Rumor has it that birds, collies and many people felt a great sadness on September 21, 2017, upon the passing of their friend, Marilyn F. Campbell. A long-time resident of Georgetown, Ill., she had recently been in care at Colonial Manor in Danville, Ill.
Marilyn requested no services. Her family and friends are instead hosting a celebration of life to commemorate her time among us. The first celebration will be at 1 p.m. Saturday, October 28, at Gannett Center in Forest Glen Preserve, Westville, Ill. For the convenience of the family, a second celebration will be at 1 p.m. November 24, also at the Gannett Center. Friends are invited to both. Sunset's Houghton-Leasure Funeral Home, 200 E. West St., Georgetown, assisted the family with arrangements.
Marilyn F. Campbell was born in Terre Haute, Ind., to Carl Wesley and Elsie Fern (Watson) Campbell in March 1941.
She is survived by her sister, Mary Ellen Robertson of Vincennes, Ind.; niece, Rhonda Branca (husband, John) of Binghamton, N.Y.; nephew, Anthony Branca (wife, Cathy) of Vincennes, Ind.; many friends; and her collie, Hannah. Marilyn was preceded in death by her parents; a sister, Carol Ann, in infancy; and her best friend, Betty Youngblood.
Marilyn was grateful for parents who encouraged education for their daughters. She graduated from Gerstmeyer High School in Terre Haute and from Indiana State University with a BS and MS in Biology. She completed many hours of additional study at Colorado State University.
She made a career of education, both inside and outside the classroom. She first taught in the high school setting in Indiana. Illinois became her home when she accepted a faculty position at Danville Area Community College in 1965, and was the chair of biological sciences department. It has been said she had high expectations for her students.
Her next opportunity came with the formation of the Vermilion County Conservation District. In 1969 she was chosen to become the chief naturalist, and hired additional staff. She became the Director of Education and Programs and created the county-wide outdoor education program. Marilyn advanced to become Deputy Director of the conservation district. She assisted Doris Westfall to recreate a prairie at Forest Glen, which was dedicated as a one-of-kind Illinois Nature Preserve in 1998.
Marilyn was the face of conservation in Vermilion County for many people, especially the school children who attended outdoor camps. Many people might remember reading her newspaper articles. For the first few years with the district, Marilyn lived in a house within Forest Glen, which she chronicled in her book "At Home in Forest Glen." For the rest of her life, Forest Glen was the place where she most wanted to be in her spare time.
In 1994 Marilyn accepted the offer to become executive director of the Illinois Audubon Society, Illinois' oldest conservation organization. Under her leadership, the organization advanced financially, increased its education offerings and developed new relationships with many organizations. She spearheaded land acquisition and protection for threatened and endangered species, and oversaw sanctuaries around the state. Her tireless efforts resulted in increased membership, the formation of new chapters and improved the protection of the flora and fauna of Illinois.
Upon her retirement in 2006, the Illinois Audubon Society honored Marilyn's career in education by establishing the Marilyn F. Campbell scholarship at Danville Area Community College.
After retiring, Marilyn stayed involved with the Illinois Audubon Society as the editor of its magazine. A believer in volunteer efforts, she donated her time as editor. She was a consultant to the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission for 20 years, and was a member of the state's Endangered Species Protection Board for nine years. In other volunteer work, she helped at a local food bank, assisted with Feed the Children Backpack Program, and held officer positions with the Middlefork Audubon Society of Vermilion County. Of special note, Marilyn joined Therapy Dogs International and became a certified evaluator, working with over 225 dogs and their owners. She and her own collies made therapeutic visits to area nursing homes, children's camps and the Veterans Affairs health system. She became quite attached to many of the veterans, and felt a loss at their passing.
Marilyn enjoyed traveling to see birds, other cultures, take photos and make new friends. She visited Costa Rica, Mexico, Belize, Trinidad and Tobago, Panama, Ecuador, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador. Camera in hand, she birded and hiked in 49 states during her lifetime.
Conservationist, birder, teacher, dog-lover, photographer, writer, traveler, volunteer, friend. Marilyn F. Campbell was all these. Her next journey has begun, and her family and friends wish her well, even as they miss her company.
Published on October 23, 2017