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Obituary for Ronald J. Campbell

Born: April 15th, 1943
Passed Away: October 5th, 2015


Ronald James “Jim” Campbell, known to his horse racing fans as R.J., Ronnie or Ron, passed away peacefully on October 5, 2015. He was born on April 15, 1943 in Dayton Township, Michigan. He was preceded in death by his parents Ormal and Gladys Campbell of Fremont, Michigan, his brothers Robert and Rodney, and his sister Jean Cook. Jim is survived by his daughters with first wife Glennadean, Kara Dean Raehsler (husband Rodney) and Nancy Campbell Driessche (husband John), and his children with second wife Nancy, John Paul Campbell (wife Megan) and Jane Marie Lennon (husband Daniel). Additionally, he is survived by the grandchildren he loved so dearly, Liam Raehsler, and Mary, Elizabeth, Daniel, and Thomas Lennon, and his sisters Joyce Deurloo and Saundra Kosheba.

Jim grew up on the family farm in Fremont and left home in 1959, at age 16, for a career racing thoroughbreds. In the early days of his career, he raced all over the country and spent winters racing in Hot Springs, Arkansas and Miami, Florida. A highlight of his early career was his mount in the 1967 Kentucky Derby aboard Gentleman James. He eventually settled down with his family in Detroit, where he rode at Hazel Park and The Detroit Race Course, with occasional mounts in Toronto, Cleveland and other nearby tracks. After hanging up his racing silks in 1994, he became a State Steward for the Michigan Office of Racing Commissioner, working primarily at Mount Pleasant Meadows, until his retirement.

In his free time, Jim enjoyed hunting, fishing, canoeing, and cooking. During his travels he met a variety of people who introduced him to Cajun, Japanese, and other cuisines that he worked into his own specialty dishes. His venison stir fries, goose gumbo, and sauerkraut and ribs were family favorites. Only the best ingredients would suffice, often coming from his garden or butchered, cured and smoked with the help of his brother, Rod.

He remained in his hometown until his passing so he could be surrounded by his family and friends for whom he cared deeply. In his last few years, Jim was particularly grateful for the help and company of his niece, Janet, and enjoyed frequent visits with friends Butch, Buck, Kevin and Carl.

An open house in celebration of Jim’s life will be held from 12-6 p.m., Saturday, November 7, 2015 at The Gerber Guest House, 130 E. Dayton Street, Fremont, MI. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in his honor to Harbor Hospice, 1050 W. Western Avenue, Suite 400, Muskegon, MI 49441.