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Alpha Stories

Published on Friday, October 20, 2017

Telling the Alpha-1 story

Remembering the great Alpha-1 communicator Bob Campbell

Telling the Alpha-1 story

The Fall 2017 issue of Alpha-1-To-One magazine has been mailed to well over 20,000 people with free subscriptions, and will soon be available online. 

In 1997, a hard-boiled newspaper editor from Prince Edward Island, Canada, Bob Campbell had been getting sick more often than usual. At the time, he was working at the St. Petersburg Times in Tampa, Fla.

Campbell had been a sickly child, struggling with asthma to the point of being in and out of the hospital. His mother thinking he wouldn’t survive his childhood. As an adult, he continued to have breathing issues. Thinking the increase in health issues was possibly caused by allergies, he decided to visit an allergist. During the initial interview, the allergist decided to test him for a rare disease called Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency (Alpha-1). 

His wife Elizabeth recalls, “He came home and told me about this rare disease, but we didn’t think he had it.” A call from the doctor confirmed he did, and shortly after his diagnosis, he was put
on augmentation therapy and connected with an AlphaNet coordinator. 

“Bob didn’t like support groups,” Elizabeth remembers, “He didn’t think he needed them, but he went and not only became a support group leader, but found a group of dear friends.” 

“Bob always told the story about the first few times Marta Strock, his AlphaNet coordinator, called,” said AlphaNet coordinator Diana Patterson. “Some strange woman was calling me,” he would say. Once he finally called her back, they began talking and became great friends. 

Bob had spent the last 30 years of his life working in newsrooms from Providence, Rhode Island to Clovis, New Mexico and most recently, the St. Pete Times in Tampa Bay, Fla. Because of his decline in lung function, he needed to take a break from the pace of the newsroom. Not long after, Strock encouraged him to apply to become an AlphaNet coordinator. He was offered the position and with his budding dedication to Alphas and Elizabeth’s support, he took the job. 

In 2006, he began a personal blog called AlphaMale. His first post reads: “An Alpha Male is a guy with an unusual health
condition passed on
by his parents. It’s called Alpha-1, short for a 26-letter phrase that only a doctor could love.” The humorous, yet informative blog can still be viewed at alphamale.typepad.com. 

After serving Alphas with AlphaNet for five years, John Walsh approached him about a position running the Communications department at the Alpha-1 Foundation. Diane Walsh, John’s wife, had been encouraging him to hire more Alphas. Campbell turned out to be a perfect fit. 

At the family memorial, Max Campbell, Bob’s son, recalled when Bob was offered the position, “He didn’t even tell mom about the job because he thought she had sacrificed so much already, but when he finally told her about it, she encouraged him to take it and they packed up the cat and moved down to Miami.” 

With the move came more time with members
of the Alpha Gators support group. Gordon Cadwgan, former co-leader of Alpha Gators and chair of the Foundation board, fondly remembers casual chats during visits to the Foundation. “Bob would always be one of my primary stops, just to shoot the breeze and talk about the magazine’s upcoming articles. He was so meticulous in explaining things. He made the science of Alpha-1 accessible to regular people.” 

“I met Bob when I was working with the Association years ago,” recalls Henry R. Moehring, president and CEO of the Foundation. “He was a driven, professional newsman with a keen ability to craft a story. He thought each Alpha was important and he wanted to showcase their courage, strength and humanity. As time went on and I got to know Bob as a friend, I saw a man with an amazing passion for the Alpha-1 community.” 

In 2007, when Bob became the editor of Alpha-1-To-One magazine, Miriam O’Day, the original managing editor of the magazine, continued to play an active role on the editorial board. “I wanted it to be like People magazine, to be digestible. He came in and did it with excellence. I really think that the magazine became his, and it was really beautiful.” 

She also encouraged him to be inclusive of all members of the Alpha-1 community on the
cover, no matter their age or gender. Much to her surprise, he readily took her advice: “Bob’s solution was to put me on the cover of the very next issue. That was just his sly sense of humor.” 

Marcia F. Ritchie, the Foundation’s executive vice president and COO, remembers working with Campbell. “Bob was an expert interviewer and a talented writer. He knew just what questions to ask and how to hone in on the heart of the matter. He was at the forefront of taking the Alpha-1 message to new platforms.” 

One notable interview was with Sten Erikson, the co-discoverer of Alpha-1. “He was so excited to travel all the way to Sweden. It was one of the highlights of the 50th Anniversary of the Discovery of Alpha-1.” 

In 2010, he worked with the renowned ad agency Draft FCB to develop the “Alpha-1 Sucks” grapes campaign which went on to be featured in Times Square. 

In 2012, he and his team developed a new Alpha-1 Foundation website, and was translated into six languages so more people could learn about Alpha-1. 

Campbell not only focused on the needs of Alphas, but also loved to develop people in the workplace. He always loved to impart his ‘infinite wisdom’ to interns and co-workers. 

Linda Rodriguez, director of development, who started as an intern at the Foundation in 2001, was one that readily received his counsel and jokes. “He would always make people smile with his sarcastic and humorous way. When we were under pressure, he would pause to make sure you knew that you were appreciated. He’d let the no-nonsense newspaper man come out, but then he would let the tender teddy bear come out, too.” 

Campbell often collaborated with Angela McBride, director of development and community relations, covering fundraising events. She remembers how he never stopped serving Alphas, “I will be forever grateful for his selfless commitment to the Alpha-1 Foundation. Although he was unwell he pushed through it all and graceful told the story of our founder John W. Walsh’s accomplishments when John passed earlier this year.” 

“I will always remember him fondly for his feisty spirit, his dry but hilarious sense of humor and most importantly for his fierce dedication to the health and welfare of Alphas through his actions and story telling,” says Cathey Horsak, director of community programs. After Campbell made wry remarks about food at Alpha-1 National Education Conferences, she resolved his ribbing by including him on the menu committee. 

In June, at the Alpha-1 National Conference, Campbell was honored with the Alpha–1 Community Appreciation Award for his 15 years of service to the Alpha-1 community. Though
 he was unable to attend the awards dinner in Chicago, the award was presented to him through a live video stream. The distance didn’t keep the attendees from rising to give him a standing ovation when the award was announced. Jennifer Campbell, Bob’s daughter, later asked him why he had received the award. Without missing a beat, he answered, “Why, it’s for all the wonderful things I’ve done for the Alpha-1 Foundation and AlphaNet.” 

Whether he was walking the halls of a hotel interviewing a renowned Alpha-1 researcher at a scientific meeting, or speaking in hushed tones to a recently diagnosed Alpha who was transferred 
to his office line, Bob Campbell never stopped being an AlphaNet coordinator at heart. He was impatient, determined, asked for forgiveness, not permission and would only take “no” for an answer after he had exhausted all the possibilities. 

To cut to the chase, as Bob would always say, he was a tough character, but beneath that seemingly gruff, ironic exterior was a heart for people, especially his Alphas. 


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