This eulogy was given by
UUFP President Rebecca “Bek” Wheeler
in tribute to Larry J. Campbell
during his Memorial Service,
at the UUFP,
Saturday, October 15, 2022, 6:00 p.m.

My name is Bek Wheeler. I serve as President of our congregation, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Peninsula. I’m here to share recollections of and appreciation for our dear friend, Larry Campbell.

Larry was an active member and cherished friend. His last day on Earth, Sunday, September 4, 2022, he entered the sanctuary just before service began and took a seat right beside me. It was a fun and active service, where Rev. Andrew and Ms. Joanne had devised a game with yarn that involved tossing this huge ball back and forth to friends here and there across the sanctuary, thus literally weaving our 7th principle — the interconnected web of existence of which we are all a part. Amidst the laughter and acclamation, Larry leaned over, commenting to me, “It is so good to be all together in person again. I’m so glad to be with everyone.” 

And that was Larry, fully present and engaged in our Unitarian Universalist community from the get go. Yes, it had taken his beloved wife, Maggie, years of convincing to entice him to leave his native Amarillo, Texas, to relocate in Hampton Roads near her daughter and grandchildren. But when he finally did agree, Larry jumped right in.

Of course, finding a Unitarian Universalist home was central to him; he had long been an active member at the Amarillo UU Fellowship, serving on the Ministerial Search Committee and even as President. So, upon moving to Virginia, settling into a historic home in Hampton, he started checking out the different UU churches in the area. Quite soon, Larry recognized UUFP as his church home. His first time here was August 4, 2019, and he signed the membership book, just three months later, on November 3, 2019. 

True to form, Larry immediately began making friends and volunteering his talents — he joined our fellowship choir, the ChorUUs. We still see him wherever we play our YouTube recording of the choir singing Spirit of Life in both Spanish and English. He joined the Planning Committee, offering his counsel as we explored and ultimately committed to selling and relocating. He offered experience as we launched what became a robustly successful capital campaign. And he served as Sunday greeter, a natural skill, welcoming all in.

Larry engaged. Having retired from a career in advertising where he wrote ad copy and put that resonant West Texas voice to good use, Larry began studying for professional certification as a personal trainer, a process he continued and completed here in Virginia. I remember during check-in at one of our Planning Committee meetings, Larry held up a fine adult beverage and reported proudly that he had just passed his exams, gaining his official trainer credentials. He soon landed a position with the beautiful Hampton Family YMCA where he savored working with Seniors on their fitness. Larry was an inspiration.

Larry and I shared many common interests. Upon learning of my background in language and linguistics (and that I had worked as freelance lexicographer — definition writer — for Random House Dictionary), Larry recognized a kindred spirit in love of words. He relished telling me how hard his daughter Caitlin had worked as she rose in the spelling ranks — from local to regional and finally national to compete at the Scripps Spelling Bee. While Caitlin was eliminated at Nationals early in 2004, she returned in 2006, to place finally 12th in the nation! The finals of the Scripps Bee were aired on ABC TV. Larry was in awe of Caitlin’s spelling accomplishments.

Indeed, Larry was deeply proud of his family, Caitlin, Daniel and Brandon. He greatly admired son Daniel in his work as nuclear specialist, first for the navy and now continuingly as civilian. And Larry was so eager for the grandson, soon to be born in the family of his son Brandon, and daughter-in-law Danni.

Larry shared his gifts… for example, last summer, when it became clear, I, as President, needed training in Robert’s Rules of Order, Larry stepped up as mentor. You see he was an expert, having gained the highest standing in the National Association of Parliamentarians. He suggested I study for membership in the National Association and proceeded to help, sending me the application form and practice test materials, and engaging in countless detailed discussions with me. 

Then during one mentoring session at a Hampton Creamery, over Bluebird ice cream, Larry shared his sacred text — a well-worn, fully annotated version of the big book — Robert’s Rules of Order, from many, many years ago, which he had studied with his mentor in weekly multi-hour sessions. Somewhat later, Larry texted me: “So thrilled to have found someone who shares my excitement regarding RONR (Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Released). Everyone else to whom I’ve ever mentioned parliamentary procedure just gives me a blank stare, if not a grimace.”  Thanks to his encouragement I aced the test in July. Then Larry and I immediately made plans to study for the next rank of mastery in parliamentary procedure. I miss my study partner.

Larry also mentored the entire UUFP Policy Board in parliamentary procedure. On September 3, at the Board retreat, Larry offered a 30-minute session, complete with his list of key motions and “Larry’s Pet Peeves.” The next day, Sunday, September 4, as Larry sat next to me in service, I shared with him that several Board members had enthusiastically reported how greatly they appreciated Larry’s presentation and how much they had learned. Larry was very pleased, saying that meant a lot to him to be able to share matters of value.

And so, on Monday, September 5, when we learned of Larry’s sudden passing, we were stunned and deeply saddened. Indeed, in the words of Judy Remsberg, Chair of our Caring Committee, “Larry was such a positive presence in our fellowship that we fell in love with him almost immediately. He is leaving a huge hole in our hearts and in the functioning of the fellowship.”

Larry, thank you for coming into our lives. We miss you. We love you. Blessed be.

Visit the obituary of Larry Joe Campbell to learn more about our dear friend.