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Former Lake Oswego First Lady Virginia Campbell dies at the age of 105

Passionate commitment to a variety of arts and civic organizations continued for more than six decades

REVIEW FILE PHOTO - Virginia Campbell, a former First Lady of Lake Oswego whose passionate commitment to the city had a profound impact on arts organizations and civic institutions for more than six decades, died Saturday at the age of 105.Virginia Campbell, a former First Lady of Lake Oswego whose passionate commitment to the city had a profound impact on arts organizations and civic institutions for more than six decades, died Saturday at the age of 105.

Campbell was among the original organizers of the Lake Oswego Festival of the Arts and a founding member of the Friends of the Lake Oswego Public Library. She helped craft the original policies that gave direction to the Lakewood Center for the Arts and served on the committee that selected art for the city’s new library when it was built in the 1980s.

"Well-read and schooled in the arts and architecture, Virginia never hesitated to speak up and offer support and leadership for the arts, civic improvements and education," said Andrew Edwards, Lakewood's executive director. "She was an incredible woman of intellect, passion and strength. We honor her memory, and will miss her spirit."

Bill Baars, director of the Lake Oswego Public Library, agreed.

"Virginia was truly remarkable. She was a visionary, and her contributions to this community are innumerable," Baars said. "She was selfless and kept herself focused on what was best for the community now — and into the future."  

Edwards said Campbell inspired hundreds of volunteers for the annual Festival of the Arts at Lakewood and in numerous building campaigns throughout the city.

"Her passion and vision helped craft the mission of Lakewood as an Advisory Board member when we acquired the building in 1979," he said. "That passion inspired our board to elect her as an honorary director of Lakewood, a post shared by only a small handful of people. She actively served in that role for 37 years."

Although glaucoma made it difficult in recent years for Campbell to maintain her volunteer activities, Edwards and Baars both said she never hesitated to share her next vision with them.

"She would periodically call me with a new idea for an exhibit or an improvement to the Lakewood building that would gain space and/or access for more people to enjoy the arts," Edwards said. "She would say, “I just had an idea to make it better. What do you think?' And invariably she was right."

Baars said Campbell began using an iPad at the age of 99, "and the last time I saw her (she was elegantly dressed, of course), she demonstrated the latest 'talking book' technology from the State Library for the Blind. She always had fascinating ideas."

Because of that indomitable spirit, Campbell remained what members of the League of Women Voters of Clackamas County called “a rock” and “the go-to person” for anything related to Lake Oswego.

Norma Jean Germond, a past president of the League of Women Voters of Oregon, described Campbell as ethical and kind, with a deep sense of integrity. Sonja Kollias, co-president of the Clackamas County league, agreed.

“It is because of league leaders like Virginia Campbell that members continue to work together, using their energy and passion, to safeguard our democracy,” Kollias said.

Campbell was introduced to the league shortly after she and her husband, C. Herald Campbell, moved to Lake Oswego in 1951. “I joined not so much because of my interest in the role of women," she told The Review last year. "I’ve always been a forthright person, although I was not a suffragette. I just think women should be encouraged to raise their voices."

She did just that throughout her life, including during her time as First Lady when C. Herald Campbell served as mayor of Lake Oswego from 1979-1985. In addition to their deep connection to the Lakewood Center and the Lakewood Theatre Company, the couple played key roles in the Lake Oswego Public Library, the Oswego Heritage Council, the Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce, the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center, the Lake Oswego Rotary Club and Lake Grove Presbyterian Church.

"Virginia was even instrumental in getting the pool built at Lake Oswego High," Baars recalled, "and she didn't swim!"

The Campbells were also instrumental in the development of the city’s land-use regulations and early natural resource planning, and Virginia Campbell was an integral part of a study of metropolitan government — called “A Tale of Three Counties” — that helped lead to the formation of Metro.

“It was very well done,” Campbell told The Review in 2015. “We wrote about water, sewage, air quality, transportation. It was a very valuable work.”

In 2002, the Campbells were honored by the Chamber of Commerce with the Bob Bigelow Lifetime Achievement Award. In honor of the couple’s contributions to the city, the Campbell Native Garden on Iron Mountain Boulevard bears their name.

"Virginia was as uncommon as she was wonderful, and she will be sorely missed by those fortunate enough to have known her," Baars said. "We are a better community for having had Virginia among us, and she will continue to have a lasting impact."

Virginia Paris Campbell was born on Nov. 6, 1910, in Nora, Indiana, but she grew up in Portland, where she graduated from Grant High School; she earned her degree from Reed College in 1934. She married C. Herald Campbell in 1935 and the couple had three daughters — Susanna Kuo (Frank), Corinna Campbell-Sack (Robert) and Ginny Adelsheim. C. Herald Campbell died in 2009 at the age of 98, but all three daughters remain involved in historic research and artistic endeavors in Lake Oswego.

Campbell is also survived by three grandchildren — Emma Kuo, Charles Campbell and Lizzie Adelsheim.

"Lake Oswego owes a debt of gratitude to the Campbell family," Edwards said. "All of them have given generously to creating the vibrant city we know today."

In keeping with Virginia Campbell’s wishes, there will be no funeral or memorial service.

Reporter Cliff Newell contributed to this story. Contact Gary M. Stein at 503-636-1281 ext. 102 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..