POLSON — On Jan. 12, 2020, while surrounded by his loving family, Ralph Kain Campbell’s soul discarded his worn-out body and took flight to meet his Lord and rejoin the love of his life in heaven. Born July 29, 1927 in Long Beach, California, he divided the free time of his youth between the beach just a few blocks from home, and his father’s machining business where he witnessed the engineering and manufacture of numerous patented pieces of equipment for California’s booming oil business.
He excelled in school; was a standout on the track team running short-distance races, and as a percussionist, performed in the city symphony and claimed multiple titles in solo snare drum competitions.
In high school, a good friend set up his little sister, Janice Schwarberg, with Ralph on a blind, double date. On the way home, Ralph and Jan were riding in the backseat when their car was T-boned at an intersection. Their heads bonked together with a hearty clunk, but it was their hearts that seriously collided, and they loved each other from that day forth.
Ralph was conscripted into the Marines and based at Camp Pendleton shortly out of high school where he served in the medical corps. After the war he attended Pomona College, just a short drive away from Redlands College where Jan was studying to be an elementary school teacher. They both finished college in 1950, married on Aug. 5, and then made a honeymoon out of driving cross-country to Connecticut where Ralph attended Yale Medical School, specializing in pediatrics. Their first of five children soon followed and Jan devoted herself to raising their family.
Ralph did his residency at Los Angeles Children’s Hospital in Hollywood, followed by medical practices in Pomona and Claremont, California, and teaching Pediatric Cardiology at LA Children’s. He has numerous stories to his credit of rushing to the hospital in the middle of the night (in his supercharged Studebaker Avanti, no less!) to care for an ailing infant.
It is no exaggeration to say that he saved several preemies and young children with his keen intuition for diagnosis, and loving devotion — even up all night sometimes performing manual resuscitation before the days of high-tech, mechanized incubators and monitoring systems.
On their annual summer vacation through the West in 1968, Ralph’s family stayed on Flathead Lake on the way to Glacier Park. Ralph was so smitten that he went back the very next spring with his eldest son and bought property. Just two years later he said the heck with the southern California smog and rat-race, and moved his family to a beautiful lakefront orchard on Finley Point.
The Montana chapter of Ralph’s life varied wildly from his suburban California life and he fully embraced it. His job titles ranged from: physician with the BIA, to starting the Lake County Public Health Department where he had the privilege of being the first Lake County Health Officer, to physician at the county jail. As a pediatrician, he was Polson’s first medical specialist and practiced in his own small office in town, as well as his in-home office.
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He jumped into the farming business with both feet and the family farm eventually consisted of not only cherries, but a large section of apples, an experimental pear orchard, honeybees, a large vegetable garden, and the most delectable chickens and eggs imaginable! Along with other local growers, Ralph soon saw the need for a more adequate packing facility and became an investor and very instrumental in the establishment of Skidoo Packers, which was built on the south end of his property, presently the site of Flathead Lake Cherry Growers.
He was truly a pioneer in the organic farming business as well, even developing his own organic fertilizer company, Glacier Natural Products, Inc.
Ralph spent any free time he had with numerous volunteering efforts, including: two medical missions with Jan, in Ecuador and Belize, trustee on the district School Board, Secretary of the Montana Board of Pediatrics and numerous volunteer and leadership positions with local churches where he and Jan worshiped. Surely his favorite volunteer position was as percussionist for the pit orchestra with Port Polson Players.
Ralph also enjoyed recreating amongst his beautiful surroundings which he quite vocally marveled about so often — sailing, water-skiing, swimming, tennis, hiking, and keeping up his running skills in local races that he still excelled in even up into his late 60s.
After retiring from medical practice, Ralph poured himself into the field of nutritional science, something he always had a special interest in and so earnestly advocated to his patients. He became a contributing editor for The Orthomolecular Medicine News Service and co-authored two books on child nutrition that are presently sold worldwide: The Vitamin Cure for Children and The Vitamin Cure for Infants.
Later in life, Ralph was profoundly changed by his faith in Jesus Christ and often quipped, “You just don’t get it, ‘til you get it!” His life transforming relationship with Jesus inspired him to serve those in need with compassion and, in his last few hours on earth, he couldn’t wait to get to heaven to see his Lord and Savior.
Ralph’s presence throughout his community, and in his family, will be sorely missed, not to mention his knowledge, talents, and extremely clever wit.
Ralph was preceded in death by his best friend and cherished wife of 67 years, Jan, and his beloved son, Ken. He will be missed greatly by his four adult children Claire (Tad), Lucy, Brian (Tricia), and Nancy (David) as well as his many grandchildren whom he adored, Thea (Bob), Samantha (Pete), Jackson, Lindsy, Charlie (Katie), Sean, Ben (Jenny), Jeremy (Nicole), and Anna.
A celebration of Ralph’s life will be held this summer in Polson. In lieu of flowers, Ralph would be honored if you would give a gift in his name to Port Polson Players (MVFA) or The Medical Benevolence Fund (medicalmissions.org). Memories and condolences may be sent to the family at lakefuneralhomeandcremation.com.
Arrangements are under the direction of The Lake Funeral Home and Crematory.