ONEONTA – Joseph Paul Campbell, age 91½, passed away on March 6, 2019, at 4:05 p.m. after hearing “The Campbells are Coming” on the bagpipes while surrounded by family.
A few days earlier, Pastor Eda Dorosky led a family prayer circle around Joe, welcoming him with grace to God’s table. A memorial service will be scheduled at a teacher-friendly time, with so many family members following in Joe’s footsteps.
Joe, Oneonta High School Class of 1945, was one of Oneonta’s most dedicated life-long community members. He was recognized through honors and awards throughout his life. Joe’s dedication to teaching, coaching, broadcasting, and community service were among his greatest contributions, which were woven through his life as a father, athlete, philosopher, educator, radio personality, music aficionado, and coach.
Except for his mother’s brief trip to Moosic, Pa., to have Joe, he lived his entire life in Oneonta. He entered the Percy I. Bugbee School and was in its first graduating class. At OHS, Joe was a multi-letter athlete and founder of the Saturday Night Club, where he developed his public speaking skills and enjoyed drama with his classmates.
He began boxing at an early age, when it was the number 2 sport in America, and trained under Carl Delberta, a gold medalist and professional, world welterweight contender. Joe served in the Armyin 1945–46. Among Joe’s greatest memories, which he shared countless times with family and at the Oneonta Historical Society, were those of working summers on the Section Gang for the D&H Railroad in 1947–52, where he witnessed the American Dream and built many life-long friendships.
Joe went to college on the GI Bill as a World War II veteran. At Colgate University, he earned a Bachelor of Arts in 1951, majoring in philosophy and studying drama. Joe earned his Master of Science degree in elementary education (ME1) in 1956 at Oneonta State Teachers College (SUNY Oneonta). He taught grade 5 (1 year) and high school (3 years) and coached football in Walton in 1953–57. In 1957 Mr. C. came to Oneonta, teaching grade 5 (4 years) and later grade 6 (30 years!), which he truly loved, at the Plains and Greater Plains Elementary Schools and began a long coaching career at OHS. From the 1950s to the 1980s, he was an assistant football coach, baseball coach, JV boys’ basketball coach, and girls’ basketball coach.
During the summers, he coached Babe Ruth Baseball and developed and coached the Kiwanis Grasshopper Baseball youth program in Neahwa Park, where he integrated the first boys’ and girls’ baseball league in Oneonta. Some of Coach Campbell’s athletes became pros, including a Super Bowl champion and ESPN broadcaster, who took tips from The Grand Old Man.
When Mr. C. retired from teaching in 1991, he asked himself, “What have I done?” and continued volunteering within the district. He lamented snow days and would go into school anyway to greet occasional students. Joe developed leadership and sportsmanship skills in many Oneonta student athletes, skills that would serve them a lifetime as they became productive members of society.
Joe had an incredible 50 years on the air on WDOS radio from 1952–2002 with his radio program, The Sentimental Journey. This was the longest running radio program in Central New York and beyond. He reached out and touched many listeners through the airwaves and made many friendships that lasted a lifetime. Joe was a long-time supporter of the arts, ranging from big band music to New Orleans Jazz to the Glimmerglass Opera.
The local music scene was enriched through his airplay, interviews, and support of great artists such as Al Gallodoro, Tommy Joy (his former student), Jack Stahl, Hank Jones, Jerry Jeff Walker, and especially the Big Bands. Joe was also a frequent master of ceremonies for community events, including concerts, boxing and wrestling matches in Neahwa Park, and a tribute to Carl Delberta, complete with boxing-match sound effects.
Joe, and his friend Joe Fioravanti continued to enrich the local arts by serving the community through their course series, The Great American Broadcast, at the Center for Continuing Adult Learning sponsored by Hartwick College and SUNY Oneonta. Joe Fioravanti said this about their Music and Memories of World War II class: “Joe Campbell was a native Oneontan (who parlayed a love of sports with a college major in philosophy) who long combined physical fitness with the pursuit of wisdom. A noted educator, sports buff, and coach, Campbell was best known to thousands of area radio listeners as the Voice of Oneonta. For decades, he broadcast the Yellow Jackets football games on Saturday afternoons, but his passion for jazz and big band swing music made him a local legend.
