Campbell remembered for crew cut and dedication

Elkhart Truth Photo /Richard Campbell, an Elkhart High School graduate and the first head coach of the NorthWood boys basketball team, passed away last week at the age of 89.

In his later years, Dick Campbell could be seen watching NorthWood High School basketball games. 

Bob Riley was with him during those moments as part of their 51-year friendship. 

Riley and many others became close with Campbell through high school athletics and haven't forgotten the impact he made on others.

Campbell's presence was felt in Nappanee where he was a coach and athletic director at NorthWood High School and at Elkhart High School where he was a standout basketball player. He was NorthWood High School's first basketball coach in 1969 when Nappanee High School and Wakarusa High School consolidated.

His work in athletics earned him induction into the Elkhart County Sports Hall of Fame in 2001.

Campbell was remembered by his friends on Monday. He passed away on Nov. 22 at the age of 89. He would have been 90 on Christmas.  

"He loved his crew cut," said 82-year old Riley. "He had his crew cut since high school. Everyone in Elkhart called him, "blondie", because of his hair."

Riley was the baseball coach at NorthWood High School when Campbell was the athletic director.

Beginning in the 1990's Campbell and Riley served on the Elkhart County Sports Hall of Fame Committee.  

"He never made me feel like baseball was a number three sport," Riley said. "He treated me like the head football and basketball coach. He worked hard to make us successful. He was an all-around nice guy. He never heard him put down anyone or any program. Dick was a very hard worker. At that time, an A.D. didn't get a lot of help. The A.D. did everything. He did a lot to make NorthWood a nice place to work." 

Phil Lechlitner played for Campbell as a basketball player during the 1970-71 season and was the basketball coach at NorthWood from 1982-89 when Campbell was the athletic director.

"He was detail oriented (as a coach) and ahead of his time when it came to posting scouting information," said the 66-year old Lechlitner, who currently teaches at NorthWood High School. "He would list every players strengths and weaknesses. We always joked with student managers that they needed to take a big chalk board to away games. When we lost he would go over things that we did wrong.

"Dick as an A.D. understood his job. He never told me to do this or that. He was always positive and never on the side of being negative. He was so good at helping me out and always asked me if I needed anything. Dick was a tremendous individual and a role model."

Larry Thompson, who was the Nappanee mayor for 20 years, played basketball for Campbell from 1969-71.

"My last game as a senior was Campbell's last game as coach and we played Elkhart Central in a sectional final," said Thompson. They were loaded and we gave them a game. They finished runner-up in the state. There was a capacity crowd at North Side Gym and it was a great game. I thought that meeting was ironic because Campbell was an Elkhart High School Blue Blazer and his last game was in his hometown. There was a lot more emotion there then we realized for coach's part."

After his time at Elkhart High, Campbell played basketball at Indiana State University and was part of a team that finished 27-8 and won the National Association Of Intercollegiate Athletics national championship.

Campbell served in the Korean War after college. 

Thompson saw that military background in Campbell's coaching.

"He was a drill sergeant," Thompson said. "It was all about the fundamentals. He was very regimented in everything he did. He had everything written out on every single player on the opposing team down to the smallest detail.

"When I went on to become mayor no one was more supportive of me and asking me how things were going. I hope he was proud of me."

Elkhart Memorial assistant athletic director Phyllis Tubbs got to know Campbell through her work as an administrator and Elkhart County Hall of Fame committee member. 

"He was a very dedicated man to his family and athletics," Tubbs said. "Certainly, his contributions to NorthWood and the Nappanee community are unbelievable."

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