Quabbin Visitor Center renamed in memory of Les and Terry Campbell

By MAX BOWEN

Athol Daily News Editor

Published: 06-05-2023 5:10 PM

With the Quabbin Reservoir in the background, friends and supporters celebrated a day two years in the making.

The Quabbin Reservoir Visitor Center in Belchertown has been renamed the Les and Terry Campbell Quabbin Visitor Center, honoring the two people who were instrumental to its founding.

Paul Godfrey, Friends of Quabbin treasurer and newsletter editor, led the ceremony on Sunday. He said that after Les’ death on Sept. 24, 2020, at the age of 95, he and other friends of the Campbells began to work on a tribute, suggesting a plaque affixed to a tree or a bench where people could sit and reflect. But it soon became clear that neither idea was feasible, due to logistics or the need for constant upkeep. Terry died in May 2007.

Then, the idea for renaming the visitor’s center was put forth. Godfrey said everyone involved knew it was the best way to honor decades of devoted service to the reservoir, with a passion for its nature and community.

Throughout his life, Les, a Ware native, worked several jobs including as a laborer for the Metropolitan District Water Supply Commission in the 1940s, a junior civil engineering aid and a junior sanitary engineer. Following these positions, Campbell worked as a senior sanitary engineer and head of the Water Quality Laboratory where he tested water from the Quabbin Reservoir and Ware River for 44 years.

In his free time, Les was a passionate photographer who became the second person in history to hold all three of the highest awards given by the Photographic Society of America in 1981. His photos attracted attention from many renowned organizations and magazines, including National Geographic.

The visitor’s center was founded in 1984, and Les and Terry were instrumental in its launch. The center is an interpretive facility that features exhibits, books, brochures and videos about Quabbin management and history. Godfrey said Les’ patience — honed through many years as a wildlife photographer — helped him navigate the lengthy development process, including founding a group of volunteers to staff it.

“It’s still there 39 years later,” said Godfrey.

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Terry was just as active as her husband, starting a discussion group called Tuesday Tea to provide a place for the community to meet, which was especially helpful for those who had few friends or relations in the area.

“It’s still going strong,” Godfrey said of the group.

J.R. Greene, Friends of Quabbin chair and a member of the Quabbin Watershed Advisory Committee, described Les as a visionary for the work he and Terry did founding the visitor’s center. Les Campbell and Greene even collaborated on one of Greene’s books.

Annie Tiberio, chair of the Les and Terry Campbell Memorial Committee, said if she lived five lifetimes, she would never meet someone like Les.

“Losing Les was like a multifaceted institution closing down,” she said.

Tiberio detailed the process of getting the visitor’s center renamed, which turned out to be a far longer process than expected, taking two years from start to finish. Still, she said giving up was never considered.

“Without Les and Terry, the visitor’s center might not have been born,” she said.

State Sen. Anne Gobi and state Rep. Susannah Whipps were in attendance and had worked on filing the legislation to have the center renamed. Gobi, who stepped down to become the state’s first director of rural affairs with the Healey administration on Monday, told the audience on Sunday that she had hoped the renaming would happen while she was still a sitting senator.

“Because this is really full circle,” she said. “A little over 21 years ago my very first speech in the State House was for funding that I got for the visitor’s center.”

Gobi thanked those involved in the process, including Sens. Jo Comerford and Jake Oliveira and Reps. Mindy Domb, Aaron Saunders and Todd Smola.

“Thank you for the work you’ve done,” she said.

Whipps reflected on her time as a restaurant owner 25 years ago when the only art on the wall was Les’ photos, and how good it felt to see those photos be purchased. She said his photography was a historical document of the flora and fauna in this region.

“The work they have done with the oral history and the Friends,” she said, “really will live on for generations and generations.”

Max Bowen can be reached at mbowen@recorder.com or at 413-930-4074.

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