George Rogers Clark High School and the entire Kentucky music community lost a beloved member this week when former band director Charles “Chuck” Campbell passed away after battling pancreatic cancer since April.
Campbell touched the lives of thousands of students during his 31-year career, first at GRC, then later at East and North Hardin High schools. He also served as interim director of the University of Louisville Symphonic Band from 2008 to 2009, and after retiring in 2006, founded and conducted The Heartland Winds ensemble in 2007 because he “felt like something was missing in the community.”
In an effort to keep his friends and former students informed of his condition during his illness, Campbell’s family created a profile on carepages.com. Wellwishers flooded the page, with heartfelt prayers, poems and support for Campbell and his family during his illness.
After his passing, someone started an “I miss Chuck Campbell” page on the social network Facebook, where hundreds have posted their fondest memories of Campbell and how he inspired them through his love and passion for music and his students.
“As a band director myself, I have spent the better part of my professional career trying to figure out how Mr. C. motivated not just the band students he worked with, but the parents and communities in which he worked. I’m still trying to understand this riddle, as I have never seen it happen anywhere else. His accomplishments were and still are extortionary,” John Laverty posted.
Laverty added that he knew how life-altering a teacher can be, and that because of Campbell’s influence, he would work harder than ever to help his students understand how that is possible.
Former GRC color guard member Elizabeth Gabbert said Campbell motivated and inspired people to reach heights they never thought they could.
“Mr. Campbell motivated all of us to be perfect — no mistakes. Anything else was unacceptable. He was strict, but allowed us to show our individual ideas and put them into the show. The feeling when 200 members were marching as one is unexplainable,” Gabbert said. “He taught us discipline, working together as a team, that working hard has its reward and to have courage to achieve an idea, and we took those lessons on with us into adulthood.”
She also said she didn’t really know just how far-reaching Campbell’s influence had been throughout the state until she read some of the comments on the Facebook page.
Cathy Johnson may have summed up the feelings of the majority of Campbell’s former students with the following post.
“Thousands of books have been written over the years about leadership. Yet few leaders or coaches are able to motivate and influence people like Mr. C. did. He scared us to death by threatening to sideline us, or worse, humiliate us in front of our peers, yet we recall him fondly because he made us believe in ourselves and accomplish performances that still amaze us today. Most of us did not follow him into music careers, yet the principles he taught of persistence and the pursuit of excellence have made us all better people, no matter what career path we chose. Thank you, Mr. Campbell. May your reward be in heaven.”
Judy Campbell told the Elizabethtown newspaper, The News-Enterprise, that she asked the rest of the family to leave the hospital room before he died so she could read all the letters and notes of support he received.
“From about 2 a.m. until they pronounced him gone, that’s what I was doing,” she said. “It’s so neat, don’t you think, that someone gets to see that support while they are still alive?”
Campbell’s funeral is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Glendale Christian Church in Elizabethtown. Visitation is from noon to 8 p.m. today, and until the time of service Wednesday at the church.
Manakee Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
In order to continue the legacy of Charles Campbell, the family requests that donations be made in his name at the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, 1500 Rosecrans Avenue, Suite 200, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266, or through online donations at www.pancan.org.