Former Barhitte principal remembered for love of children

Patricia Campbell

Patricia Campbell

BURTON — Patricia Campbell, 82, will be remembered by those who knew her as professional educator who loved children, both students and her own children and grandchildren.

A former principal at Barhitte Elementary in Bentley Community Schools, Campbell died April 12. She spent many years teaching in Bentley schools, having started her teaching career in Flint.

A life-long resident of Michigan, Campbell was born Nov. 22, 1937 in Midland. The youngest of four children, she demonstrated a genuine curiosity about life at a young age, eventually cultivating a healthy passion for formal education.

Janie McComb, a retired secretary who worked with Campbell, said she was a teacher before becoming a principal.

“She was extremely knowledgeable, a great teacher and a thorough leader for the students,” said McComb. “(Barhitte) was so old, and she was instrumental trying to bring the building up to safety standards after 9/11 and Columbine. She always had the safety of the kids in mind, always.”

After graduating from Midland Dow High School, Campbell became the first person in her family to attend and graduate from a university, earning Bachelor of Arts degrees in Education and History from Central Michigan University. She also earned a master’s degree in Education from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

From her start in Flint schools, she moved on to the Bentley School District, where her love for her work grew as did her protective oversight for the children attending her school.

In her spare time, she would tutor children living in her neighborhood.

“She touched my life and many other kids and staff members, others in the community,” said McComb. “I was sad to hear of her passing; she was a pretty energetic lady. She was there 24/7 and got every detail right. Whatever it was, she was right on it. She was good for Bentley schools.”

Campbell spent her entire professional career in teaching, eventually retiring as principal of Barhitte Elementary School. She was nominated for Michigan’s Teacher of the Year in 1986, and escorted hundreds of children on extended multiple field trips to Washington, D.C. as part of the Close-Up Foundation’s Education Experience.

She was also chosen to represent her district for the Close-Up Foundation’s Educator Exchange field trip, traveling to Nara, Japan to live with, observe, and exchange education ideas with Japanese educators.

Karen Cowen, a retired teacher from Bentley schools, said she started working with Campbell in 1976 and considered her a “wonderful friend and mentor.” Cowen said Campbell was always very professional and was all about the students at Barhitte Elementary.

The two first worked together when Campbell was a reading consultant and Cowen was a learning disabilities reading consultant. Together they shared a small room with a speech therapist and the three worked with students in that environment.

“I have some fond memories of that time. I learned a lot from Pat,” said Cowen. “As the newbie she was wonderful – a good mentor and friend with a huge heart. She took a lot of responsibility for each of the kids and demanded a lot of them. She required respect and they looked at her as a powerhouse. Consequently, I learned how to earn that respect from my students.”

Cowen said Campbell was the epitome of professionalism and if it was something necessary for the benefit of the children, she’d find a way to make it happen.

When it came to her own children and grandchildren, Cowen said Campbell was also very dedicated and supportive.

“She talked very highly of family, they were important to her, especially her grandkids,” she said. “I had lunch with her about six months ago, when I heard she’s passed, it was such a shock. She was a very, very good friend to many of us and would do anything to help us out.”

Campbell married, and in time welcomed her children, Christopher, Robin, Becky, Matthew, and Andrew to the world. She emphasized the importance of education by introducing not only the pleasure of books, but also newspapers so that her children would become aware of current events.

She enjoyed travel, cultivating her English garden and working on her lawn, of which drew the admiration of neighbors. Campbell was also a gifted interior designer and enjoyed genealogical research, taking great pride in tracing her family’s history back to colonial Virginia and the Revolutionary War.

She was preceded in death by her father, Ernest Killian; her mother, Maude Killian; her sister Delores Jean Davis; her sister, Julie Killian Badder; her brother, Charles Robert Killian; and her son, Mathew Patrick Campbell.

Patricia Campbell is survived by her son Christopher Jon Campbell, his wife, Cynthia of Ann Arbor, MI, and their two daughters Emily and Katie of New York, NY; her daughter Robin Elizabeth Campbell of Swartz Creek; her daughter Becky Jean Sprague, her husband, Robert Bartek, Jr. of Fenton, and their daughter Megan Yurk, her husband Russell, and their two children, Rowan Matthew and Caleb Robert; her son Andrew Campbell, of Swartz Creek; and her closest friend, LaNay Cooke of Fenton, as well as nieces, nephews and other dear friends.

Given current circumstances, private funeral and burial services took place at New Calvary

Catholic Cemetery in Flint Township.

However, the Campbell family would like to host a Celebration of Life party later this year, when conditions allow.

Memorial donations may be made in Patricia’s memory to Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, 2300

Lapeer Rd, Flint, MI 48503. Website: or call 810-239-4441.