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It is with great sadness we share that Robert James Campbell passed away on December 21, 2018 at the age of 87. Bob, as he was known by his family and friends, was the dearly loved husband and best friend of Emily K. Campbell; proud, loving father of Mary Brandon Campbell and James Hubbard Campbell (Jacquelyn); devoted grandfather of Scott, Jack, Morgan, Collin and Catherine; loving brother of Richard Campbell; and uncle, cousin, and friend to many.
Bob was born in Grand Rapids on June 4, 1931 to Frances and Neil Campbell. He attended Ottawa Hills schools in his early years, culminating in graduation in 1949 from East Grand Rapids High School. Bob attended Denison University in Granville, Ohio where he had the good fortune to meet Emily, the love of his life and partner for 63 years. After graduating from Denison, Bob joined Keeler Brass Company in Grand Rapids. He enjoyed over 25 years with Keeler Brass as the Director of Purchasing and, ultimately, a member of the Board of Directors. Bob was a skilled commodities buyer, earning national recognition for his expertise, such that he was asked by the Ford administration to tour manufacturing plants in Asia and offer insights. In 1982, Bob and several colleagues formed CRS Sales as manufacturer’s representatives. They were in business together for over 25 years until retirement.
Bob was truly a unique person. He was keenly intelligent and intensely curious about nearly everything. As a lifelong resident of Western Michigan, he was particularly passionate about Michigan history and the Great Lakes. Bob lived large. He became a certified scuba diver in order to get a closer look at shipwrecks he was studying. When he decided to cross country ski, he entered races. During the energy crisis, Bob bought a farm to try to live more sustainably, planting an orchard and crops that he harvested enthusiastically. Bob was an avid fisherman. He also sailed with a syndicate on several boats over a period of many years, racing in the storied Chicago-Mackinac and Port Huron-Mackinaw races multiple times. His greatest loves, however, were his family and friends. He was privileged to have close friends who had been in his life since childhood. Always ready with a story and quick to heartfelt (and loud) laughter, Bob took a sincere interest in getting to know people and never wavered in his commitment or support. Bob had an innate moral compass that provided guidance for his life and those he mentored. Mostly, though, he was self-effacing and humble. Throughout his entire career, he would answer inquiries about his job with, “I’m just a peddler.” We knew his deep love for us and we miss him.
Services: A celebration of Bob’s life will be held at 4pm on Wednesday, June 5th at Kent Country Club, 1600 College Avenue NE in Grand Rapids. In lieu of flowers, please honor Bob by considering ways to serve the Grand Rapids community. The family has established the Robert James Campbell Memorial Scholarship Fund at Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (Attn: Jill Schneider, 17 Fountain St. NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503 or kcad.edu/giving). Bob also supported the Grand Rapids Community Foundation and YMCA Camp Hayo-Went-Ha, which he visited many times with his son and then grandsons.