Hugh Campbell gives an impromptu speech after being the surprise guest of honour at a 10th anniversary celebration at Harmony Grove Homes in Truro on Saturday. Campbell has been with the Irving family in some capacity almost exclusively since 1974. Ryan Cooke – Truro Daily News.
TRURO – Hugh Campbell is recognized around town for his love of walking and his bushy, white beard. On Saturday afternoon, he was recognized by his coworkers for his love of coffee, his amicable personality and his 40 years of service to Irving Industries.
“A lot of children see him and mistake him for Santa Claus,” joked James Finnie, a co-worker at Kent Homes, where Campbell has worked since the business’ inception. “But around here there’s no mistaking him.”
Campbell was the surprise guest of honour at a barbeque at Harmony Groves Homes on Saturday afternoon. A Kent Homes dealer, owned by Irving, the Harmony group celebrated 10 years of service to the Truro Area. General manager Ray Rieksts opened his speech by calling on his most loyal employee.
“I was not expecting this,” Campbell said. “It’s all very nice, you know, when you’re working for a firm like this. To be recognized is great.”
It’s been a long road, that all started with a funny twist.
“Way back when, I was a kid in Antigonish with a new university degree, and I sent a resume to Kent Homes,” he said in an impromptu speech. “They sent it back! ‘You are much to qualified for us,’ they said.”
After being honourably snubbed, Campbell went to work for J.D. Irving in Saint John, before being transferred back to Kent Homes when they realized what they were missing.
“I came here on October 6, 1978, if my memory serves me correct,” Campbell said. “There’s been ups and downs, but all together, it’s been a wonderful job.”
Among his favourite memories are working on big projects, like hotels and motels. One example that jumped to mind was a hotel they assembled in his home area of Cape Breton, where the work order was signed on May 25 and the rooms began renting on June 1.
While making things happen in a hurry has been a highlight for Campbell, it’s the human aspect of the job that’s kept him invested in what he thought would be a six-month venture in 1978.
“I enjoy it, it’s all very interesting,” he said. “We’re building house for people. There’s a joy in that, of watching people going into their new home. That, from day one, was always my top thing.”
Forty years later, the interest remains.
“You can look at it and say a house only has four walls and a roof. Well, yes. But there’s so much more,” he said. “Everybody has different personalities, so I’ve spent my years sitting down with these people and figuring out their lifestyles and solving problems. It’s still all very interesting to me.”
As for retirement?
“There was a point this morning where I had to climb under a mini-home to rest the breakers. At that point it crossed my mind,” he laughed.
“I just couldn’t stand still if I were doing nothing. As long as I can do the job, I will.”