Roy Ardell Campbell
After his first heart attack in September, 2012, my father told us often “I’ve had a good life.” Roy’s unflinching acceptance of what lay before him during a year of few ups and mostly downs, his matter-of-fact-ease made his quick, and mostly painless departure easier on those of us who love him. It seems now a final, gracious act from a man who always prided himself on manners and comportment.
Born a ‘southern gentleman’ in Dawson Creek, Kentucky, on November 12, 1929, the second child to Nora Lee Shepard and Roy Newman Campbell, Roy Ardel Campbell spent his childhood in Hopkinsville. He was then known as ‘Buck,’ while big sister (by two years) Emma Loudean Campbell, went by ‘Beanie’ her whole life.
The economic hardships of the Great Depression forced father Roy Campbell, a teacher by trade, to leave his young family for almost two years in the early 1930s for menial employment in Colorado. The family reunited in 1933 and stayed in Kentucky until 1940, when dire economic circumstance again forced a move by the whole family to Detroit, then a thriving manufacturing region.
Young Roy was a restless kid who found no benefit to school, at one point dropping out and hanging as a ‘Barracuda,’ as his Hot Rod gang called themselves. Roy enlisted in 1948 in newly named military branch the United States Air Force (formerly part of the U.S. Army, and called the United States Army Air Forces).
It was a transformative experience for my dad — he said the service “straightened me out” — and Roy ran our household with a military precision and order; established wake up times, bedtimes, proper table manners, military corners on the crisply made-up beds. I remember a two year period during the tumult of the Viet Nam war I was obliged to address my dad as ‘Sir,’ perhaps an attempt to drill some sense into me.
Although Roy’s branch of the service took to the air, his primary enlisted duty was as a swimming instructor / life guard – a ‘paddlefoot’ — teaching pilots water safety. This cushy position kept him tanned and fit during his six years at Texas air bases in Lackland, Sheppard, and Laughlin.
Observing “she was the prettiest one in the steno-pool,” Roy promptly married Madeline Grace Williams in 1952. Until her death in 2011, I don’t think Roy and Madeline spent more than three or four days apart. Staff Sergeant Campbell left the service in 1954, and son Randy was born the same year; daughter Sande arrived three years later.
In the ethnic, working class neighborhoods of Detroit, brand and job loyalty had been handed down for generations. Roy spent a couple years on the floor in manufacturing at Dodge-Chrysler, but had higher aspirations. Roy left a “good job” and moved to General Motors, where he stayed a happy Man in the Grey Flannel Suit for the next 40-some years.
In 1961, GM sent a wave of folks, the Campbell family included, to Goleta, California, to work at the (now vanished) Defense Research Facility. Projects of which my father was a proud team member (as a buyer and purchasing agent) include the Lunar Landing Module for the Apollo program, the “Fastest Gun in the West” an antecedent to the modern day particle colliders, and the Swan, a marine research vessel based in the Santa Barbara Harbor, of the same build and capacity as Jacques Cousteau’s famous Calypso.
After the kids were grown and gone, Roy and Madeline took full advantage of traveling the world via her part-time job as a travel agent. They loved the ease and comfort of cruise ships — all the more handy as first my mother, then father, became dependent on wheel chairs – and took dozens of trips to Hawaii, Central America, and most of Europe.
As the years and failing health slowed Roy and Madeline down, they were fortunate to receive care and comfort from their daughter Sande, who spend most past 7 years assisting her parents. Sande’s stepson Beau Justin Hobbs also spent a bit less than two years aiding both Roy and Madeline.
In this last difficult year, Roy’s grandson Eddie Ardell Hobbs has been an invaluable aide and companion to Roy and Sande, as they faced continuing health challenges. Roy also enjoyed his every Sunday visits (and martinis) from long time friends Dan and Kathy Massara.
Roy Ardell Campbell was pre-deceased by his mother Nora, father Roy, sister Loudean. He is survived by grandsons Eddie, Beau Justin, and Shenandoah Hobbs, granddaughters Nora and Emma Campbell, daughter-in-law Jan Campbell, son Randy, and daughter Sande.
No services are planned.