By Nicole Hamilton
The Cincinnati Enquirer
John O. Kems was an award-winning homebuilder who started the firm Concept Homes. He also worked as a self-employed market-research consultant, and as a prospector for uranium.
"He was larger than life, vibrant, and had an independent nature. He was very family-oriented and always emphasized the importance of getting a good education to his children and grandchildren. He encouraged us to do our very best," said his daughter, Amy Kems of Antigua, Guatemala.
Mr. Kems died Thursday at his daughter's home in Anderson Township of complications from diabetes. The Union Township resident was 79.
Born John O. Kemsuzian in Detroit to Armenian parents, Mr. Kems shortened his last name as a young adult.
He attended the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor before entering the Navy to serve as a pharmacist mate in the Pacific Theater during World War II.
After being honorably discharged, he returned to Michigan and attended the University of Detroit School of Law, from which he graduated.
Mr. Kems lived for several years in Utah and Montana as a uranium prospector, before deciding to move to Cincinnati, considering the city an ideal place for business ventures.
He worked as an independent market-research consultant and then, in the mid-1970s, began Concept Homes, a home building company that won an award in the Homebuilders Association of Cincinnati's Homearama in 1978.
"This was quite an honor for him," said his son, Johann Kemsuzian of Springfield, Ohio, "to receive recognition from peers in the business."
Mr. Kems studied violin as a child, and enjoyed listening to classical music and playing golf.
His wife of 38 years, Mary Anne Kems, preceded him in death in 1995.
Besides his son and daughter, other survivors include a daughter, Caryn Franke of Mount Washington; two sons, Eric Kemsuzian of Columbus and Matthew Kemsuzian of Medina; a brother, Dr. Harry Kems of Waterford, Mich.; and seven grandchildren. Visitation will be 1-2 p.m. Tuesday at Mount Washington Presbyterian Church, 6474 Beechmont Ave., Mount Washington. Memorial service will follow at the church.
The body was cremated.
Memorials can be made to the American Diabetes Association, Always and Forever Memorial and Honor Program, Attn: ADA Web, PO Box 2680, North Canton, OH 44720.
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