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J. Duncan Campbell

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BENNINGTON -- Mr. J. Duncan Campbell, 89, a well-known resident and former selectman for the town of Bennington, died Saturday afternoon, Nov. 22, 2003 at the Vermont Veterans Home following a period of declining health.

Mr. Campbell was born in Utica, N.Y. on June 20, 1914, the son of Daniel R. and Bessie O. (Cowles) Campbell. He relocated to Brooklyn with his family at the age of six where he attended local schools, graduating from Erasmus High School, class of 1931. While attending high school he studied art under the direction of Dr. Henry E. Fritz whose methods were hailed as one of the pioneering examples of how to deal with those gifted in the graphic arts. In 1924 Mr. Campbell was the grandprize-winner of the Wanamaker Drawing contest which drew over 8,000 entries by public school children. He apprenticed at Jonas Brothers Studios in Yonkers where he honed his skills working with John Paul Jonas, a master animal sculptor and taxidermist for habitat groups in major museums.

Following high school, he took time out to tour Europe where he worked to improve his artistic skills. Because of his long youthful career as an animal painter, he was given a job as a background painter and foreground sculptor at American Museum of Natural History making dioramas to be taken by staff into city schools. (This being the depression era, the funds available to the museum were WPA.) Museum mentors mentioned their protege to the N.Y. State Conservation Department, Fish and Wildlife Service. Mr. Campbell subsequently became a designer and director of large traveling dioramas showing trout stream development programs, which were transported to various sportsman’s shows and fitted together for presentation.

Following the expiration of his contract he began working with the Display Guild Inc. in Manhattan. He then went to work with Diorama Corporation of America where he worked on dioramas for the Ford Motor Co., which were used at the N.Y. World’s Fair. In 1938 he began working at General Display, manufacturers of wood and metal counter displays. In 1943, during World War II, he answered the call of his country by serving in the U.S. Naval Reserve Naval Construction Battalion, where he worked as a Navy technical correspondent, having many published articles in several publications. He served on the personal staff of Commodore R. Perry (founder and topmost officer of “Seabees”).

Upon being discharged in 1945 he joined with Allan Nemoroe and Joseph E. Joseph to form Kay Displays Inc. in New York City. He later relocated to Bennington where they formed Bennington Display Manufacturing Co., maintaining an office in New York as well, with Mr. Campbell assuming the position of president and chief designer. After the sale of the company in 1975, Mr. Campbell continued as president and CEO of the company until retiring in 1980.

A civic minded man, he loved the town of Bennington and became very involved in his community serving on the board of selectman for 16 years and as a member of the Bennington Planning Commission. During his tenure he had spearheaded the unification of the village of Bennington and town of Bennington. He was instrumental in adopting the town manager form of government and in increasing the size of the board from a three- to a seven-member board of selectman. He was a founding board member of Bennington Family Service, the forerunner of United Counseling Service, and a member of the ad hoc committee of the Bennington Rural School District, which studied the closing of the one-room schoolhouses and resulted in the construction of Molly Stark School. He had been a Cubmaster, a Soapbox Derby organizer, Junior Ski Program organizer and a charter member of the Bennington Rotary Club. He was a former member of the North Bennington Congregational Church and a current member of the Second Congregational Church. For many years he had written a weekly column in the Bennington Banner entitled “Insider’s View” in which more than 800 articles were published. In addition he was a contributor to Vermont Life and was a member of the advisory board, emeritus.

Among his many interests he enjoyed traveling during his earlier years, reading, playing table tennis and had developed a table tennis program through the Bennington Recreation Department for fun and competition.

He leaves his wife of 65 years Helen (Lucas) Campbell, whom he married Oct. 15, 1938 in Brooklyn; their two sons Stuart Campbell and his wife Carol West-Campbell of Stowe, Alan Campbell and his wife Heidi Racht of Huntington; a sister, the Rev. Virginia Thomas of Bakersfield; five grandchildren, Gregory Campbell, Cricket Kadoch, Mason Rachampbell, Abbott Rachampbell, and Owen Rachampbell; as well as nieces, nephews and cousins.

He was predeceased by a brother, Hallock Campbell, who died in 2001.

A service of remembrance will be held on Thursday, Dec. 11, 2003 at 11 a.m. at the Second Congregational Church with the Rev. Mary Lee-Clark, pastor, and the Rev. Virginia Thomas sharing the service. Interment will take place in the Campbell family lot in Johnstown, N.Y. Cemetery at the convenience of the family. Friends may call at the Hanson-Walbridge Funeral Home on the evening of Dec. 10 from 7-9 p.m., where the family will be present. Memorial gifts may be made to either the Green Mountain Chapter of the American Red Cross, Activities Fund at Vermont Veterans Home or Bennington Area Home Health in care of the Hanson-Walbridge Funeral Home, PO.Box 957, Bennington, VT 05201.
Published in Bennington Banner from Nov. 24 to Nov. 25, 2003
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