The legacy of a volunteer coordinator extraordinaire

Bruce Mason

Submitted Article

Wednesday, June 5 2019

Our island has recently lost many beloved community members, including two prominent members of our cultural community, Tom Marcus and Lesley Harris.

Among those gone is John Campbell, the person who assembled the small army of volunteers to build what most of us refer to as ‘the clinic,” after many years of frustration and fundraising.

Campbell once said, “It represents the very best of what the island is all about, and I believe people will be talking about ‘The Miracle on Church Street’ for decades to come.”

Helping to build the health clinic was one of his best life experiences. Making lifelong friendships, playing a lead role in what was much like an old-fashioned barn-raising, with more than 150 active builders, among hundreds of other Gabriolans who shared his tireless and spirited dedication.

Harvey and Judith Graham recall, “He was a volunteer coordinator extraordinaire, who could attract and magnetize. 

“Everyone loved John. You knew when you met him that he had this amazing capacity and positive energy. When we asked him how he did it, he replied, ‘I just picked up the phone.’”

Among those who answered John’s calls was Tony Adamson, also recently departed. Adamson volunteered every day in the 11 months of intense building activity. His wife Jill, who survives him, served as president of the Gabriola Health Care Foundation.

Also no longer with us is Margot Kemble, who designed the unique, innovative building with partner Vince Iameo, through some 35 rendered drawings. 

She described the lifesaving results saying, “It is a beautiful thing.”

Campbell once concluded, “There are important lessons here for other communities, especially smaller communities; we don’t necessarily need, and should not rely on, government. 

“We can and must do it ourselves. And when a community in total makes that decision, everything changes.”

Much of what makes life here special is the result of selfless work of those who put out fires, build skateparks, pull broom, and make myriad other contributions. It is woven into our growing, evolving community. 

To be Gabriolan is to volunteer and, as John would say, “Good on you.”

A kilted John Campbell pauses from his emcee duties during the opening ceremony of the Gabriola Community Health Centre on Aug. 5, 2012. Don Butt photo.