West Islip residents on a Netflix holiday binge-watching spree should check out the second episode of “Holiday Home Makeover with Mr. Christmas" – since it practically takes place in their backyard.
Released to Netflix in the U.S. on Nov. 18, “Holiday Home Makeover with Mr. Christmas" follows interior design veteran and self-described holiday-lover Benjamin Bradley.
In the second episode, “Small Town, Big Christmas,” Bradley uses his design expertise to makeover the Mohawk Engine Company No. 5 firehouse, one of the companies of the West Islip Fire Department, following the death of longtime captain Jeffrey Kempf Sr.
Kempf’s son, Jeffrey Kempf Jr., 33, is the current captain of Mohawk Engine, volunteer firefighter and part-time dispatcher in the West Islip Fire Department. He also works full-time for the North Patchogue fire district as a maintenance mechanic.
In November 2018, Kempf Sr. was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. Kempf Sr., who typically went “over the top” with Christmas decor, told fire department friend Doug Chapey that he wouldn’t be decorating the West Islip building that year.
Chapey, also a funeral director of Chapey & Sons Funeral & Cremation Services, quickly contacted the show’s producers.
Shortly after the elder Kempf died in August 2019, Chapey discovered the producers wanted to feature the West Islip firehouse on the show, and film in winter 2019. Kempf Jr. said that initially, he was skeptical.
“I was hesitant at first – I’m not really into the holidays very much,” the West Islip resident said. “I don’t mind putting some decorations up, but taking them down in January is, well, frustrating.”
Regardless, Kempf Jr., along with the rest of the West Islip team, completed most of the decorating last year during the show’s filming. After roughly four days of work, the firehouse was glowing bright in honor of Kempf Sr.
A behind-the-scenes tidbit for viewers: Kempf Jr. said the show’s videographer had to reshoot the decor reveal at the end of the episode because it blew a fuse during the first run-through.
“This is in memory of your wonderful husband, and the spirit of Christmas,” Bradley told Kempf Sr.’s widow, Bernadette, in the episode. “It’s something you can put out every year, so his spirit never, ever leaves this place.”
Kempf Jr. said he watched the episode with his wife, Samantha, and 3-year-old son, Jeff Kempf III.
Although the department kept all the decorations in storage, this year’s decorating was diminished. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Kempf Jr. said that volunteers are not allowed into the facility. Employees decorated the firehouse this year, though it couldn’t quite measure up to last year’s efforts. He hopes to go “all out,” just like his father, next year.
Jeffrey Kempf Sr., who died at age 60, served the West Islip Fire Department for 43 years. He twice served as the department chief, and once as a fire commissioner. He was a graduate of West Islip High School.