Glenn A. Campbell, Family Man and St. Louis Educator, Dies at Age 86
Glenn A. Campbell, an educator who spent his entire career with the St. Louis Public Schools as a teacher, principal and administrator, died Aug. 10. He was 86.
Although he rose through the school system’s ranks and eventually helped to develop and shepherd the district’s desegregation efforts, he always said that his greatest professional satisfaction came from working directly with students.
He recently recounted the story of a child who neither enjoyed reading nor being read to. But by working with the student directly, Glenn awakened in the child a love of the written word. He recalled with fondness a letter from the student’s parents.
“They said, ‘We don’t know what you did, but thank you,’” Glenn recalled. “Those kinds of letters were the best awards I ever received.”
Born July 14, 1932, to James and Goldie Mae Campbell, Glenn was no stranger to the privations of the Great Depression. He said he’d sometimes see his mother with her head in her hands, uncertain how she’d feed the family.
“But she always managed somehow,” Glenn recalled. “Sometimes it was just biscuits and gravy made with bacon drippings, but it was good, nourishing food.”
In later years he admitted to having run with something of a rough crowd, though its exploits seldom rose to more than light criminal mischief.
Education seemed an unlikely choice for Glenn. An indifferent student himself, he sought adventure in the U.S. Navy following his high school graduation.
With the Korean War in full swing, Glenn found himself on the USS Philippine Sea, an Essex-class aircraft carrier that provided air support for U.N. ground troops. During the deployment, Glenn and his crewmates earned a China service ribbon after one of the carrier’s aircraft gunned down a Chinese fighter, an incident the U.S. government vehemently denied—at least to China.
Later, Glenn served aboard the USS Hornet on a goodwill tour across the Atlantic that featured, in addition to stops in European ports, a trip through the Suez Canal.
Naval discipline infused Glenn with a greater sense of responsibility, but he remained a young roustabout at heart. He recently related the panic he felt when he came up one sock short after a nighttime skinny-dipping escapade on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu. He ultimately wrapped a hanky around one ankle and managed to get permission to re-board the Philippine Sea, either through the grace of the officer of the deck or his own legerdemain he never knew.
After his honorable discharge in 1955, Glenn returned to St. Louis where he resumed woo-pitching with Mitsuko “Mitzi” Shoji and began to piece together a life plan.
That plan eventually included marriage and work at Harris Teachers College toward becoming a teacher in the St. Louis School District. And as often happens in plans involving young people in love, Glenn and Mitzi eventually began a family.
Glenn proved a pioneering father, sharing in such rigors and toils of childrearing like diaper changing before it became de rigueur, let alone expected, for fathers to undertake such duties. He remained thoroughly engaged as his children grew into honorable adulthood and never missed an event, whether it took place on an athletic field or a school stage.
His love of family extended to developing a greater understanding of his roots, a curiosity he pursued with dogged persistence as he searched long-forgotten county clerk documents, newspaper clippings and other dusty papers that fed a growing family tree that extended to a Revolutionary War veteran and to Sam Houston, a leader of the Texas Revolution and the Republic of Texas’ first president.
The needs of his growing family led Glenn to accept positions of increasing responsibility, including stints as a school principal before moving into administration. He ultimately rose to serve as executive director of the district’s Desegregation Monitoring Office.
Glenn’s naval service instilled in him a lifelong love of travel, and he most loved spending time along the Pacific Coast, especially the San Francisco Bay area. And there was nothing he enjoyed more than sharing those experiences with his family.
Glenn’s spirit began to dim upon the death of Mitzi, the great love of his life, in January 2014. But his pilot light reignited in the fall of 2017 when a pesky lung infection led to a cancer diagnosis. Channeling his inner Braveheart, Glenn fought through the fog and discomfort of chemo and radiation, emerging in February with a clean scan and bold hopes for the future that his declining health often sadly refused to allow.
Those hopes extended from the simple—he expressed a desire to play catch with his sons one more time—to the more ambitious. For example, in his final days he expressed a desire to travel the nation’s borders and coastlines and write a successor to John Steinbeck’s “Travels with Charley” and William Least Heat Moon’s “Blue Highways.” He wanted to focus on the people and the land, with special attention paid to the nation’s frozen custard and ice cream stands along the way.
In that way, it was fitting that one of his last wishes was to one more time enjoy a frozen custard concrete. “Mmmm, that’s heavenly” he said of the forbidden treat that his nurse Maddy was kind enough to pretend she didn’t see.
Another of his final wishes was to express his profound appreciation to the many caregivers who through their actions revealed the healing presence of God, people who insisted upon seeing the best in him when he felt he wasn’t able to live as his best self.
In particular, he was touched by the loving, tender care of nurses at St. Mary’s like Libby, Aurelio, Becca and Maddy. He was exceptionally grateful for Tiffany, who held his hand and prayed with him during rough nights. He also had extreme gratitude for Katy, a nurse from a previous hospital stay who went well beyond the requirements of nursing to keep him comfortable and who continued to ask after him in his subsequent visits.
Glenn was also deeply touched by the kindness extended him by St. Mary’s staff like Dianne from custodial services, Diane from respiratory services and Pam from food services. Despite his limitations and condition, he saw they approached their work not as jobs but as a mission that extended to knowing him as an individual.
Glenn was likewise grateful for the loving care he received during his stays at Lutheran Senior Services at Laclede Groves from the floor, nursing, nutrition and therapy staffs. He felt their love, care and encouragement each day of his tenure there.
Glenn is survived by his daughter, Sarah Hoffman, and sons, Brian Campbell and Geoff Campbell. He’s also survived by sisters Ann Prouhet and Norma Dunn and brother Dean Campbell. He also leaves behind seven grandchildren: Katie Hart, Cory Hart, Avery Campbell, Paige Campbell, Maddie Campbell, Mackenzie Campbell and Kirby Campbell. Survivors also include longtime friends Tom and Joan Menkhus, who made special effort to visit Glenn often. Glenn is in addition survived by Maxwell, his faithful companion to the end.
Visitation is scheduled for 4 p.m.-8 p.m. Aug. 13 at Kutis Funeral Home, 10151 Gravois, St. Louis. Services are scheduled for Aug. 14 at Kutis with burial to follow at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, 2900 Sheridan Road, St. Louis.
The family has requested that, in lieu of flowers, mourners consider a donation to the American Cancer Society or to the no-kill animal shelter of their choice.