"The sun had set on the Palestinian horizon, and their fellow soldiers encircled them, lanterns held high in the air. As they clenched their fists, they peered at one another through bruised and swollen eyes, making them even hungrier for the win."
The previous excerpt was definitely the highlight of my interview with John Campbell, official employee at Grace Limousine since 1997, and my grandfather since 1977. You will hear more about his most memorable fight a little further on. I was honored to sit down with "Papa John" and ask him a few questions about himself, his employment with Grace, and what keeps him coming back for more. This November will mark his 90th birthday, and up until just recently he came in 7 days a week to clean, run errands, shovel, and take care of many other aspects of the family business. Finally, about a year and a half ago, we talked him into taking Mondays off, so he's currently down to a measly 6 days a week (sarcasm intended).
One of the questions I wanted to ask Papa was what keeps him coming back for more. He didn't hesitate in his response. He comes to see Mike, his grandson and Grace's CEO, who took over the business when our founder's health began to deteriorate. Papa reminisced about how he used to bring in sausage McMuffins in the morning and he and his son, Ian, would take some time to visit. Now, he looks forward to seeing Mike and his other grandchildren and co-workers. He likes to get out of his apartment, and this job keeps him going. He loves going to Sam's, the Post Office, bank, and liquor store; he has connections at each place and looks forward to work every day.
Now about that fight I opened with - allow me to set the scene for you. Papa joined the military when he was 16 years old. He was an orphaned child and was raised by an aunt who was not very loving toward him. He joined the Scottish Highland Regiment at the age of 16, and served some time in Palestine during WWII. As Papa began telling me this "fight story" he noted, "Now, if you were to ask me about my most memorable fight 20 years from now, I would tell you this story the exact same as I'm going to tell you today."
So there he was: in Palestine on Perimeter Duty. He basically had to watch the tent-lines for the locals that would break through into their area and steal supplies. He told me that the local Palestinians would even grease themselves before breaking through the lines to help them escape easier! On this particular shift he was running over an hour beyond when his relief was supposed to have shown up. He decided to leave the tent-lines and go look for his replacement. He found the corporal and other soldiers filling up on tea and crumpets before the canteen closed for the night. John confronted them and turned around to leave, and one of the soldiers sucker-punched him in the eye, the unlucky soldier's name was Greene. They made plans to meet and finish the fight properly.
A few minutes later, they had all gathered in an open area. Campbell and Greene were surrounded by the other soldiers. The others held their lanterns high in the air, so they didn't miss anything as darkness crept in. John got in a solid punch as his best pal, Jordie, cheered him on from the crowd. Greene collected himself and asked, "Are you a boxer?!" to which Campbell replied, "Shut your face, what difference does it make?" He continued on until Greene finally admitted he'd had enough. When it was all said and done, Campbell went for his tea and Greene took over the tent-lines.
There are many reasons why we love and adore our Papa. This story is just a sample of his fighting spirit, determination, and spunk, which are incomparable. He has been the most wonderful example for his grandchildren, great grandchildren, and employees here at Grace. As of late, we’ve had to add “Internet Sensation” to his growing list of accomplishments. He stole the hearts of many, and inspired others to “push on” with the 21 push-up video he did for Grace’s “22 Pushups for 22 Kills” Campaign to raise awareness for Veteran Suicide to honor our father, Ian Campbell, who served proudly as a U.S. Marine.