The Lady Behind The Voice of the Red Baron Stearman Squadron Margaret Mae (Fitch) Van Kempen

May 1, 1925 – September 10, 2018

Published in Midwest Flyer – December 2018/January 2019 issue

ALEXANDRIA, MINN. – Margaret Mae (Fitch) Van Kempen was born on May 1, 1925, in a farmhouse in Wood Lake, Minnesota to Gertrude (Sanders) and Seth Fitch. She grew up in Minneapolis, and married Jerome (Jerry) Van Kempen on September 8, 1949 and moved to Alexandria, Minn. shortly thereafter. She lived a full and happy life, eventually passing away on September 10, 2018 at the age of 93.

Margaret/Maggie wore many hats. She was a loving wife, mother and grandmother, as well as a good friend to many. She and Jerry were members of the Emmanuel Episcopal Church, the Jaycees, Margaret was active in PTA, volunteered at the hospital, and baked and donated pies for many causes. She made her daughters’ wedding dresses, and drew up the plans for two lake homes. She was an artist, drawing caricatures on greeting cards, adding one of her remarkable poems to boot. She had so much talent, but never tooted her own horn.

While Margaret enjoyed a career as an executive secretary (State Employment Office, Douglas County Courthouse, Alexandria Schools) while raising their three daughters, she became “the lady behind the voice of the Red Baron Stearman Squadron” when Jerry became the team’s narrator in 1990.

Jerry narrated nationwide for the Red Baron Stearman Squadron for the next 14 years, while Maggie kept the team organized and did company PR. They continued with the team until retiring at age 79. Maggie loved this job and the travel that came with it. It was the perfect ending to a hard-earned retirement.

The Van Kempens lived in their home until January of 2017, when they moved to a nursing home in Alexandria. Jerry preceded Margaret in death on April 12, 2018, also at age 93.

Margaret is survived by their three daughters: Mary Campbell of Maple Grove, Ellen Van Kempen of Edina, and Jeri (Chuck) Jost of Detroit Lakes, Minn.; nine grandchildren; and 28 great-grandchildren. A celebration of life service for Margaret was held on September 22, 2018 at Anderson Funeral Home in Alexandria.

A complete story on the lives of Margaret and Jerry Van Kempen was published in the June/July 2018 issue of Midwest Flyer Magazine (MFM), which is archived at To read this article, simply go to the search box on the MFM home page at the top left side and type   Van Kempen.

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