Mountain View Voice

News - October 22, 2010

Mountain View man was dedicated to education, craft

by Nick Veronin

Elmer Campbell, a longtime Mountain View resident and a trustee for the Whisman Elementary School District for 22 years, died of cancer Sept. 29 at the age of 91.

Campbell was born in Detroit but moved to the Peninsula as a youth, where he graduated from Palo Alto High School. He married Virginia Thomason in 1941 and worked as a supervising ship fitter in San Francisco during World War II. In 1950, the couple settled in Mountain View, where they raised five children and Campbell worked as a general contractor, building homes all over the Peninsula and in Santa Cruz.

He was elected to the Whisman Elementary School District board of trustees in 1955, and served there for 22 years; he was elected president of the board multiple times.

"He was very dedicated to getting good things for children," said Joan MacDonald, who served with Campbell on the Whisman board for 13 years. "He was really selfless. He gave and gave and gave his time and his energy and his love."

In 1969 Campbell was chair of the school board when it was named the best school district in the southwestern region by the Association of Classroom Teachers, part of the National Education Association.

During difficult economic times, in the mid '70s, Campbell fought alongside his fellow board members to preserve school programs, MacDonald said. "He felt strongly that education was the most important thing that communities could offer to children."

"We were very blessed to have him here that long," said his daughter, Lisa Sewell. She said her father lived a very long and full life and had been fairly active until recently. Even after he was not as capable physically, Sewell said, his mind remained sharp.

"He was kind of like a 'Car Talk' guy for contractors," Sewell said, comparing Campbell to the hosts of the popular automotive call-in show. She said that family and friends would regularly call up Campbell for advice on how to make home repairs, fix electrical problems or install a sink.

"He did everything except masonry," Sewell said.

He is survived by his wife, Virginia, who recently turned 90, and four of his five children. A memorial service was held at the Soquel cabin that Campbell built after he retired in 1988.

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