Shoe Industry Comes Out in Droves to Honor Bob Campbell at NYC Funeral

Family, friends and colleagues came together to pay their respects to revered shoe executive Bob Campbell on Saturday morning in New York. The founder of BBC International died on Feb. 17. He was 82.

The funeral took place (following Friday night’s viewing) at the St. Ignatius Loyola Church in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. To celebrate his life came the shoe industry’s biggest power players.

Guests included many of Campbell’s BBC employees and counterparts, including his longtime business partner, vice chairman Donald Wilborn, along with the company’s corporate president and COO, Josue Solano. Both gave readings during the mass.

Bob Campbell with Donald Wilborn
Bob Campbell and Donald Willborn.
CREDIT: FN Archives

In addition to his five grandchildren, Campbell’s wife, Barbara Zangrilli, son Robert Campbell Jr., daughter Dana Campbell and son Seth Campbell were all in attendance.

Seth, who worked closely with Campbell since the age of 13, shared an emotional eulogy honoring his late father.

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“I’ve lost my role model, my boss, my teacher, mentor, my father, my best friend,” he said. “I confided in him. Our favorite thing was to connect by phone after my meetings either with a retailer, partner or distributor. If it was with a retailer or distributor he always wanted to know what they thought about the shoes, what was their favorites or what they were going to buy. Most importantly, how much they were going to buy. I’ll never be able to make those phone calls again but now I’ll look up and ask him how he thinks the meeting went as I know he’ll be watching.”

Bob Campbell Seth Campbell
Bob Campbell and his son Seth Campbell photographed at Campbell Stables in 2015.
CREDIT: Steve Eichner

Campbell, who rose from the hard-scrabble streets of Pittsburgh to become one of the most powerful players in the shoe business, founded BBC International in 1975, turning it into a multi-million-dollar global footwear powerhouse that produced some of the most coveted fashion and character shoes in the children’s category.

Seth added, “His work ethic was and still is infectious. Hard work came natural to him. It was second nature and never changed …There were many, many obstacles along the way, both personal and professional, but his humble upbringing and tenacious spirit kept him going. Ultimately, we’ve shipped over 1 billion shoes to over 100 countries worldwide.”

While Bob Campbell’s decades-long career is filled with accomplishments, his philanthropy is arguably what has earned him the most praise and admiration. In May 2017, Campbell received an honorary doctorate degree from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Fla. Over the years, he donated generously with both his time and money to charitable causes, including local nonprofits in BBC’s hometown of Boca Raton and industry organizations such as Two Ten Footwear Foundation.

Bob Campbell
BBC CEO Bob Campbell, photographed for FN in 2017.
CREDIT: Joshua Scott

“Today is a celebration. A celebration of an amazing man who lived life to the fullest and overcame adversity at every turn and always came out on top,” Seth said. “Dad, you did it. You really, really did it. You beat the odds. You’re the definition of the American dream — from rags to riches — and nobody can take that way from you.”

Other attendees included Faryl Robin, Leslie Gallin, Debbie Ferree, Diane Sullivan, Dave grange, Terri Rawson, Sam Poser, Joe Moore, Joe Ouaknine, Katie Butler, Jim Issler, Sonny Shar, Jeff Espersen, Tarek Hassan, Ron Fromm, Rick Mina, Liz Rodbell, Michael Atmore and Shawn Osborne, among others.

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