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Thu, Mar 15, 2018

Barnstorming: The Long Goodbye (Updated)

Thoughts About A Man Who Made EVERYTHING Possible for Me

Grief is the price we pay for love.
                                                        Queen Elizabeth II

A Personal Observation By ANN/E-I-C Jim Campbell

A Personal Update-03.14.18: My Dad passed away, Wednesday, at 1247 ET... comfortably, peacefully, and after a lifetime of selfless devotion to his family.

I've greatly appreciated the many emails and calls that the original version of this missive inspired and the fact that it gave so many of you a chance to think about the important people in your life. Your generous sharing of the details of your lives has made a brutally awful day somewhat more bearable.

The love my Dad takes with him is immeasurable -- and may be the only thing of value that survives with our spirit at the ends of our lives. If you'll forgive me a bit of a daydream, I'm kinda hoping that Vicki met up with him shortly after arrival to show him the ropes (face it, after nearly 9 years in years n Heaven, she should be running much of the place by now...). She would introduce him to a heaven that is filled with so many of our loving family members who have gone before, so that a truly wondrous reunion can start in earnest. As part of this daydream, our dear friend Stephen Hawking jogs by in his new track suit, offers a smile over all the fuss, and heads off to argue the universe with Einstein and a cadre of other great minds.

Original Text: It’s been a while since I last wrote to all of you, and for that I apologize… there have been some over-riding issues occupying my attention… the kind that every son and daughter must someday face.

Yes; I do want to update you on some items of major/critical concern, in the not too distant future, as I have grave thoughts about our collective future and the Aviation world’s ability to rebuild itself… 

But… still, I must tell you that this has not been my major concern, of late.

I am the first born of all the Campbell kids… which number seven in all… and are augmented by a huge collection of grandkids, great grandkids, and all manner of family relations… In our heyday, Campbell family gatherings (a 'small' one shown below) were massive, unruly, loving, and hysterically entertaining affairs… but not so much these last few years after my Dad was diagnosed with a progressive neurological disease that has robbed us of his thoughts, companionship, love and amazing presence a little bit at a time… to a point where we have but days left to be with him and let him know how much he has done for those of us who literally owe our very lives to him.

I’m not sure how to describe this man… little that I can say will do him justice… just suffice it to say that he and my Mother raised seven kids to adulthood, that we all have worked hard to build good lives, and that he unselfishly made sure that each of us got just what we needed… while also being taught to earn our way through life through achievement and hard work. I did amazing things, I went amazing places, I did great work... because my Dad inspired me to do so.

There is nothing I have done in my 61 years that is not the result of his influence, his heart-felt efforts to get me to learn some demanding lessons (a chore for him, I assure you), and the judgement he did his best to instill in me all throughout my life.  

There have been a number of great moments together, where my aero-efforts allowed him to take some pride in what I had devoted my life to, and how I pursued my dreams. Each of my 20 published books have been prominently displayed throughout my parent’s home, here and there, for many years and quite a few friends and neighbors have been forced to leaf through them as my Dad and Mom checked them out on “what Jim’s been up to lately” (the never-ending saga). I was surprised several years ago when I was asked to give a speech to a massive gathering of Rotary Club members – discovering only as I arrived that my Dad had been asked to do my introduction… an event that will stick with me all through my life… as his pride was evident, but what got me was the amount of detail be related… things I had no idea he had heard about or noticed… and after that, it was obvious that my Pop was actually quite the fan… even though the primary interests of our lives were rarely the same. When he retired, his goodbye address to a huge gathering of co-workers was not about him at all… but about his family and the people he loved… each of the Campbell kids, and my Mom, were singled out and lauded for what they had meant to him… and for me, his discussion and pride in my work on the Bob Hoover affair was every bit as rewarding to me as Bob’s own thanks and pride in my work.

Several years ago, my folks (shown, left) joined the entire ANN team at Oshkosh… a world that they had heard of, but of which they had little real knowledge. They had the time of their lives (with my grateful thanks to EAA’s Rod Hightower who rolled out the red carpet for them), and for years thereafter, my Dad would talk of the planes he saw, the people he met, the airshows, and the hardworking (albeit a little crazy) ANN crew… and of all the things I wanted to share with my Dad (even beyond the year I took him to a World Series game featuring his old home team, the Detroit Tigers), this was it.

Even better; I had the chance to introduce my folks to Bob Hoover, who graciously spent some time with them even though he was tired and more than ready to call it a day. It was the perfect Dad/Son moment… of many.

Still; far more important than a son’s ever-present need for his Dad’s approval is something far more precious… my own pride in my Dad. I’m astonished with what he did, the family he raised, and the way that he lived his life… with a lack of personal concern and an unselfish manner that put his family before anything, that even now, have me in awe. In my reflection of the last few weeks, and especially at his bedside in a hospice facility, and in thinking about the wonderful people I’ve met and worked with… moonwalkers, Presidents, pilots, activists, and veterans of a number of wars… and even some truly remarkable men… Paul Poberezny, Phil Boyer, and (of course), Bob Hoover; I find myself unable to think of anyone who has affected me more, and instilled more pride in me, than my Dad.

And with all due respect to the great men and women who have been such a large part of my life, I don’t think any would argue with my assertion that the greatest man I have ever known is this wonderful guy who built an amazing family with my Mom and guided the seven of us along a course that has resulted in each of us doing great and positive things in the world.

So… as I work my way back to the hospice to support my Mom in her vigil, and spend some time lost in the memories of a great life, well-lived, I need to ask you all for this…

If your own parents are a live, positive force in your lives, do not miss a chance to tell them how much they’ve done for you and how much love you have for them… and never let them forget it. There are never too many opportunities to let those most important to us know of their role in our lives and we should never pass up a single chance to let them know.

As for me, I will ever remain the proud first-born son of Richard Campbell (seen left, shaking my hand after my wife Masako, and I, married)... a man who gave me strength, taught me purpose, protected me (often from myself), allowed me to pursue my wings, and never let me feel that I was less than loved—even when I did little to deserve such sentiments (yeah… there were a few of those… nuff said).

All of the best parts of me were influenced by my Pop… and the worst occurred when I failed to pay attention to the lessons he attempted to impart.

I am inordinately proud to have been his son and hate the thought that I will shortly live in a world where he is not a loving/living presence… though it has been a better world for his having been such a pivotal part of it -- to me, my family and his friends, and if you ever appreciated a thing we did for you, it was because of the foundation my Dad gave me, the lessons he taught, and the freedom he celebrated as I built a unique, purposeful, and interesting life.

With all my love and utmost respect... Thanks, Dad.



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