Always a farmer 45 years


Always a farmer 45 years

Rich Holm
Contributing Writer 


Robert Harry “Bob” Campbell of Hawkeye was born to fish, but his father told him he would have to work, too, so he chose farming as a vocation.

It was great grandfather Robert James Campbell who crossed the river from Wisconsin and settled near Hawkeye in 1880. Five generations later, a Campbell continues to till the land, and it’s quite possible a sixth generation will continue the family legacy.

Sixty-three years after the Campbell land was purchased, Clair Campbell and daughter Helen (Curtis) were in the waiting room as Jeanette (Vroman)  Campbell gave birth to Robert on Oct. 10, 1943. She was in the corner room with the window in West Union’s old hospital, now the Fayette County Historical Center.

Bob grew up on his parents’ farm and knew the history of the Campbell family that left Virginia for Ohio and then Wisconsin for a town named Campbellsport.

There, Stuart Campbell gave land to the Methodist Church and railroad, and he promised his 11 children he would buy each one 80 acres of land wherever they decided to settle.

Eight kids stayed, but Robert, a brother and a sister headed to a place called Hawkeye in Iowa. Robert’s son Lewis took over the farm before his son Clair picked all the corn. 

Robert Harry found the farm a great place to raise a family and now his son Kevin is raising his son there.

Clair was a good teacher because Bob Campbell became a respected hog farmer and a lot more. He was one of the original first responders in Iowa. He serves as a township trustee and a trustee for Hawkeye United Methodist Church.

Bob is a member of the Masonic Lodge and Hawkeye Legion. In the past he was a Boy Scout leader, a member of the Lions Club, and a Fayette County Pork Producer.

His 45-year love affair with farming that began in 1968 is matched by the love for his wife, Trudy (Ford), their three kids and five grandchildren.

Raising 1,100 hogs a year provided the Campbells their livelihood, and Trudy became a respected school nurse for the North Fayette schools from 1990 until her retirement in 2012.

Bob is semi-retired since he built Trudy a new home when Kevin moved onto the home farm. As Bob and Trudy look back at their 44 years together, their chance meeting was as interesting as the Campbell clan crossing the country.

Trudy grew up in Tipton. She didn’t know there was a kid named Bobby Campbell attending Windsor No. 9 country school 119 miles away.

Her husband-to-be was a trivia answer when he and classmate Don Parker were the last two students at North High to earn four letters in 1962 in football, basketball/wrestling, track and baseball.

Bob remembered the last Hawkeye senior class in 1957 and recalled the merger with West Union in 1958. He said he looked forward to meeting his new W.U. classmates and left all the parents to argue over school colors.

After his graduation in ’62, Bob worked four years at John Deere in Waterloo before enrolling in the first farm management program at Area I Vocational Technical School (now NICC) in Calmar.

Bob Campbell was the first student body president at Area I. After graduation he joined his dad in farming on land that had doubled in size.

Meanwhile Trudy Ford had studied nursing and was going to join the Navy with a friend. Fate stepped in as her friend got married, and she wasn’t going on a ship alone.

Trudy then looked for a job in The Des Moines Register want ads. There were school nurses’ positions open in schools named North High and North Winn.

Trudy said she got the Iowa map out and saw West Union was closer than Burr Oak. She called Supt. Wes Carlson and was hired. She quit to years later to raise a family before being rehired.

In the fall of ’68 Trudy roomed with high school teacher Judy Hyman of Hawkeye. They were at Lilac Lanes Bowling Center in West Union when Judy introduced Trudy to Bob, and it was love at first sight.

Bob and Trudy’s first date lasted 17 hours when they attended Homecoming at UNI, where Don Parker was attending school. After the parade, game, and dance Bob drove Trudy home and decided to go by the Campbell farm.

It was all lit up at midnight, so Bob thought something might have happened and they stopped. Instead, the house was full of relatives Trudy got to meet.

July 12, 1969, was the hottest day of the year in Tipton when Bob married Trudy. Their honeymoon was in a cooler place up north in Canada, where they camped and learned to put vinegar on their French fries.

The newlyweds moved onto the farm, and Bob’s parents moved to town. Kris, Kevin, and Molly were later born.

Molly and husband Steve Leih live on an acreage near Indianola. She works in West Des Moines for a software company.

Kris and wife Jennifer reside in Mascoutah, Ill., where he works for the Dept. of Defense at Scott Air Force Base. They have four children, Benjamin, Jonah, Abby, and Nathaniel.

Kevin David married Jenny Schneberger. They have a son, Carson Lewis, who might be that sixth Campbell to farm the homestead someday. Kevin works for West Union Trenching.

Someday Bob Campbell will retire, but farming still runs through his blood, as does fishing.

He escapes to do ssome ice fishing with friends whenever he can in the winter, leaving his shop behind

He and Trudy enjoy the Campbell farm pond, and look for a new lake in Minnesota and Canada when they feel like heading north.

But family keeps them busy as Bob takes time to shows his kids and grandkids the Campbell farm history, following the golden rule of farming always leaving the land a little better than the person who farmed it before them.

It’s a farming legacy that started with Robert James followed by Lewis Robert, Clair Lewis, Robert Harry, Kevin, and maybe little Carson. Six generation of Campbells, all proud to say they are American farmers.

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