To Adopted Son, Famous Father Roy Campanella Was 'Pop'

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Many mourned the recent passing of Dodger Hall of Fame catcher Roy Campanella, who lived in Woodland Hills for the past 15 years.

None mourned more than John Campanella of Lancaster.

He's the man that the crippled, former baseball player adopted when John was a 12-year-old boy in Brooklyn.

Campanella says life with his famous father was a learning experience marked by dignity and love.

"My Pop spent the years after his crippling (auto) accident raising his family and working with young people. Many were at risk and needing guidance. He loved doing it. He loved the kids.

"If he was ever bitter or angry about what happened to him, about not being able to play, I never saw it. He was just a wonderful, gracious man who always was willing to believe the best about everyone and to help anyone whenever he could," John Campanella says.

John Campanella remembers watching his pop catch for the Dodgers in the '50s before he, John, ever met him.

He remembers hearing about the 1958 automobile accident that paralyzed Campanella and ended his career.

In 1964, John's mother, Dixie, a widow, said she was going to marry Roy Campanella.

John remembers wondering what kind of father his former idol, now in a wheelchair, was going to be.

"Pop had three children and my mom had me and my sister. Somehow, we all came together as a family and have stayed that way ever since," John Campanella says.

"If I had any doubts about Pop being able to be a strong father because he was in a wheelchair, I got over that idea in a hurry. He gave us direction, love, discipline and punishment when it was deserved," the younger Campanella says.

If he had ever had inclinations toward rowdiness when he was growing up in the Campanella house in Brooklyn, one incident in particular disabused him of that idea.

"I remember sitting next to Pop when he got a telephone call asking for help and advice from Jackie Robinson. Jackie was having such a hard time with his kids that he was crying over the phone.

"When I asked my father what was wrong, he told me. I remember thinking that I didn't ever want to do that to my dad," Campanella said.

It was John Campanella's dream to follow in his father's footsteps and become a major league catcher. "I batted well in high school, but things didn't work well when I went to college," he says.

He left school, married and followed his parents to Los Angeles in 1978, working at various jobs, including acting. He now works with a North Hollywood security firm and is the assistant coach of a Lancaster youth baseball team.

His last memory of his dad is watching him barbecuing ribs in the back yard of his Woodland Hills home on Father's Day.

"My mom was there, of course, and my wife, Yvette, and our two boys, John Thomas and Justin. My sister, Joani, and her husband, Mike, and their son, Cary, were all there too. "It was one of those lazy, good days when you are grateful for having a family that is together and well," Campanella says.

Six days later, his brother-in-law called to say Roy Campanella had died of a heart attack at age 71.

His son is still trying to recover from his shock and sorrow.

"My Pop was a great person," Campanella says in eulogy. "If there was ever a man who was generous, gracious and good, it was my dad," he says.

Frankenstein's Monster Finds a Best Friend

Burbank Animal Shelter workers found the young Shepherd-mix wandering around Dymond Street near the Burbank-North Hollywood border.

They picked him up and named him Frankenstein's Dog because of the many stitches covering the puppy's bruised and chewed-up body.

Fred DeLange, supervisor of the shelter, was sure that someone would claim the dog because he had obviously had expensive medical care.

"Someone had spent a lot of money. The dog had surgical stitches and tubes coming out of his body everywhere," DeLange says.

DeLange thinks that since there were no broken bones, the dog was probably attacked by some other animal, probably one much larger than it is.

Frankie, as the dog came to be called, was kept at the pound for 15 days while shelter workers waited for his owner to show up and claim him.

When that didn't happen, a story was run in a community paper in hopes that the owner would see it and respond.

No luck.

DeLange refused to put the dog to sleep, saying he had been through so much that he deserved to live.

Finally, the dog was put up for adoption and Anna Marie Torelli of Burbank took him home.

"I sort of collect strays and when I read about Frankie my heart just went out to him," says the woman who works in financing at Burbank Studios in Burbank.

"I already have a hearing-impaired cat and a terrier-mix stray a neighbor brought over for me to take care of. But after seeing Frankie's picture, I just couldn't bear to leave him sitting in the pound," she says.

She went to the shelter, paid the $46.30 to release him, got the dog and took him to her veterinarian.

"Frankie got some of his stitches out and some of the tubes removed and he seems much happier," Torelli says, then adds, "but I'm wondering what happened to his owner, why he never showed up and what this puppy's story really is.

"Some people think the dog is part coyote and that he might be wild and hard to deal with," says Torelli.

"All I can tell you is that he is a sweetheart and when I'm home, he won't leave my side," she adds.

Woman's Club Small but Mighty Helpful

They've only got 18 members, but the Agoura Valley Woman's Club also has 15 regional awards and three state-level trophies for community service following the recent regional women's clubs convention in Simi Valley.

These 18 women seem to know how to make their efforts count.

They are active in many activities, said Judi Ross, club president, the major one being the Adopt-a-Family program.

The group has adopted seven Agoura families with a total of 22 children and provide monthly aid including school supplies for the children and food, clothing and furniture for all.

Confidentiality of the families is observed, Ross said. Cathy Lemonnier, chairman of Adopt-a-Family, is the only member who knows who the families are.

Ross says her group doesn't raise a lot of money, but it makes sure that what is raised goes directly back into the community.

Overheard

"She's the kind of woman who wants to see 'Much Ado About Nothing' and then go and have a salad. I think our generation missed the drive-in movies and McDonald days." One young man to another at the Woodland Hills Red Onion

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