The creative genius who was Bill Campbell, 97, concluded this life on February 8, 2020. Bill lived by the motto, “Find a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” He approached every challenge anticipating that there was a solution to be found. And the solution had to be the perfect solution.
Like most men of his generation, Bill was a World War II veteran. He served with the Army Corps of Engineers in England, France, Belgium and the Philippines. While in the Philippines he took advantage of the resources of his work truck to invent a foot shifter for his 1940 Harley.
Bill graduated from Lehigh University with a degree in mechanical engineering. Heinz Manufacturing in Philadelphia hired Bill to establish a quality control department. While at Heinz he designed the extruding tools for the world’s first successful cold extrusion of stainless steel.
In May of 1956 Bill answered a want-ad placed by George Hurst for an engineer to design and build jigs for motor mounts. Two years later George and Bill incorporated Hurst-Campbell Inc. With Bill’s engineering expertise and George’s creative mind, the men designed and built the best after-market 3-speed shifter available. The muscle car era offered the perfect market for the Hurst shifter.
Soon after the men incorporated, Bill read about a truck accident in the Philadelphia Bulletin. The driver died moments before rescue workers were able to extract him from the crushed cab of his truck. Bill’s inventive mind went to work on a solution. He envisioned a hydraulic tool (not capable of producing dangerous sparks) that could cut metal, thus freeing the victim. He shared his original idea with George, and the Hurst Jaws of Life were born. Together, the men worked on the development of the Jaws.
In 1969 Bill left Hurst-Campbell and incorporated a motor home sales and service business, grown out of his own sense of wanderlust to see America’s beauty, and to share it with his family. Once again, Bill was on the cusp of a market about to explode. Simultaneously he became a partner/owner of Quebec’s Prevost Car, at the time a relatively small North American bus company. Bill’s innate engineering skills and love of problem-solving guided Prevost into the motor home shell market, and to grow into a well-respected company with a superior product. Most bus drivers will tell you they prefer to drive a Prevost.
Bill and his late wife, Gerri, traveled around America extensively in their motor home. Every mountain, glacier, waterfall, river and lake was a new beauty to behold. Bill was fascinated by all aspects of life. How everything worked, which business manufactured what, what was growing in each field – everything excited his innate curiosity.
When he finally retired, Bill turned his attention to designing the perfect home for himself and Gerri, volunteering with the Chester County Car Club, and the restoration of his small fleet of antique LaSalles. Though he owned or co-owned several large businesses, Bill has always been happiest at his drawing board or in his machine shop fabricating solutions to problems. “There is nothing in this world that can’t be refined or perfected to work more efficiently,” according to Bill.
Bill was born in Flushing, Queens, New York City to Layard and Fae Campbell. Bill married the love of his life, Gerri McMillen, on May 17, 1952. They had 67 happy years together before Gerri died October 7, 2019. Throughout his long life, Bill’s priority and loyalty was always Gerri and his family first.
Bill is survived by his daughters Tomi Fay (Greg) Forbes of Cedarburg, Wisconsin, Boni (Scott) Smith of Danville, and Kate (Chris) Brennen of Exton. Their eight grandchildren are Crystal (Brian) Dressler, Brandon (Kasie) Forbes, Daphne Smith (Daniel Rickmers), Forest Smith (Lorie Zagacki), Erik Smith, Chandler (Brianna) Forbes, Kaylyn (Christopher) Marshall and Kyle Brennen. Bill’s great-grandchildren are Lydia, Joel and Gideon Forbes and Faythe Dressler. Bill is further survived by his sister and niece, Ruth Mason and Jeanne Mason, of Fort Myers, Florida; sister-in-law and niece, Ruth Campbell and Sue Conley of Sandy Hook, Connecticut; and nephew David Campbell (Rebecca) of Danbury, Connecticut. He is predeceased by his brother and friend, Layard Campbell.
Interment at Camp Hill Borough Cemetery on April 11, followed by a private memorial