“For fifty years his weekend radio show, The Sentimental Journey, earned him the accolade: The Grand Old Man of Radio. He has read Socrates and Spinoza, who had something to say about the mysteries of the human condition. Yet he enjoys a special affinity for the revered poets of Tin Pan Alley, those rhymesters and tunesmiths who brilliantly set to music timeless truths about the ongoing quest for love and beauty between the two lost souls in a world in desperate need of both.”
With his friend, Madolyn Palmer, Joe was a long-time supporter of the annual Muscular Dystrophy Association’s telethon. Madolyn and Joe more than doubled the local donations. A constant theme throughout his life was his community service. Through Joe’s many careers, he was always serving the community – reaching out and making connections with everyone. Joe would always find a connection and grow friendships. At his Italian American Club Father of the Year award ceremony in 2002, Judy Campbell offered these poignant words, “My husband is an extraordinary father for the same reasons that he was an excellent teacher. Whatever a child excelled in, he would focus on. His students always left his class with a self-awareness and deep respect for others.”
Joe was named Citizen of the Year by the Oneonta Jaycees in 1980 and given the Key to the City in 1997. Being named OHS’s first Alumni of the Year in 2005 and being inducted onto the OHS Wall of Distinction in 2011 and into the OHS Athletic Hall of Fame in 2016 meant a great deal to Joe and were among his most treasured honors.
Joseph P. Campbell is survived by his wife, Judith A. Campbell, and her 2 children, Alexandra K. Hanson (Todd) and their daughter Nicole M. Hanson, and Melissa A. Rice and her son Joseph A. Rice; his second wife, Barbara A. Campbell, and her 2 children, Michael J. Lynch and Jude B. Lynch; and his first wife, Sally S. Fionte, and their 2 children, Joseph P. Campbell, Jr. (Shawn) and their 2 daughters Elizabeth A. Campbell Vidreiro (Mark) and Emily M. Boulnois (Florian), and Jeffrey S. Campbell and his 3 children Shelby L. Campbell, Nolan R. Campbell, and Delaney M. Campbell.
Joe is also survived by his brother William R. Campbell and sister Adah J. Day and her 4 children, Bridget M. McGuinness, Regina E. Ranieri McGuinness (Richard), Meghan A. McGuinness (fiancé Jay Duseau), Christopher R. Day, and her 5 grandchildren. Joseph was predeceased by his parents, Buchanan H. and Elizabeth A. Campbell, his sister Helen Price, and his 2 brothers John S. Campbell and Buchanan H. Campbell, Jr.
Mr. C. was very proud that many of his family members followed in his footsteps and became teachers. We are grateful to Joe’s former students, athletes, and coworkers for their visits, calls, and cards over the years. Joe was especially grateful for support from his caregivers at Dr. Egal Internal Medicine and Geriatrics, Fox Hospital, Chestnut Park Rehabilitation & Nursing Center, Hampshire House Assisted Living, Cooperstown Center for Rehabilitation & Nursing, and Bassett Hospital.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations in Joe’s memory be considered to the following organizations:
Oneonta Boys & Girls Club (http://www.oneontaboysandgirlsclub.org/)
Sixth Ward Athletic Club (http://sixthwardaa.com/)
OHS Alumni Association (https://www.oneontahighalumni.org/)
Oneonta Dollars for Scholars (http://www.oneonta.dollarsforscholars.org/)
Muscular Dystrophy Association (https://www.mda.org/office/albany)
Opportunities for Otsego (https://www.ofoinc.org/)
A celebration of Joe’s life is being planned for this summer at the Oneonta Boys & Girls Club. Online condolences can be made by visiting www.grummonsfuneralhome.com.
Arrangements are by the Lester R. Grummons Funeral Home, Oneonta.