Emilio Campos Jr., 75, of Bradenton, Florida died September 7th, 2021, after a hard-fought war with a thief known as Parkinson's disease. His 20-year battle ended on a Tuesday afternoon, when the man known as Emil surrendered, peacefully and painlessly, to the will of his body—a betrayer and longtime co-conspirator of the thief.
Emilio was born October 10th, 1945, to Emilio Campos Sr. and Mary Campos in Sharon, Pennsylvania, and was big brother to four younger siblings. Born into a proud line of Spaniards who were deeply passionate about food and family, it should come as no surprise that the majority of Emilio's youth and adult life were spent walking (dare we say strutting?) the halls of restaurants. He could be washing dishes, scrubbing potatoes, filling maraschino cherries at the bar, manning the door, cooking, plating, putting out fires (both literal and metaphorical), or enjoying playful banter with guests. Whatever the task at hand, here was a man who poured himself fully into every aspect of what we mortals might call the dining experience. He was proud and relentless in his pursuit of greatness in the field, culminating in his crowning professional achievement: the Cité Grille. Alongside his partner and wife of nearly 28 years, Pamela Campos, Emilio fed the emotional, intellectual and physical appetites of many at what grew to be the epicurean heartbeat of Canton, Ohio for 15 years (1991 to 2006). Emilio—while dad to two, Jason and Mercedes—was a father to many. A lifelong sounding board to all who needed consult, direction, empathy, mentorship, love or strength. During his long tenure in the restaurant business, hundreds of people worked with him, and he impacted them all. Emilio is not a forgettable man. He had this uncanny ability to see clearly into the hearts of others and encouraged all to be their best and live their truth, sometimes yielding lifelong friendships gained, or less often, friendships lost. It is said that you can't make an omelet without cracking a few eggs, and if you knew and loved the man, it's likely that you've been on the receiving end of a swift, well-deserved "crack," or one hell of a life-changing omelet. More than likely, you were lucky enough to experience both.
His kids remember fondly the road trips, adventures and great meals they shared as a family. Where Harry Chapin, Neil Diamond and Louis Armstrong seemed to play on repeat. Where the extraordinary nature of God's creation in Yosemite brought tears to a grown man's eyes. Where often strangers became his friends, whether a homeless man seeking help, a server who got a tip they didn't know they needed, or two elderly women out for a girls' night delighted in the admiration and respect of a longtime feminist. Where a Goofy character at Disney World made a man laugh harder than we thought possible. Where dinner time was not just a meal, but an opportunity to teach a lesson, whether the proper handshake, the power of looking someone in the eye, or how to tie a cherry stem in a knot with your tongue (a lesson we've still yet to master). The same man, who could stare awestruck at a breathtaking valley, would find equal emotional timbre at a piece of silverware not polished properly. He was equal parts heart, ambition, curiosity and critic. Ever seeking perfection in all that he did. And perhaps the last man who could buy a cocktail for a female stranger at the end of the bar, without getting a face full of Cosmo.
Emilio, a proud Marine Veteran, is predeceased by his brother, José Campos. He is survived by his loving wife Pamela; his children Jason Campos and Mercedes Hashimura; his son-in-law Taro Hashimura; his son's partner Becky Nissel; his granddaughter Indigo Hashimura; his three sisters Cynthia Tellier (Tom), Maryann Svarckopf (George) and April Stein; and a motley crew of family, friends, collaborators, co-conspirators, and let's be honest… a worthy nemesis or two.
'Done Too Soon' by Neil Diamond was a favorite of Emilio's. Never were three words more apt. Done too soon, Emilio will be missed every single day. He rests now a dignified man.
Remembering Emilio Campos Jr
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