Pilot was living Alaska dream before crash

Campbell's first season flying tourists to Misty Fiords was his last

Posted: Sunday, August 05, 2007

KETCHIKAN - Joseph Campbell lived in Ketchikan for only a short time before he died here July 24, but his family says the Taquan Air pilot was living his dream by flying in Alaska.

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"He loved the outdoors," his daughter, Laura Foley, said in a telephone interview from Phoenix. "He absolutely loved Ketchikan, loved Alaska. It was his dream to go up there."

This was Campbell's first season flying tourists into Misty Fiords. It also was his last. He and his four passengers died when the de Havilland Beaver he was flying went down near Rudyerd Bay. The cause of the crash has not yet been determined, although rapidly changing weather was noted in the National Transportation Safety Board's preliminary report on Thursday.

Campbell's family is coping with the tragedy, but it's a struggle, said Foley.

"We're in shock still," she said. "Some days are good. Some days we can laugh and be OK and think about the good times. Other days, it feels like our hearts have been ripped out, because we wish he was still here."

Foley said her father was a smart man, a firm believer in God, and somewhat of a comedian.

"He loved to play jokes on people," she said. "He was always trying to make people laugh."

She recalled when Campbell went on a zipline tour in Ketchikan, and pretended he was from the "zipline association" and was there to inspect the system. She said the guide believed him, and was about to go get the manager until Campbell 'fessed up.

"He did it to us as kids," Foley added. For example, when driving, Campbell would pretend to shut his eyes, but really would have only one eye - the one they could see - closed.

"We were kids, so of course we believed him," she said. "It made him happy to make other people laugh."

Campbell's stepdaughter, Dacoda Whittemore, also of Phoenix, said in a separate telephone interview that Campbell's sense of humor made him popular with his passengers.

"He was just a wonderful people person," she said. "He never met a stranger."

The first thing people noticed about Campbell was his smile, Whittemore said. He was slightly above-average height, "with a bit of a stomach on him," she said, and had relatively short hair.

A few years ago, though, Campbell had a "mullet" hairstyle, Whittemore recalled, laughing. She said it was his way of rebelling after years of required military-style haircuts. Mullets, where the hair is shorter in the front than in the back, were especially popular in the 1980s.

Whittemore said Campbell had a great love of the outdoors, and would take every opportunity to get out into nature.

"We were joking about how we could bring pine trees into the funeral home instead of flowers," she said. "It would be more appropriate."

And the outdoor activity he enjoyed most was flying, she said.

"Flying was his life passion," Whittemore said. "He really wanted to get back into flying."

Campbell, 56, was an aircraft engineer, and had worked for Boeing Co. on all kinds of aircraft, she said. He also had served as a helicopter pilot for the U.S. Army for 16 years.

Whittemore said that after a few years of searching, Campbell found a job flying deHavilland aircraft tours in the Grand Canyon, and did that for about five years before coming to Ketchikan to fly for Taquan. She said Campbell loved Ketchikan.

"He had finally found his home," she said. "That was where he wanted to be."

Foley said her dad always had wanted to come to Alaska, and the area suited him.

"I always looked at my dad as being this mountain man," she said. "It was good for him to be up there. He finally found the place he was meant to be."

She said Campbell was committed to God, and enjoyed sharing his belief with others, in hopes that they would have a similar relationship with God.

"He yearned to go home," she said. "He couldn't wait to face God. It was his driving force every day.

"I don't think I'll meet anybody else like him."

Whittemore said the family is spending time reliving memories of Campbell.

"We're trying to celebrate his life more than anything else," she said. "We know that's what he would have wanted us to do: Be happy and make jokes, because that's the kind of person he was."

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