Scottsdale Salutes: patriotic resident, volunteer Wiki Campbell

Wiki Campbell, 91, of Scottsdale.

Wiki Campbell, 91, of Scottsdale.

Scottsdale resident, Wiki Campbell, 91, has been donating her time to the Via Linda Senior Center for 20 years, an achievement she considers surprising because of her age.

The independent woman radiates a youthful spirit, and hasn’t let age slow her down.

She enjoys her time volunteering every Tuesday and being involved in activities within her community at West Minster Village, doing word-scramble puzzles, fashion, weekly coffee-dates with friends and dancing.

Every week Ms. Campbell spends a few hours manning the front desk at the senior center and doing odd jobs around the facility.

“It’s a very important part of my life,” said Ms. Campbell during an Oct. 7 interview.

She first applied at the facility after stopping into the then, newly built center, and filled out a blank application that was sitting on a counter.

One particular duty Ms. Campbell takes pride in at the center, is recycling jigsaw puzzles.

“Once about every two months I take the excess puzzles, put them in my car, and bring them here (West Minster Village),” said Ms. Campbell. “And then I have them distributed here. It’s working beautifully.”

Ms. Campbell grew up on a cattle ranch in western Nebraska and is the middle child of five siblings.

When the United States got involved in World War II, Ms. Campbell moved to Washington D.C. as soon as she turned 18-years-old to do her part in supporting the troops.

“Washington was just hiring everyone that could type and took short hand, but I was too young, so I had to wait until I was 18,” said Ms. Campbell. “Probably within a week I was on my way. I just was one of the luckiest gals to get to work at the Army War College.”

Ms. Campbell was a secretary in Washington for about two years before moving to Minneapolis with a girlfriend to work in the President’s office of the University Hospital.

“It was so cold! I knew that wasn’t the area of the world I wanted to stay in,” said Ms. Campbell. She left Minnesota and moved back home for a short time.

Not long after that Ms. Campbell and a different girlfriend left for a new adventure.

“I said ‘lets go to Denver. We’ll go to the Civil Services Office and believe me, we’ll have a job,’” said Ms. Campbell. “So we did; we talked to them and that same day they put us on a train to Hillfield, Utah.”

“The Japanese surrendered that summer, and I said to my girlfriend, ‘well we will all be out of a job in two or three weeks, so I’m going to make other plans.’”

Ms. Campbell went to northern California to visit her cousin who lived on Alcatraz Island with her husband, a high-ranking guard at the prison.

During this brief stay in the fall of 1945, a fleet of ships returning home from the war entered the bay-area, she recalled. Ms. Campbell and her cousin were able to watch this memorable event from the apartment on the island.

“I grabbed a book or something and was waving it off the balcony,” said Ms. Campbell. “All the fire boats were in the harbor spraying water.”

“I felt very proud. It felt like you were a part of it — we all helped in one way or another.”

It was then, Ms. Campbell decided to call San Francisco home.

It was difficult to find a place to live in downtown San Francisco at first, she said, but eventually found a place to stay at Mrs. Glasses Boarding House for Young Ladies.

“I did that on Monday morning, and Tuesday morning I went to work,” she said. “That’s where I met my husband. And we came to the Valley of the Sun in 1948.”

Ms. Campbell doesn’t know what brought her and her new husband to Arizona — she’s never been able to figure it out, she said.

She became a secretary at the Salt River Project for five years before becoming a mother. Her two children, who still live in the Valley, attended Saguaro High School.

About six years ago, Ms. Campbell had the honor of laying down a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns in the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

“I felt so lucky to be living in this wonderful country,” said Ms. Campbell. “It profoundly affected me.”

Ms. Campbell describes her good health and spirit due to the fact that she doesn’t allow herself to get stressed. She said she sweared-off playing the game of bridge for this very reason.

“Stress ages you,” said Ms. Campbell. “And it brings out the worse in you.”

To learn more about volunteering in the city of Scottsdale, visit www.scottsdaleAZ.gov.

To nominate a volunteer for Scottsdale Salutes, e-mail Mfittro@newszap.com.

Northeast Valley News Services Editor Melissa Fittro can be e-mailed at mfittro@newszap.com or can be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/melissafittro.

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