As the dramatic voice of Ken Lavigne flooded the hall, an emotional Jo Campbell stood and embraced her children and grandchildren.
Lavigne sang “Time to Say Goodbye” to conclude a celebration of the life of Thrifty Foods co-founder Alex Campbell Sr. on Sunday afternoon, evoking tears from not only Campbell’s family, including his wife, Jo, but a vast number of the 1,200-plus people who attended.
The crowd mourned a man described as an intelligent entrepreneur, an avid boater and a father with a sense of humour by speakers at the event – friends and business associates who got to know Campbell over many years.
Campbell died Oct. 11. He was 70.
CTV Vancouver Island news anchor Hudson Mack hosted the celebration. Lavigne’s four songs drew many tears from the audience, especially “Danny Boy,” which was one of Campbell’s favourites. Local piper James Troy’s music brought out tissues as well.
Held at the Victoria Conference Centre, the celebration was decorated by large arrangements of white orchids, irises and roses. Before the hall filled for the 1 p.m. event, people stood and talked, many hugged each other and made introductions to new acquaintances.
The celebration was just as Campbell would have wanted it, Mack said, with laughs along the way. Friends remembered failed fishing feats with Campbell, who was nicknamed “the smile in the aisle” for his presence at his Thrifty Foods stores.
Mack read from his speech that Campbell’s three children were “proud of his honesty, integrity and confidence.” Campbell wasn’t one to lose his cool in business or at home, he didn’t make rash decisions and was unfailingly loyal.
Having lost his own father at a young age, Mack shared a personal note: “Death can end a life, but it can never extinguish love or end a relationship.”
The Campbell family left the celebration after dozens of hugs from friends in the room, all of whom had come to pay respects to a generous philanthropist and successful business owner who touched countless lives on the Island.