Robert “Rocky” Kempenaar II

Inducted: 2023
Born: 1958

Robert “Rocky” Kempenaar II is a highly successful businessman in the field of commercial real estate and development specializing in the hospitality (hotels) segment of the industry throughout Middletown, Portsmouth, and Newport, as well as in other New England states. In addition to his proven busi-ness acumen, Mr. Kempenaar is a pillar of the Aquidneck Island community thanks to his participation in and support of various civic and social organizations and causes.

The Kempenaar family established itself in Rhode Island at the turn of the 20th century when Rocky’s paternal grandparents Esau and Salme Kempenaar immigrated from Holland. They quickly started a nursery business in Middletown which eventually expanded to Newport and Portsmouth and enjoyed great success. The other side of Rocky’s ancestry also has a European flavor. His maternal grandparents immigrated at the turn of the century from Ireland to Rhode Island.

Rocky, one of four siblings, was born to Robert and Kay (nee Crombie) Kempenaar in Newport on November 18, 1958. He was raised in Middletown and attended schools there. After graduating from high school in 1977 he traveled to California for a few years before returning to Middletown to work alongside his father in the family’s business Kempenaar Real Estates, Inc.

The Kempenaar family has established a special bond with the Naval War College (NWC est. 1884) and its International Naval Command College (NCC est. 1956) dating back to Esau Kempenaar’s initial efforts in 1945. The NWC is the “Home of Thought” for the United States Navy and seeks to educate and develop leaders, defines the future Navy, and supports the strengthening of global maritime partnerships. To that end, for three generations and each year for more than 60 consecutive years, the Kempenaars have been hosting a traditional Rhode Island clambake at their Clambake Club in Middletown for foreign naval officers attending the Naval Command College. It is a gesture of friendship and cooperation within the international naval community. The event has been acclaimed by military and civilian leaders alike in every year it has been hosted. Starting with Esau as its first host, passed along to Rocky’s father Robert, and now on to Rocky and his cousin Chuck Kempenaar, the International Naval Command College clambake is a premier event on the annual Naval War College calendar.

His civic ties include serving as the Vice President of the Middletown Town Council, until he moved to Newport in 2016; more than 25 years as a board member of Boys and Girls Clubs of Newport County and as chairman of its all-important fundraising campaign; more than 20 years as a board member of Discover Newport representing the hotel industry; and board member of the Greater Newport Chamber of Commerce. In 2018 he participated in the U.S. Navy’s EMBARK program aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Carl Vinson (CVN 70) witnessing young men and women in uniform launch aircraft and maintain readiness to defend America. Mr. Kempenaar was honored to serve as the Grand Marshal of the prestigious Newport St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 2022.

A lifelong Rhode Islander, Rocky wed Linda Koziara in August 1999, and together they have three daughters and five grandchildren. The couple resides in Newport.

Robert “Rocky” Kempenaar II was inducted into The Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame in 2023.

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