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Jef Campion

January 17, 2020

 

It's been six years since Jef Campion passed away, the career long Yonkers, NY fireman (ladder co. 303) known as Camp, 911 First Responder, Ronald McDonald House charity worker and to the NYC street art scene, Jef the activist was better known to us as Army of One; true to his name.  Jef was a one man army full of great energy, always helping people especially children.  He put his big heart into everything he did and did it with style.  For example, Jef raised close to $1,000,000 over 18 years for the Manhattan chapter of the Ronald McDonald House.  He was larger than life, a roll model for many and a great friend to those that were close to him.  I was fortunate enough to know him, make art with him and see his different perspective of life and call him a friend.  A one of a kind human being, a gift to those he embraced with his love and passion.  He was very passionate about his message regarding his anti war sentiment and how we the people become used in wars to fight politicians' battles.  
 

 

After the attack and destruction of the Twin Towers, Jef stayed at Ground Zero for many days and nights helping, digging the dead bodies of innocent victims and his fallen brothers out while breathing in the toxic fumes emanating from the rubble.  He was breathing in the cancer causing air, sleeping overnight for 41 days and still assisted beyond that at the sight.  911 changed Jef and made a profound impact on him that eventually led this life long artist into his alter ego, the Army of One street artist.  Prior to 911 he spelled his first name with two f 's but post 911 he dropped one f and became Jef.  His friend's from Yonkers said one f Jef was not the same guy as two f Jeff.  He began going out during the late hours of the night pasting cut out posters of Grenade Boy (Diane Arbus, 1965), Bride of War (Bride of Frankenstein,1935) on public surfaces all over lower Manhattan and Brooklyn circa 2009.  This is when I first 'met' Jef, not in physical form but through his street art when I was out and about doing my own art after dark productions.  Although the images Jef used are part of pop culture, his approach to Pop Art was not whimsical, on the contrary, his use of these images were quite serious in nature and the message behind them was not intended to be taken lightly.  His use of children's alphabet blocks made a poignant juxtaposition between innocence and the evil that men do which is create war, destruction, misery and pain for those caught in the maelstrom of politics, greed and power.  The iconic red Krink outline, drips and writing his messages such as  "No More War" was not invented by Jef but it resonated with the public and Jef owned it.   

The Jef Campion Memorial mural along the Yonkers train station trestle located at 92 Main Street is where Jef actually lived, he was one of the first to buy a loft inside the old train car factory building when it wasn't so desirable as it is today.  Jef, the pioneer leading the way to help uplift the downtown Yonkers waterfront area into what it has become today was one of many bold moves he made.   

The mural is a pictorial epitaph about the different facets of his life. The mural begins next to the Pizza Place, Army of One creating Grenade Boy, The fireman and 911 First Responder with Twin Towers with fire engine 303, The Bride of War, Grenade Buy silhouette, Army of One/ Jef Campion alphabet blocks, the iconic "I (red hand imprint) NY" of Jef.  The red hand stamping street art began in 2012 when he and I collaborated on the XCIA Street Art book by Hank Oneal.  Next is the Ronald McDonald House contributor hugging a sick child. Jef was very close to that little girl and he took her passing very hard.  The mural ends with a portrait of Jef with his 'power to the people fist' held high above his head showing all of his charity wrist bands which he never took off. This portrait of Jef smiling captures the essence of his personality, although he was in serious pain from the affects of being a First Responder which destroyed his lungs and it worsened with each passing year, making him cough profusely.  The pain he was living with developed into him taking his own life.  Jef lived life on his own terms and ended in the same fashion.  Nobody told Jef what to do, not even death.  He was too proud of a man to let his sickness cause him to whither away and so he chose to end his life. It was 911 that ultimately killed Jef and those close to him know that.

 

 I want to thank Keith Olsen, President of the Yonkers PBA, Lui Vellucci (Jef's best friend) from Ladder Company 303 for funding this very special mural project which was very dear to my heart.  I also would like to thank Mayor Spano and NY State Assemblyman Nader Sayegh for being a part of the Jef Campion Memorial celebration which took place on September 10th, 2019 which would have been Jef's 57 birthday.  On that day many people came out to celebrate the life of a great and unique human because as I mentioned Jef Campion touched many peoples' lives and he was loved by all of them.  Another happy moment during the ceremony was when I was awarded a Proclamation by Mayor Spano and the City of Yonkers making September 10th, 2019 officially "Fumero Day" and Assemblyman Sayegh for awarding me a Citation form the State of New York for my work.  I was also presented with a tremendous gift from the 303 Firehouse and that was one of Jef's original artworks and that touched my heart.  I was very honored for all the accolades bestowed on me that evening. I have to say I was unaware of these great surprises and very grateful for them, it was a heart felt and glorious event with all the fire trucks and Jef's band of brothers, the city and state officials and the public, including my family and friend who came to remember one person known as Army of One.  We will always remember you brother and we will never forget.  We love you Jef, God Bless you.

 

 

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