Her Life Touched Others

March 12, 1993|By Holly Selby | Holly Selby,Staff Writer

Demetria Ebony Campbell had not yet graduated from college when she was diagnosed with leukemia.

But in the two-year struggle against the illness that eventually took her life, the 22-year-old touched a wide circle of people that stretched far beyond the city limits of Baltimore all the way to Hollywood.

In tribute to this young woman who had accomplished so much, more than 500 family members, friends, community leaders, off-duty policemen and at least one West Coast celebrity gathered here yesterday for her funeral.

"She showed us what kind of epitaph you might want to have," said Charles S. Dutton, star of the Fox TV show "Roc," who spoke at the funeral Mass. "Hers will read, 'Tria Campbell. Born February 8, 1971. Died March 7, 1993.' And in the middle, she'll have: 'She affected so many lives.' "

She was "a special person whose life will save many others," said Mary Pat Clarke, president of the City Council, another speaker at the services at St. Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Church in East Baltimore.

In 1991, when Ms. Campbell was a business student at Hampton University in Virginia, she was told she had leukemia. Late last year, when treatment with chemotherapy had failed to halt the disease, doctors recommended that she have a bone marrow transplant.

But the search for a bone marrow donor is a deadly serious game of numbers, and the national shortage of registered African-American bone marrow donors made it virtually impossible to find a match for Ms. Campbell.

When they discovered the scarcity of black registrants, Roland O. Campbell Jr. and Deborrah C. Jones, Ms. Campbell's parents, organized a campaign to increase the number tested -- and thus the pool of available donors.

The effort, called "Uniting for Life," was coordinated by the American Red Cross, Clergy United for Renewal of East Baltimore, Johns Hopkins Hospital and the National Marrow Donor Program.

As the movement grew, celebrities added their endorsements; last December, Mr. Dutton, a Baltimore native, helped kick off the campaign.

Although the number of black donors has increased by several hundred, the effort came too late for the young woman known for her radiant smile and readiness to laugh.

During yesterday's service, Mr. Dutton read poetry, including verses written by an inmate of the Maryland Penitentiary who had heard about Ms. Campbell.

Mr. Dutton also read memorial messages from other TV and film celebrities, including Spike Lee, Denzel Washington and Jackee.

Despite her illness, Ms. Campbell had been able to travel to Los Angeles and meet the cast of "Roc."

"I had only known her for four months and I feel like I have known her the whole 22 years of her life," Mr. Dutton said. "There are people she met -- Stevie Wonder, Sinbad -- who won't forget her. She was destined to influence people."

After the burial services at New Cathedral Cemetery on Frederick Road, Ms. Campbell's father talked about her attitude toward her illness.

She knew it had been the catalyst in a movement that would help many others, he said.

"I remember I said to her that even if she was cured that very day we talked, her life would never be the same because it had touched so many others.

"It's up to us now. We've got to continue the struggle."

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