TRIBUTE: Life is messy, nothing is ever black and white, and true peace is often just out of reach: So it was with Shaun Campbell, a man determined to make a better life for himself, and for those he loved, while trying to outrun a past that stubbornly refused to let go.
So it was that Campbell, a man whose loved ones said was giving his very best while battling bi-polar disorder, died where he lived, stepping in front of a passenger-less train in East Rutherford last Monday.
“Sadly, behind that infectious smile, he battled demons and its wake of horrors, which ultimately became more than he was able to endure,” his mother, Patricia Campbell, wrote in a letter to friends that she shared with CLIFFVIEW PILOT .
An honest man, Campbell was looking “only for what most of us want – acceptance and a loving family life,” added Susan Essig, whose daughter, Janine, and granddaughter, Carly Ray, were a vital part of his life. “He cared deeply and tried to help people wherever he could.
“I am sorry that Shaun felt there was no other way out.”
A big baseball fan, Campbell, 44, coached for both of his sons, Sean and the younger Brendan. He was also vice-president of the Wood-Ridge Moonachie Little League.
Campbell was graduated from Bergen County Vocational Technical High School in 1987 and immediately founded his own business, Bergen Best Choice Construction Co. He attended Assumption R.C. Church in Wood-Ridge, where his funeral was held yesterday.
For all his generosity and good intentions, Campbell had a past that those who loved him said took all of his strength to overcome: When he died, he had no fewer than 16 DWI convictions and 78 suspended-license violations on his driving record and had only been out of prison several months after serving more than two years for driving-related convictions.
The 6-foot-1-inch, gray-eyed Campbell was involved in several crashes in which people were injured, though no one was ever hurt seriously. In one crash, his 1994 Ford Bronco slammed head-on into a 2008 Ford pickup, injuring a man and his 4-year-old daughter. Police said they caught Campbell after he fled into a nearby reservation. His blood-alcohol level: .288
“Everyone deserves to be given a chance,” Essig said. “He struggled with alcoholism, which is still a disease, just as millions of people do every day. He made a contribution to multiple lives and tried to contribute to society.
“I, for one, was proud of what Shaun tried to do and am grateful for the joy he brought to my daughter and granddaughter.”
Campbell’s mother said both families were “coping with our loss as best we can.”
At the same time, she said she was thinking of the train conductor, who “had no thought of hurting anyone. My heart also aches for him.”
Those who didn’t know her son would have met “a compassionate, humorous and tender, selfless man with a generous heart, ever trying to be all things to all people and help where and when he could,” Patricia Campbell said.
“When you saw that sparkle in his eyes when he smiled, you liked him,” she said. “You knew he was one of the good guys.
“He was a man who loved both his families and always tried to do the best and then some for them,” the grieving mother wrote. “For me, he was the light of my life, always will be.
“Sleep my son. Peace is yours and heaven is your home.”
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.