm and Vietnam.
The extensive collection represents a lifetime’s worth of collecting and research. According to Kempy’s cousin, Bill Kemp, who spoke to the Daily News shortly after Kempy’s death, he had a true love of military history.
“He has been a military history buff all his life,” said Kemp, who owns Kemp Insurance in downtown Greenville. “He marched in the parades up until about two years ago in various military uniforms, including the Civil War, World War I and World War II.”
Kempy’s collection is a welcome addition to the museum and has been put in place just in time for a special event slated for this weekend. This Saturday and Sunday the museum will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. for “Spring in to the Past,” a tour of West Michigan’s small museums sponsored by the Tri River Historical Museum Network.
The Fighting Falcon Military Museum’s entire collection is made up of donated items from businesses, individuals and groups from throughout the Greenville area. According to Krick, the museum relies heavily on public donations to remain in operation. Housed in a 100-year-old former school building at 516 W. Cass St., the museum is typically opened Sundays from 2 to 4 p.m. For more information, call (616) 225-1940.