A tribute to Paula Kempchinsky
Paula Marie Kempchinsky - the “little rebellion”, following the meaning of the names – came into the world prematurely in August of 1954 and left it to us too soon at the beginning of March in 2021.
The first child of Paul and Irene, she grew up something of a tomboy in her parents’ hometown of Freeland, Pennsylvania, surrounded by her extended family of grandparents, aunts and uncles. A girl scout who missed out on little league due to her gender, she followed the academic track in high school while developing her musical talents playing sax in the high school band, piano at home, and guitar at girl scout camp where she worked as a camp counselor. Salutatorian in her graduating class, she attended East Stroudsburg State College where she sought out challenging classes, and graduated with a dual major in Spanish and history and a certification to teach social studies. Accompanying her first husband to Minneapolis for his graduate work in chemistry, Paula earned a masters at the University of Minnesota in Spanish literature with a strong secondary emphasis in linguistics. She also fell in love with her fellow graduate student Patrick Shoemaker in the Spanish department, whom she married and who accompanied her on her academic journey to UCLA for a PhD in romance linguistics. Her career path led her to the University of Iowa in 1986 where she taught linguistics in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese and the Department of Linguistics, retiring in 2018. With her second husband and lifelong partner, Paula spent a lot of time in Spain over the decades, first as a student, later as a professor, and also living summers with the friends with whom she and her husband built a home near Oviedo for retirement.
A conscientious academic who spent long hours in teaching, research and service to the university, Paula also enjoyed outdoor activities, camping, canoeing and whitewater rafting. Those who discussed politics with her also knew her as an avid news junkie. The last two decades of her life were marked by a struggle with a defective bone marrow: myelodysplasia in 2001, a bone marrow transplant in 2002 which got her almost 15 years before the leukemia diagnosis in 2016 that lead to a second bone marrow transplant in 2017. The leukemia returned in September of 2019, finally taking her from us after a prolonged battle of highs and lows, but too soon… oh, too soon.
Paula is survived by her husband Patrick Shoemaker, her niece Stefani Levesque, her cousins John, Theo and Sandy Pollack, her brother and sister-in-law Michael and Lori Kempchinsky and their children Mikel, Chelsea and Andrew, her Asturian family and friends, her academic sisters and brothers – colleagues in the Departments of Spanish and Portuguese and Linguistics – and her University of Iowa academic offspring whom she advised during their studies.