How do you sum up the lives of two extrodinary people in just a few minutes?
Don and Izetta Camp transformed this community in ways we may never know, but will always feel.
What started in their hearts has taken root and continues to grow.
Don Camp, Sr. was born in Bakersfield in 1925.
The son of cotton pioneer Wofford B. Camp, farming was in his blood, but there was something else in his heart.
Izetta Agnew was born 1927 in Starr, S.C.
Their families knew each other.
Their fathers were classmates at Clemson University, but it wasn’t until college that the two would meet.
“Mother was at a women’s college in S.C., going to school at Winthrop University. Daddy was at Clemson and her parents found out that daddy was in S.C.. Her mother said you should write him and invite him to a dance, be nice to him he’s here all the way from Calif.. Mother did and that’s how they first met,” said Georgia Camp Bell, the Camp’s eldest daughter.
They married in 1952 and moved to Kern County where Don Camp’s visionary approach to farming would transform agriculture in California.
“My dad was a driven man and he was a progressive man. Never looking at things like that’s the way we do it. Always looking for a better way. I think that was a big part of my dad’s success,” said Edwin Camp, the Camp’s middle son.
Those who knew Don Camp say it was also his values, his ethics and morals, how he treated others that contributed to his success.
“I think dad was just a hard worker and really worked well with people,” said Don Camp, Jr., the Camp’s eldest son.
“He had a tender heart and especially, I’ll never forget, he just always loved the people who worked for him and with him and he had a genuine love and real concern,” Georgia Camp Bell said.
A concern for others that went far beyond his employees.
“If you see the list of organizations that he was involved in, water districts, seed distributors, other organizations, those things that made the area better place, it was for the benefit of others. He didn’t spend 31 years with the water district for his sole benefit, it was for the benefit of the whole. He believed in the benefit of the whole,” said Clayton Camp, the Camp’s youngest son.
“He was involved in organizations that helped people, not just himself, not just his business, not just our family, but the greater community,” said Carolyn Camp Pandol, the Camp’s youngest daughter.
As the saying goes, behind every successful man there is a great woman.
“Mom wasn’t just a great supporter. Mom made dad’s life such that he was able to do the things that he could. Without her he couldn’t have,” Edwin Camp said.
Together Don and Izetta Camp raised five children, Georgia, Don Jr., Edwin, Clayton and Carolyn.
A humble family built on a foundaton of faith.
“They did a lot for other people, but they did they didn’t do it to to be acknowledged. They wanted it to be quiet and didn’t seek any honors. I think they instilled in us that desire to do our very best and to give back to the community. I just pray that I can be half the person that either of them were,” Georgia Camp Bell said.
He was a man of the soil.
She was the roots that bound it all together.
“They were committed when they made thier marriage vows. When they said in the church ’til death do us part’ they meant it,” Georgia Camp Bell said.
As their health began to fail and hospice care was required, Don and Izetta Camp lived out their final days at home in Bakersfield.
Hospital beds brought into their master bedroom, placed side by side, close enough so they could hold hands.
“When they woke up in the morning he would lean over and ask mother how she slept and give her a kiss. I know at night before they went to sleep they told each other they loved each other and he would reach out to hold her hand. I don’t know what more to say than that,” Georgia Camp Bell said.
Don Camp, Sr. passed away on Tuesday, Nov. 12.
Izetta Camp died four days later.
“We were talking the other night, what do you think was the first thing dad said to mom when she got there? I said, ‘what took you so long.’ That’s what I think he said,” Clayton Camp said.
A memorial service for Don and Izetta Camp is set for Monday Nov. 25 at 10:00 a.m. at First Presbyterian Church.
The public is invited to attend.
A private burial service will follow.
In lieu of flowers you can honor the family through donations to the Alzheimers Disease Association of Kern County or the Boy Scouts of America Southern Sierra Council.