the kind Scotsman from El Callao
Oliver Campbell in his garden at Wembley with his nephew Julio, on August, 2011
Oliver Campbell was born in El Callao, from a Scottish father and a Venezuelan mother and all his life he personified the best of the two nations: a good sense of humor, honesty, even temper, cordiality and a very strong sense of hospitality, a quality shared, always smilingly, by his wife Maria Josefina. He built a solid family and gave his sons a good education.
I knew Oliver for many years, since we both worked in Shell de Venezuela, where he had a long and solid career in Finance. After the nationalization of the Venezuelan oil industry, Oliver worked in Shell’s successor, Maraven, later becoming Finance Coordinator of the holding company, Petroleos de Venezuela, the highest level of hierarchy below the Board of Directors. In that position he was overseeing a business with an income of the order of $25 billion or more per year.
After retirement Oliver moved to London and selected a home in Wembley Park, in an area with a lot of green, to remember him of his native El Callao. In this home he and Maria Josefina hosted dozens of his friends from Venezuela or from England. Many would not only enjoy dinner with them but would also stay in their home overnight . About 5 years ago I was in London with my wife and we visited with them and had dinner together at “Djakarta”, an excellent Indonesian restaurant near their home. In that occasion Oliver said to me: “Last week we had Gustavito Inciarte with us and had dinner in this restaurant”. Oliver’s home seemed to be always fully booked!
When not visiting him, most of his friends, me included, kept contact via Internet. In our case it was all about oil and Venezuelan politics. He was a finance man and I relied almost entirely on his expertise to guide myself through PDVSA’s finances. We both sent our evaluations on the State of the Industry to this site, www.petroleumworld.com and although we did not always agree, differences were usually about numbers but never about principles.
Last Sunday, September 8, I was in Cambridge, where I had given a keynote speech at the concluding session of an International Symposium on Economic crime, and had planned for a while to visit a friend near Oxford and go on to London, where I would have dinner with Oliver, Maria Josefina and Luis, one of the sons and, then, I would stay that night at their Wembley home. It was all arranged long before hand. And then tragedy struck. As I arrived at the home of my friend in Oxford he said to me that Oliver had suffered a massive brain hemorrhage. I called Luis on the phone and he confirmed to me that it had been a very serious event and that recovery was doubtful. On Monday, when I arrived in London, I found a message in my laptop from Elio Ohep, about Oliver’s passing. I talked to Luis again and he said his father had died during the night, without suffering, never regaining consciousness. I told him I would be visiting them at home on Tuesday morning, at around ten.
From where I was, in Kensington, to Wembley park is a trip of about 40 minutes in the train. When I arrived at the home of the Campbells I found Maria Josefina with her sons and two of Oliver’s sisters in the house. I was very moved by the air of dignity in that home. We embraced, cried about the loss of Oliver and then, Maria Josefina asked me to seat with them for breakfast. She had prepared arepas, shredded cheese, ham and coffee. I admired the way this family of Oliver could behave with such perfect manners in the middle of their sorrow and then I knew that this was largely Oliver’s doing. He would have let his family long ago that his passing should not be an occasion for sorrow and despair but an occasion for the reaffirmation of the human condition. He would have said to the children: This is the home of the Campbells. I might be gone but you go on. The Campbell boys I spoke with had this firm and serene determination. And the cement in the relationship was there: Maria Josefina.I left the home of Oliver sad for not having shared with him, one more time, a good conversation, a good laugh and a good meal. But proud of the family he left behind. At the end of our journey a good family is our supreme legacy.
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