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Joan Camp remembered for being 'dear friend' with 'sunny personality'

Cary Ashby • Jan 28, 2020 at 11:30 AM

Editor’s note: This is the second in a three-part series about the St. Paul Convocation Center, which celebrates its 25th anniversary Thursday.

Current students and staff at Norwalk Catholic and St. Paul High schools may pass by the Joan C. Camp Auditorium without knowing about its namesake.

Camp was the long-time secretary in the elementary school. She died on May 4, 1995 following hospitalization after a car crash on U.S. 20 in Lorain County.

“She was a dear friend. … She was very fun to be around,” said Juli Burt, who retired in 2011 after 35 years of teaching band, choir and general music at St. Paul. “There wasn’t a problem we couldn’t solve by just talking about it.”

Camp is remembered as a caring, approachable and loving woman. 

“She wasn’t just a mother-figure for the students, but to the staff also,” Burt said.

Mark Hazelwood, who attended the school from kindergarten through eighth grade, said he remembered Camp as “a special lady.”

“She was the nicest person walking the planet. And if she ever had a bad day, you would never know it,” he added.

Hazelwood said Camp made anybody who had a problem feel like it was “the most important thing” to address at the moment.

“She was this whole place’s mom; that’s the kind of person she was,” added Sue Lesch, NCS chief advancement officer. “If a child came in there sick or they had a boo-boo on their finger, she was the perfect person to console them and make them better and patch them and send them back to school.” 

Camp was remembered for her upbeat personality.

“You could take a problem to her. She was just a joy. She had a wonderful laugh — just a sunny personality always. I never saw her down myself; she was always lifting everybody else up,” Lesch said.

“She was an amazing person,” she added, so following Camp’s death there was an energy around the school with “people who wanted (to find) a way to honor her.”

As a result, the timing of Camp’s tragic death resulted in the school honoring her as the St. Paul Convocation Center was being planned and built.

“The family did an amazing thing; they said, ‘We want to do something for the school’ and it seemed like that (could) become a reality. Then when they talked with architects about the cost to do it all at once, rather than in two steps, of course, there (were) a lot of cost savings to do it that way. A lot of the people stepped up and volunteered (their) time to do it and (the auditorium) was named in her honor,” said Lesch, who was the director of the Firelands Catholic Education Development Office at the time. 

“People were saddened by the whole thing, but yet grateful for the opportunity to do something in her honor and honor her memory.”