Friday, June 29, 2012


In February, my Uncle Frank died quite unexpectedly.  We were all so shocked.  Jim and Kathy kept the kids for me so that I could go to Louisiana for the funeral.  In true Frank style, we sent him home on Mardi Gras.  I was able to speak at the funeral about what Frank meant to me.  I have put that eulogy here with a few pictures of one of the most entertaining guys I've ever known.

There are few people in this world that truly embody the term unique.  Frank David Campbell was in all ways, a unique man.  He was an avid reader, a pyrotechnics expert, a drinker of silver water, ambidextrous, a great debater, a cultivator of the earth, and one of the most generous people on the planet. 

As I remember Frank, a thousand different images flash through my mind, but the one I see the most is him standing on the back porch at my grandparents house, drink in one hand, cigarette in the other pacing around the circle of chairs holding court with outlandish tales of a prank he pulled with Bill or Mark or expounding on his political beliefs sparking a great debate.  These stories and debates were all punctuated by the greatest laughter.  Frank had a laugh that made your heart soar. 

The first and only member of the Campbell clan to be born on foreign soil, Frank was an American patriot who loved to exercise his right to the Second Amendment and created an arsenal to keep us all safe under any circumstances.  He was the most prepared person for Y2K that I’ve ever met, with a store of canned chickens that has only recently been depleted.  Like a good boy scout, Frank was prepared for any eventuality.  He created a “compound” for the family, and always told me when the big event happens, have enough gas on hand to get home to him and he’d take care of the rest.  You could put your faith in Frank.  He was ready.

At my parents' wedding - next to the bride.
The scouts taught Frank that you should be a dependable person and always be willing to help others.  This lesson he learned as a child, he applied throughout his life.  When Popo Chapman died, he stepped up and took care of Momo.  He visited, he fixed things, and when Grandma & Grandpa wanted to go out of town, they knew Frank was there to pick up the slack.  When my Grandpa died, we all knew that Grandma would be just fine because Uncle Frank was going to make sure of it.  He visited her everyday.  I can’t remember how many times I’ve called Grandma’s and Frank was there for his afternoon visit, making cracks about deteriorating mental faculties, telling entertaining stories about his work day or his kids, and pushing the silver water to keep her healthy.  The night before he died, I called and he was there with Lynn Dee. 

Frank knew the value of family and was willing to do anything for any of us.  He helped my mom get to the hospital the day I was born after his hard day of work on the mud truck.  He knew that family sticks together.  They stay when times are hard and when things get dirty.  He applied this great love and philosophy to all three of his kids.  When Nicholas moved a country away to Washington, he made sure that Nicholas still knew he was part of the family.  It seemed to me that he was always flying up to get Nick and bring him back to see us.  He loved Mitch and Jamie from the first day he met them.  I remember a few times in the beginning Lynn Dee would have to tell them Frank’s bark is worse than his bite, but in time, they learned that Frank could mean business, but he also how knew how to make things fun.  He was so proud of all of his kids.  When you asked about his kids, his pride was visible – he’d stand up a little straighter, and expound on their greatness – whether it was Nicholas’s computer skills, Mitchell’s courage, or Jamie’s amazing people skills – he was always telling stories where his children played the heroes.  Perhaps the one thing he was most disappointed in them for was the failure to deliver enough grandkids, but Jamie and Danny recently made that dream come true for him. He was able to trade in all those “grand-dogs” for actual grandkids, and he and Lynn Dee both were so ecstatic for Lexi and Aiden to join the family.  I’m pretty sure if they ask for the moon, Frank would figure out a way to get it for them, even from Heaven.  He was an amazing uncle.  I’m pretty sure there is not a niece or nephew who doesn’t have a story of hundreds of dollars of quarters being thrown into the pool for retrieval during their formative years.  

Frank & James
 Frank knew the value of hard work.  The first job I remember him having was at the hospital.  He worked nights and lived at his parents’ house.  I loved getting to spend the night at Grandma & Grandpa’s because I knew that I could sleep in Frank’s waterbed, and in the morning, when I woke up, he’d be there sleeping right next to me.  He had a lot of down time at the hospital, and he used it to read, mostly sci-fi thrillers.  During his time at the plant, I’m pretty sure he spent more holidays with his work friends than with us.  He enjoyed the people he worked with, and I remember how great he thought it was that “The Frank Song” became his work theme song.  When he spent some time in the hospital last month, his coworkers came out in droves to see him, and it let us know just how much impact he had at work.
Frank & Michael
When he wasn’t working, Franked loved being outdoors.  He always spent his vacation at the Camp where he could boat, build fires, and look at the stars.  He learned a loved for growing things from his Grandpa Campbell.  When he first bought his house, he became a cultivator of some of the world’s best hot peppers.  Many a time, he brought his father to tears with his extra spicy peppers.  He grew broccoli, lemons, tomatoes, cucumbers, and a host of other plants.  Many a family meal included something fresh from Frank’s garden.
Frank & Ryan
Frank was effortlessly cool.  He was my own personal Fonzie.  The man owned a waterbed in the eighties, I probably shouldn’t have to say more.  He had a fish tank with a black light.  He had a motorcycle.  He drove a Trans Am with a t-top.  Once he met Lynn Dee, he just managed to dial that cool factor up.  Together they were the most tan and beautiful people ever.  They owned a swimming pool.  They put on spectacular parties which started at six a.m. when their shift at the hospital ended.  They had a sailboat.  Even though they had three kids, it did not diminish the cool factor.  In fact it increased, as Frank took his love of fireworks from a small show at the end of Grandma & Grandpa’s driveway on a random Tuesday night to an extravaganza of epic proportions at our annual family Fourth of July at the Camp.  Frank taught me that cool came with a price.  If you wanted to see the good fireworks, you’d better clap and clap loudly or the next one to be shot off was going to be a lame bottle rocket.  If you wanted to rock the cool Trans Am with the T-Top, you’d better be willing to be cold.  As child riding to Uncle Mike’s wedding in Atlanta in Frank’s car, I learned that it gets cold in that sweet ride.  Frank was unwilling to diminish the cool of the t-top for warmth, but he was willing to pass back an old football jersey to keep Zach and I warm.  After the kids grew up, he and Lynn Dee still were able to bring the cool factor.  They joined a Mardi Gras krewe and brought the party from the backyard to a limo in tuxes and fancy dresses.
In the parking garage at the hospital when my Popo was sick holding James.
Frank’s generosity was legendary.  He always gave wonderful Christmas gifts.  When I got married, my mother-in-law called me and told me I needed to put something on my registry.  I thought I had put everything in the store on that list.  The next day, when I got home from work, I couldn’t even open the front door there were so many packages outside.  Frank and Lynn Dee had bought almost everything on the registry.  Everyday, I pull something out of the cabinet to use that he gave us.  Not only was he generous with his money, he was generous with his love and affection.  He gave great hugs.
Swimming in the pool as Uncle Frank looks on.

Throughout his life, Frank served as an example for others.  He was a trailblazer, a man of action who cast a big shadow for others to hide in, and he did it all on his own terms.  As a young boy, he would climb out of bed, grab his cowboy hat and ride his radio flyer pony back into dreamland.  I like to think of him riding that pony, telling great stories, and impatiently pacing waiting for all of us to catch up with him.  Frank will live forever in our hearts, and in the lives that he touched.  We were all lucky to know him.

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