Gary Lee Kumpe was a go-getter, not a quitter, in everything he did -- from water skiing to managing the family-owned Fresno Plumbing & Heating, Inc., family members say.
"Everybody needs to have strong people to rely on, and there was no one stronger than Gary," said his brother, Dean. "He was that person who was always constant and steady."
But cancer eventually overtook Mr. Kumpe, who died April 1. He was 65.
Mr. Kumpe managed the maintenance on the company's 100 vehicles and other tools. His niece, Alyssa Kumpe, said he worked six days a week and would even work seven if necessary.
"It was a full-time job," Dean Kumpe said. "He would do anything and everything to make the business successful."
Mr. Kumpe moved to Fresno in 1978 with his family when he and his father, Andrew, and two brothers, Larry and Dean, opened Fresno Plumbing & Heating, now located in east-central Fresno. The business began with two part-time employees. More than 35 years later, Dean Kumpe said, the company has 265 employees, works in residential and commercial plumbing and includes an Ace Hardware store.
Dean Kumpe said the business is very family-oriented, with about nine family employees. His brother always put the business before his own needs. If there was a problem, Gary had the solution.
Mr. Kumpe was also stubborn, Alyssa Kumpe said.
Mr. Kumpe was the family's personal water ski teacher, she said. When she was 8, Mr. Kumpe took her and her two sisters to Bass Lake to go skiing. He told his niece that she was going to stand up on her skis no matter what.
Alyssa Kumpe said her uncle was an outdoors man who enjoyed boating and hiking. He owned a cabin at Shaver Lake, hiked up Half Dome in Yosemite and participated in the Two Cities Marathon.
"He was a great role model and never let us give up on our dreams," she said.
Gary Lee Kumpe
Born: Feb. 28, 1949
Died: April 1, 2014
Occupation: Vice president of Fresno Plumbing & Heating
Survivors: Wife Patty, daughter Dennise and three grandchildren, Andee, Bailee, and Jason Erik
Services: Visitation 3 to 6 p.m. today at Boice Funeral Home. Funeral 10 a.m. Tuesday at Peoples Church G.L Johnson Chapel in Fresno. Remembrance, American Cancer Society, 2222 W. Shaw Ave., Suite 202, Fresno, CA 93726
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6679 or firstname.lastname@example.org.