He was born in Anaconda, Montana, the eldest of five sons to parents Curtis and Zelta (Trumbull) Kemp. The family settled in Portland, Oregon, where Joe attended Sabin Elementary and Grant High School.
In 1956, Joe joined the United States Marine Corp and served three years as a radio technician and rose to the rank of corporal. After his honorable discharge, he attended Portland State University and met the love of his life, Jean. They married in 1964. They lived an adventurous life and traveled the world in later years. Joe had an entrepreneurial spirit and owned various businesses, including laundromat repair, his barbershop, P.J.'s Styling Salon, and a sports car business. Joe never lost his passion for racing and attended Formula One, Indy Cart and local races. If he wasn't racing cars, Joe was skydiving, riding motorcycles and doing just about anything that made Jean worry incessantly. Joe loved family, especially his daughters Jillian and Jamie. They moved to the farm in 1971 and raised livestock, spoiled their pets, grew gorgeous vegetable gardens. He taught his girls everything he knew about farming, repairing cars, sports, poetry, and literature, and was often seen cheering his girls at school events. He cherished his grandchildren, Julia, Avery and Dylan, often taking them on "great adventures". His clients remember him for elaborate storytelling, hilarious jokes, and open ears. P.J.'s was filled with laughter for over four decades, before his retirement at age 69.
Joe is survived by his wife of 54 years, Jean (Sundquist) Kemp; daughters Jillian Smith and Jamie Holmes; brothers Richard, Thomas and Randall Kemp; and grandchildren Julia Cameron, Avery McDowell, and Dylan Smith.