OBITUARY: Donald Max Camp Sr.
Farmer, businessman, innovator and beloved family man -- July 29, 1925 -- Nov. 12, 2019
November 21, 2019
A joint funeral service was officiated by Pastor Jeff Chandler Nov. 25, 2019, at First Presbyterian Church in Bakersfield for Donald Max Camp Sr., 94, and his wife, Izetta Agnew Camp, 92, who died peacefully at home within days of each other surrounded by their family. Private interment will follow.
Don was one of two children born to cotton pioneer Wofford Benjamin (W.B.) Camp Sr. and Georgia Anna App Camp while his parents were living on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Shafter Cotton Research Experiment Station. The family moved often while his father worked for the USDA. When they returned to Kern County, his parents enlisted the help of Dust Bowl migrants to construct a home using well-insulated box cars east of Shafter. There as a young boy, he learned how to drive a tractor.
Don attended Kern County Union High School where he was on the track team. He attended Clemson College, then an all-male military school in South Carolina before deciding to enlist. He needed his parent's signature to enter the Army Air Corps. He was a fighter pilot during World War II running training flights between New York, Florida and Texas.
After the war, he returned to college and graduated summa cum laude in three years with a degree in animal husbandry. His ambition was to become a cattleman. He helped run livestock in the Kern River Valley, but soon found out he could better support the "cowboy habit" through cotton and potato farming.
While traveling back and forth between Kern County and South Carolina, where his family operated Buckfield Plantation in Yemassee, SC, he accepted an invitation from Izetta Agnew to attend a dance with her at Winthrop College. Her father, a Clemson classmate of Don's father, insisted she write a letter inviting him as he likely didn't know many people in the region. He courted her for several years. After a six-week engagement, the couple wed in 1952 and their union was blessed with five children.
Compassionate and caring, Don often helped Dust Bowl families who arrived with optimism but little else. He empathized with them, having moved around so much as a child. There was always a steady stream of stranded motorists seeking help at the back door of their ranch house near the highway. Don invited every person in, including a jail escapee.
Long after the war, his love for flying never diminished. He flew his own plane, enjoyed fly fishing and bird hunting, and after their children were raised, Don and Izetta traveled the world together.
Quiet, unassuming and a man of humility, Don was a large presence in the agriculture industry and his contributions were innumerable. He championed the family farming operations founded by his father by leading them into the 21st century while embracing industry changes with innovative practices and pioneering crop management.
Along with his sons, D.M. Camp & Sons, under Don's leadership, sought to be a leader in state and national agricultural issues while advocating for local, state and federal water projects and in supporting farmers here in the Central Valley.
Today the company farms nuts, citrus, grapes and vegetables in Kern County. In addition to the John Deere engine distributorship serving the western United States, the family owns and operates John Deere Agriculture dealerships serving the Southern San Joaquin Valley, as well as the high desert area of eastern Kern County.
In 2004 Don, patriarch of the longtime farming family, was honored by the California chapter of the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers as their Distinguished Agriculturalist of the Year. "There are a lot of people who do what I do. We've run our farming operation with some awfully good people over the years," he told The Bakersfield Californian, underscoring his modest manner. His values and ethics made him widely admired.
Outside of work, with a servant's heart, Don gave of his time and resources to Mercy Hospital, Bakersfield Christian High School, Calcot, Cotton Incorporated, the American Cancer Society and First Presbyterian Church. He was a member of Stockdale Country Club and the Bakersfield Rotary Club, and served on the boards of Kern View Foundation, the Boy Scouts, Camp Fire Girls and the Quest Club, as well as committees of the California Cotton Study and Cal Poly School of Agriculture. For 31 years Don served as president of the Cawelo Water District, as well as California Planting Cotton Seed Distributors.
A man of the soil, he often said, "I just like to farm."
Although accomplished in many ways, Don never sought accolades. "Work hard and be good at what you do, but don't have a big ego and put yourself first above everything," he said.
Don and Izetta truly enjoyed each other's company. By each other's side in life for 67 years of marriage, now they are together again for eternity, after passing just a few days apart. Their reputation and integrity meant everything to them, and together they instilled that in their family.
Don was preceded in death by his parents, and brother Wofford Benjamin Camp Jr. He is survived by his sister-in-law, Floride Findley; children Georgia Bell, Don Jr. and his wife Debbie, Edwin and his wife Kaye, Clayton and his wife Karrie and Carolyn Pandol and her husband Jack. He is survived by 13 grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren and a 14th on the way.
Special thanks to Juana Mendoza, Maria Leal, Maria Vasquez, Aida Mendoza, and Ira Ali for their care.
In lieu of flowers, Don's memory may be honored with a donation to Alzheimers Disease Association of Kern County, 4203 Buena Vista Road, Bakersfield 93311, Boy Scouts of America Southern Sierra Council, 2417 M St., Bakersfield 93301, or Hoffmann Hospice, 4325 Buena Vista Road -- Building A, Bakersfield 93311.