By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – Take heart.
The 100 friends and admirers at “Voice of Oneonta” Joseph Campbell’s memorial service this morning certainly did, wife Judith reminded them of one of her husband’s favorite exhortations in good times and bad: “Life is just a bowl of cherries. Everything will be OK.”
That wasn’t always the case for Campbell, you might think, but you’d be wrong, judging from the testimony at the hour-long service at the Elks Club.
In failing health, he spent the last few years before he passed away at Hampshire House, but he loved life to the end, said son Joe: When one of his granddaughters reminded him he was almost “91 and a half,” Campbell was delighted. He passed away on March 6, 2019, at “91 and a half,” after hearing “The Campbells Are Coming,” performed on bagpipes.
After the service, one attendee, Madolyn Palmer, the revered city schools’ retiree and former Common Council member, recounted how Campbell remained active in the community of Hampshire House right until the end. “Many people don’t get involved,” she said.
When a Hampshire House resident might have felt blue on any particular day, the caregivers would call for Joe Campbell to stop by. “He would cheer them up,” Palmer said.
Pastor Eda Dorosky presided, and two of Campbell’s grand-daughters, Emily and Elizabeth, tearfully delivered one reading, John 14:1-4 (“Do not let your hearts be troubled”) and another, the 23rd Psalm, (“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”)
Emily read from her grandfather’s Bible and remembered the one-time boxer used to say, “I always packed it in my boxing bag with my boxing gear” and would read a tract or two before each match. “If I won,” he told her, “right verses. If I lost, wrong verses.”
Joe Jr., Campbell’s brother Bill and Chuck D’Imperio, who in his early years worked with the older man at the latter part of his career, recalled his early advocacy of weight-lifting – he won the Mr. Catskill body building contest – and, as OHS football coach, gave his teams a leg up by putting them through weight training.
From the honoree’s 38 years of teaching, mostly Grade 6, mostly at Greater Plains Elementary, they recounted some of his off-curriculum teaching methods. At one point, youngsters were weight training in one corner and writing poetry in another. A third corner was devoted to “Radio.”
Teacher, coach, he was also “The Voice of Oneonta” on WDOS. His oldies show, “Sentimental Journey,” ran for 50 years (1952-2002).
His sign-off, D’Imperio said, “echoes almost everything we came to know about Joe. And they seemed almost perfect.”
Campbell would cup his ear, as old-time broadcasters would do, and would intone: “And so, my dear friends, I close by saying, let the music play as long as there’s a song to sing. And I, yes I, will stay younger than the spring,” (echoing a Rodgers & Hammerstein number from “South Pacific.”)
Said brother Bill, “He never sought to make a lot of money; but he changed a lot of hearts.”