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In Memoriam: Fred Campbell

In Memoriam: Fred Campbell

August 12, 1952 – February 17, 2019

by Tom Ribbecke

Originally published in American Lutherie #137, 2019


Frederick William Campbell died at his home with Elizabeth Holmes, his partner of eleven years, at his side. The cause of death was prostate cancer. He leaves adult twin sons, Ryan McKinley Bumpbell and Douglas Scott Campbell.

Fred was born in Indiana, where he learned woodworking from his grandfather and his father. He served as an Army Ranger in East Germany, then came to California and worked in the shops of several luthiers including Hideo Kamimoto, Charles Fox, and Tom Ribbecke. He started his finishing business when he was at Kamimoto’s shop, and named it Fred Campbell and Sons although his kids were still tiny at the time.

Photo courtesy of Carol Keig.

Fred was very active in the South Bay Scottish Society and was marshal at the Scottish Highland Gathering and Games. He was also a guitarist and loved to play at open mikes. I have a fond memory of Fred arriving at a friend’s house for rehearsal dressed in kilt and regalia with a 19 ft. caber on the roof of his old station wagon.

Fred often talked about how he missed the dog love of his life, Boomer. The last time I talked to Fred before he died, I told him I hoped he would meet Boomer at the rainbow bridge.

A celebration of Fred’s life is being held on June 1 at Ribbecke Guitars, a place that has seen many lutherie parties where Fred was present.

Donations in memory of Fred can be made to the National Veterans Foundation or the Rainforest Action Network.