Press Talk: He smiled on the community

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Lou Brancaccio is The Columbian's editor emeritus. His column of personal opinion appears the first Saturday of every month. Reach him at lounews1@gmail.com.

Inexplicably, the music just stopped.

I had just begun my routine in our “Dancing With The Local Stars” show and, even under the best of circumstances, my shtick was going to be just OK. Now it was a disaster.

I — and a handful of other community types — had signed up for this gig to help raise money for a good cause. With hundreds of people in the audience staring, the music started up again and I muddled through the rest of my performance.

Shortly after I slinked off the stage, Scott Campbell, the community affairs director for Waste Connections, sought me out. He was one of the other dancers on this night.

“Hey, Lou, don’t worry about it,” Scott said through his larger-than-life smile. “In a couple of days, we’ll grab a drink and laugh about all of this together. It’s all good.”

Scott’s routine went off without a hitch. He won the event, raising more than $65,000. Winning this event, you see, was about who could raise the most money. Against Scott, the rest of us — combined — were in way over our heads.

You’ve heard of guys who are great at “working a room.” Scott was great at working a community. So when it came time for Scott to ask for a donation in his name for this dancing event … the people whom he had helped and touched lined up.

That was in 2014. It also happened to be the last year that “Dancing With The Local Stars” was held. So Scott not only raised the most money at our event, he will forever hold the record for most money raised at any previous dancing event.

This story is meant as just one of the many tributes to a man who lost his long battle with cancer on Sept. 17. And in a couple of weeks — on Oct. 29 — a celebration of his life will happen at the Hilton Vancouver Washington.

• • •

I thought about Scott’s goodness as news of the recent tragedy in Las Vegas unfolded. Bad news always catches the headlines and runs for days or sometimes weeks. It’s not just the nature of news — we often wrongly blame the media for this — because as human beings we are curious about the crazy world in which we live.

But think about it: If it wasn’t for guys like Scott, the bad news would overwhelm us. Consume us. Guys like Scott help us to keep our heads screwed on straight.

• • •

Of course, I had known Scott before the dancing event took place. As The Columbian’s editor, I was on what politicians like to call the chicken dinner circuit. Almost every weekend there was an event or two one could attend. I didn’t go to all of them but — no kidding — all of the ones I was at, Scott was at.

He was a big man — with big hair — always laughing, often holding a whiskey and, when he could get away with it, a stogie. Many of those at these chicken dinner events go because they have to. My observational skills tell me Scott went because he enjoyed them.

• • •

Once, while wandering aimlessly around Vancouver, I drifted onto a nameless street, into a nondescript building where a crowd of faceless people had gathered. It was a poker game! And who was there? You guessed it: Scott. He was holding court again. And if you weren’t smiling and laughing before you cozied up to him, you soon would be.

I don’t remember much else about that night except there was a lot of cigar smoke … and I lost. But running into Scott was a win for me.

• • •

I’m not exactly sure why Scott decided to get into the Vancouver City Council race. He had made his serious health issues very public. He was always a giver to our community, and, I suspect, he felt he wanted to continue to give as a councilor. I last saw Scott at an editorial board meeting with most of the other candidates a few weeks before he died.

Scott was well prepared for the meeting and easily won The Columbian’s endorsement. (Scott was no relation to Scott Campbell, The Columbian’s publisher.) His name will remain on the ballot for the November election, and he’ll likely still win the race. That’s how much of an impact he’s made on our community.

• • •

Scott, we’ll miss you, but I’m sure the legacy you have left about getting involved and caring will keep us all moving in the right direction.

Godspeed.