BRICK – The idea was to brighten the day of a man celebrating his birthday with a birthday card for each year of his life, but that meant 102 birthday cards.
George Campbell, a resident of the Willow Springs Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center, received far more than that number. “I had seen something similar on Facebook about another facility where a resident turned 100. I thought why not do something different and fun,” said the facility’s Activities Director Jenny Campbell (no relation).
“We got quite a few groups involved like area Girl Scout Troops,” Jenny Campbell said. The facility also used social media and various area publications to help them with their goal. The idea took off and became a social media viral event. George Campbell received more than 600 birthday cards by Oct. 3 and by Oct. 8 had around 2,000 cards.
“He had no idea how things had taken off,” Sandy Crisafulli, Account Manager/Writer of Caryl Communications, Inc. said. Willow Springs Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center is a client of Caryl Communications.
“He is an aware, communicable and a kind, warm-hearted spirit,” Natalie Adis of Marquis Health Services said, describing George Campbell.
Campbell is a proud Navy veteran and served in the South Pacific during World War II. His daughter Patricia Campbell-McAvoy said that as an offset of his work in the Navy in aircraft maintenance he went into sheet metal work.
“He worked on many diners across the state,” Cambell-McAvoy said. One of those diners was the original O.B. Diner in Point Pleasant considered an Ocean County landmark.
Campbell-McAvoy reminded her father that he used to describe his profession as a “tin knocker.” Beyond the many iconic diners he helped build, George Campbell also worked on fabricating sheet metal for the World Trade Center.
George Campbell recalled a heart attack he had at age 63 that led him to retire and also quit smoking cold turkey.
“That made me quit,” he said.
But he wasn’t going to sit around in his retirement. As a volunteer he joined his daughter who worked at the Thomas Edison Tower and Museum in West Orange. “He would greet people as they came in and this led him to become its curator,” Cambell McAvoy said.
“He gave tours and some children even asked him if he knew Thomas Edison,” Campbell-McAvoy said. He remained in that role for 25 years.
Recalling those days, George Campbell said, “enough was enough, it was time to retire.”
“He retired when he was 88, Earlier in his life he had served as the Asst. Fire Chief of Edison-Menlo Park,” Campbell McAvoy said.
“The fire department police was part of my duties,” George Campbell added.
Campbell-McAvoy said her grandparents Mary and George Campbell were also long lived and that her mother Kathleen Coogan Campbell died in Aug. 2012.
“He met my mother when they were 15,” Campbell-McAvoy said. “They were married for 63 years.”
George Campbell is a family man and was devoted to his late wife and remains close to his children which in addition to Patricia includes his son Robert and his grandchildren Erin, Jonathan and Brendan and two great grandchildren Alice and Clara.
“He built a treehouse for his grandchildren without having a design. He just got some wood and started building it one day,” his daughter said.
Campbell was born and grew up in Perth Amboy and moved to Point Pleasant Beach before relocating to Willow Springs Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center in May.
Some of his past and present interests include fishing, gardening and watching Wheel of Fortune.
As to his favorite foods and presidents he said, “I don’t remember. There are so many,” he said.
Regarding, the subject of desserts however, Campbell made it very clear he enjoyed “cheesecake and strawberry shortcake.”
“He’s a big one on desserts that’s for sure,” his daughter said.
Campbell-McAvoy said of her father. “the older he gets the more I appreciate the stories he tells and the love we have. He is a wonderful father, grandfather and great grandfather.”
George Campbell was described by his daughter as a very independent man who when he lived in Point Pleasant Beach prepared his own meals and cleaned his own clothes. He does enjoy those who take care of him at Willow Springs.
“They take good care of me and they make sure I don’t trip and fall down and when I don’t feel well,” he said.