Don’t you love it when someone still loves Decatur County even after years of being gone? Nicholas Campbell does. He was born here in 1949 and lived here until about 1961 when his family moved to California.
He started school at St. Mary’s, which would have been around 1955. He was around 12 years old. He wants to know about his godmother, Matilda Stier.
Nick said that Matilda, his godmother, worked as a housekeeper at St. Mary’s Rectory when Fathers George Zeimer and Shumacher were priests there. He said for his First Holy Communion, “Tildy” (their name for Matilda), gave him a prayer book and a rosary.
“I am still in touch with Sister Therese Wente at the Motherhouse in Oldenburg and have asked her about Tildy, but Sister Therese left St. Mary’s in 1960 when she was 25 and has lost touch with many of the parishioners. Sister Therese is now 84.”
So, if you remember Matilda Stier, let me know.
Nick remembers that there was Stier family who lived near South Michigan Avenue. “We once lived at 140 South Michigan. Our house burned when Mac’s Feedmill burned. We moved to California in 1961. I never got to say goodbye to Tildy. I still have the prayer book she gave me and the rosary. I think about her from time to time. Today was one of those days when she has been on my mind. I would love to at least see a photograph of Matilda Steir. I thought of you because you once wrote a series for the Greensburg Daily News titled ‘A Walk Around the Square,’” he shared with me.
I asked if he’d give me a bit of family history, some memories, and he came through.
His mother was Ann Yatsko Campbell. She married Harry Guinn Campbell, who was one of the Milroy triplets born to Walter and Icey Lockridge Campbell in 1910. He grew up in Adams; my mother grew up in Mingo Junction, Ohio.
“Currently, my younger brother and I live in Atascadero, California, in a flat above a business near the Carlton Hotel. Michael Sheen Campbell, who was named after Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, is a musician and restaurant worker. I’m a retired barista and used to teach English and poetry at one of our California prisons and also at Cuesta College near San Luis Obispo.” He’s published books of poetry. First press was Garden Street Press, his latest is Phoenix Press.
He published books by poet Benjamin Saltman exclusively; he was Nick’s poetry professor at California State University, Northridge, where he earned his B.A. in English in 1984.
“I recently published Saltman’s ‘A Termite Memoir’ in 2019. Ben sent me the manuscript in 1997, two years before his death in 1999. I held on to the manuscript for 21 years, not knowing I was the only one who had a copy. I asked Ben’s widow, Helen Saltman, if I could publish the book and she said yes. It is the most important book I published.
“I have also published four books of Saltman’s poetry. To date I have published nine other books by women authors as well as men, but all of them, except one, were published by Garden Street Press. I published a book of poems titled ‘Dandelion Clocks’ first in 1993. Published it again through my press in 2013 and updated it last year. Here is a poem from the book. I write about growing up in southern Indiana. Much of the work was inspired by growing up in Greensburg. Mr. Grinnell and his wife once rented the store at 207 1/2 East Main from my father and Uncle, Frank Campbell, owned it for a short while. Grinnell’s, as we called Mr. Grinnell’s dime store, was where we always bought our penny candy, when there was such a thing.”
A poem by Nick: SEVENTY NOW, I PASS AN OLD HOUSE IN ADAMS, INDIANA, I REMEMBER AS A CHILD As I pass by, the house sleeps. The day grows still. Far off a tree breathes, fastened to its hill. An upper window of the house rattles. A bird or squirrel scratches in the eaves. Shirts drying in the yard chat as the sun turns on its fan. I raise the arm of an old man to catch my hat. Pinned to the sky, the shirts wave from a line. The house slowly turns its face and I turn mine.