Celebrating the life of Peter Campbell

Peter Campbell’s colourful casket.

Margaret Campbell felt significantly underdressed.

She was at the Town Hall – surrounded by men and women in formal clothing. Her date, Peter, had told her to dress “ordinarily”.

He arrived in his number one’s Navy uniform.

“I was absolutely mortified,” Margaret says.

They would go on to be married for 64 years.

Peter Colin Campbell was born on June 3, 1932 in County Mayo, Ireland. He had siblings Ruth and Edwin.

He attended an all-boys school in Dublin. “He acted in plays,” Margaret says. “He loved it.

Because it was all boys, they had to dress up as girls.”

At the age of 16, Peter joined the Royal Navy. He was a telegraphist – an operator who used Morse code to communicate.

He served on a number of ships including the TSS Gothic which Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip used to travel to New Zealand.

When they docked in New Zealand, sailors were invited to have dinner with locals.

Margaret remembers telling her sister that she thought the visitor was going to be an old man.

She did not expect a young, handsome Irishman.

“My father and I drove him around Auckland,” Margaret says. “He often had dinner with my family. Then I didn’t see him for two years”.

Peter departed with the Navy. He wrote to Margaret every day during those two years.

In 1954, on the Royal Yacht, Britannia that Peter was on, Prince Charles and Princess Anne joined. He later wrote letters to Margaret about the trouble they caused.

In 1956, after returning to New Zealand, he and Margaret married. They went on to have four children – Derek, Grahame, Suzanne and Eileen.

Peter continued to travel around the world with the Navy. He sailed to Alexandria, Istanbul and Gibraltar. Years later he taught cadets at North Head.

Then Peter and Margaret opened Toyland. In 1990, it became Campbell’s Toys and Crafts.

Their store was a pillar of the Howick community for 33 years.

In 2001, in a news article, it was described as “The Biggest Little Department store in the East”.

Peter and Margaret frequently travelled during these times. They took a riverboat across Russia and visited Norway. “We trusted our staff,” Margaret says. “They were always amazing and often stayed with us for years”.

Throughout his lifetime, Peter loved jaguar cars. The most infamous was WispaJ – a car that was so quiet Margaret could barely hear the engine.

In 2003, they retired. Peter developed an adoration for stitching. “He loved to make tapestries,” Margaret says.

Her house is decorated with her husband’s creations. There is a tapestry version of the Last Supper in the garage and a beautifully-woven rug in the kitchen.

An undeniably gentle man, Peter loved birds.

On April 2, he passed away (Times, April 7).

“His funeral was a celebration of his life,” Margaret says. “We wanted to celebrate what he was – a kind man who loved his family”.

Margaret will remember a lot of things about Peter that she’s fond of. “I’ll never forget his Irish jokes,” she says. “He could meet anyone and make them laugh”.

At his grandfather’s funeral, Flynn spoke of how Peter was a good provider and beloved by his family. He said he left behind a legacy that he hopes he could emulate.