Cover photo for William A. Campbell's Obituary
William A. Campbell Profile Photo
1925 William 2013

William A. Campbell

October 22, 1925 — June 18, 2013

A Love Story

Bill Campbell was born in Cambridge, MA in the fall of 1925 to George and Edith (Riggs) Campbell. He was the youngest of five children. He lived in Cambridge until he was 11, where he attended Sunday School at the Old Cambridge Baptist Church, just a stone's throw from his home. He then moved with his family to the Hillside area of Medford where, unbeknownst to him at the time, he would come to know his wife-to-be, Doris Lane. They attended the Hobbs Junior High School together and often found themselves spending time with the same group of friends. Doris says she knew from the beginning that he was the one for her.

Bill began to study the accordion when he was twelve, earning the money for the instrument and lessons via a paper route. He had a great ear and nimble fingers and soon was playing at a very high level. Playing the accordion was a gift that he would freely share for his whole life, initially playing in small bands and on a Sunday evening radio broadcast, and later in churches and nursing homes. He had the gift of being able to play almost anything he heard and had a great memory for lyrics. He loved to jam with his brothers who played guitars and his father, who played the banjo. His sister, Verta, had a wonderful voice, making family gatherings a joyful time indeed.

In high school Bill trained to be a machinist. It never occurred to him at that point that he had the possibility of attending college. Upon graduation, in the final year of WWII, he entered the U.S. Navy, where he trained to be a radio operator and sonar technician on the submarine Entemedor. He served in the Pacific theater until the war ended. Meanwhile, he and Doris carried on a correspondence that deepened their friendship into love. After his release from the navy the two of them were married in December of 1946. Bill took a job with Raleigh Bicycle in Kenmore Square in Boston. The couple initially lived in Medford in their old neighborhood, but as three sons arrived in the next five years, they bought a small home in Billerica, with the help of the GI Bill.

During the early years of their marriage, Bill was an active layman in Methodist churches, first in Medford and then in Wilmington, MA. It was in this latter setting that he became convinced that God was calling him into the ministry. By this point, he was the sales manager for Raleigh's New England region, but he was thirty years old, had a wife, three boys and no college education. How could he make this happen? His pastor in Wilmington, the Rev. Dick Harding, told him about a little college in Kentucky. Union College was in the town of Barbourville, right in the heart of Appalachia. The school accepted him as a student and Bill and Doris sold their house, loaded the belongings that remained into a U-Haul trailer, and in the fall of 1956 Bill began to study for the Methodist ministry, while Doris earned $40 a week as a faculty secretary.

He graduated in three years, magna cum laude, and headed north for his theological studies, pursuing his degree first at Drew University in Madison, NJ, and completing it at Boston University. All during his college and seminary years he served small churches and in each setting was beloved as a deeply caring pastor of unshakable faith. Doris took on the bulk of the responsibility for the boys. Though they never had much in the way of money, they always managed to find a way ahead, and that was enough for them.

After Bill graduated from B.U. he took his first fulltime church in Beverly, MA. During that time he and Doris adopted a little girl from China, Lorna. This was one of the first such adoptions in the U.S. and caused quite a sensation, including a write-up in the Boston Herald. Bill was very active in ecumenical affairs in Beverly, working closely with a number of other faith communities. In his next church in Dedham, MA, he was instrumental in creating a youth commission in the town to address the needs of young people. His church established a hotline for kids who were in crisis. He moved from Dedham to Wakefield in the mid 1980's, his final fulltime appointment, where he was deeply respected as a wise, gentle and caring pastor.

Bill became involved during his later years in ministry with the Sub Vets of America and served for a number of years as the national chaplain of that organization. Bill and Doris retired to Winthrop, ME in 1989 where Bill worked as an assistant minister at the local United Methodist Church for a number of years. He also served simultaneously as the custodian of that church, demonstrating the humble spirit that was so much a part of his ministry.

One remarkable event followed him throughout his ministry. In 1971 he took a photograph of a young girl jumping over some daisies. On a whim he sent it off to Life Magazine as an entry in their amateur photographer's contest in 1972. Out of more than a million photos submitted, his was one of the winners. It was such a stunning photo that it began to attract attention all over the world. In 1978 it was selected as the image for the national energy poster, appearing in libraries, schools and public buildings all over the country. It was on the cover of a book published by Life called The Joy of Life. It appeared in advertisements, greeting cards and publications all over the world. Many artists reproduced it. While it never made him wealthy, this beautiful picture brought him and others untold joy.

In later years, as his health declined, Bill and Doris lived in Concord, MA at the Deaconess Homes, operated by the United Methodist Church, where Bill, as a former director of that organization, was surrounded by people who loved him. He continued to play the accordion for the residents in the nursing home where he would eventually reside until a year or two before his death. He lived his life fully, lovingly and graciously and leaves behind him a legacy love that will echo down through the generations.

Rev. William A. Campbell, age 87 of Concord, passed away June 18, 2013 surrounded by his family. He was the loving husband of Doris E. (Lane) Campbell. Devoted father of Scott Campbell and his wife Lin of Cambridge, Stephen Campbell and his wife Muriel of Winthrop, ME, Oi Wah (Lorna) Yip and her Husband Marshall Mitchell of Vero Beach, FL. He is predeceased by his son Glenn. Also survived by his foster son Robert Ryan of Livermore Falls, ME, Devoted Grandfather of 8 Grandchildren and 14 Great grandchildren. He was also the brother of Verta Bennett, Jack Campbell and the late Bob and Gordon Campbell.

Services were held on Saturday, June 29, 2013 at 11:00am in:
Harvard-Epworth United Methodist Church
1555 Mass. Avenue
Cambridge, MA.

Visitation one hour prior to the service.

Gifts in his name may be made to:
The Preacher's Aid Society
P.O. Box 3386
Plymouth, MA 02361.
U.S. Navy WWII Veteran

Service Schedule

Past Services


Saturday, June 29, 2013

10:00 - 11:00 am (Eastern time)

Harvard-Epworth United Methodist Church

1555 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138

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Memorial Service

Saturday, June 29, 2013

11:00am - 12:00 pm (Eastern time)

Harvard-Epworth United Methodist Church

1555 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138

Get Directions

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


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