CEDARVILLE — Villagers lined Main Street Tuesday morning to say goodbye to a well-loved farmer, businessman, mentor, and friend.
Some wore Kent’s Feed Barn T-shirts; others held up 4-H banners. One man placed his hand over his heart as the horse-drawn hearse quietly clopped by.
Kent Campbell, of Cedarville, died June 27, on his 70th birthday. He’s survived by his wife Charlene, and daughters Gail Sowell and Rebecca Ryan.
“Mom, Gail, and I went to the hospital early this morning. We took all of the birthday cards that had been sent by Dad’s wide circle of friends and family,” Ryan shared on the Kent’s Feed Barn Facebook page Saturday. “We read every message of love and hilarity aloud. We laughed and cried together. Dad passed away peacefully not long after we read the final message.”
Evident by the number of neighbors watching the funeral procession afoot sidewalks and lawns, Campbell, indeed, had a wide circle of friends.
“I moved to Cedarville 45 years ago and one of the first people I met was Kent Campbell — always friendly, always upbeat, always positive, not only about himself but about anything and anyone that he talked about,” Roy Conover, former postmaster, remembered. “I knew Kent for several years before I realized that he had a wooden leg that was the result of an accident when he was a very young man. It (the wooden leg) never slowed him down or kept him from doing anything that anyone else was doing; he never felt sorry for himself and was always doing for others.”
Campbell never slowed down. After graduating from Greeneview High School and Clark County Technical Institute, he served in the Ohio National Guard. Campbell began full-time farming in 1985, and over the years managed a fertilizer plant, worked for John Deere, and opened Kent’s Feed Barn on State Route 72, where he conducted business by the honor system.
“If you visited his feed store there was an order pad and a money box and you took your product and left your money,” Conover continued. “He trusted everyone.”
Campbell also served his Cedarville community as a township trustee and as a deacon, elder, and trustee at Cedarville United Presbyterian Church. He served his county over the years as president of the Greene County Farm Bureau, Greene County Cattlemen’s Association, and the Greene County Regional Planning Commission.
The Village of Cedarville called Campbell a “statesman” in a Facebook post, commending his caring leadership.
But Campbell’s leadership transcended meeting rooms, the feed store, and the fields. Perhaps the people he impacted most were young people.
Originally from Jamestown, Campbell grew up participating in 4-H. Eventually he’d become a 4-H advisor, remaining forever an avid supporter of 4-H and FFA youth — whether they were new to town or natives.
“We have only known him for five short years but from the first day we met him, we felt welcomed to this town and community. That was Kent in our eyes. He was welcoming and giving. His dedication to 4-H was monumental for the kids,” Danielle Kroh, of Bee Boy and Mom Apiary, said. “He made each kid feel like a winner, whether they won or not. He inspired our son to start his own bee business. He took the time to talk with him and he was the first to sell his honey.”
Many local families, like the Hudgells, knew Campbell for years.
“We purchased a home on Route 42 East in Cedarville many years ago — our property backed up to some land Kent farmed. Kent would wait out in the tractor for our kids Justin and Lindsey to come running out so he could pick corn or plant and take the kids with him. Justin would often fall asleep in the tractor and Kent would get the biggest kick out of that tractor ride putting him to sleep,” Cheryl Hudgell said. “He was always actively involved in helping with livestock 4-H projects and one of the many contributors that would be one of the first to purchase our kids’ livestock at the Greene County Fair.”
Greene Countians already knew the fair would be different this year. Now it will be different for another reason.
Campbell won’t be there, cooking in the Cattlemen’s trailer, or signing kids up for the Calf Scramble.
He won’t be there in the Sunday night Scramble’s “Winner’s Circle.” And his friends will miss him every Thursday and Friday night, when he’d bid on livestock projects from the buyers’ seats.
“Kent … never let a child or youth stand before the auctioneer’s block without a bid,” Nancy LeBeau, longtime 4-H advisor, said.
His friends describe him as a giver and a helper, always with a smile on his face. He was “one of the good guys” — “the type of man that all should aspire to” and “one of the nicest people I have ever met.” And he never knew a stranger.
Above all, he “loved his family more than life.”
“He was generous to a fault and loved his family in the funniest ways possible but more importantly with his whole heart,” his obituary reads. “[He] made every conversational partner feel like the most important person in the room.”
One year ago, in a conversation with this reporter, Campbell spoke about what it was like to farm during the rainiest season he’d ever seen.
“Well, we’re gonna survive,” he said. “Farmers are dedicated people. They’re gonna plant a crop and raise a crop.”
Campbell knew there would be sunshine in the future.
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