Phil Campbell passed in peace with family at his side on July7th, 2017. He was born in Huntington, Indiana on May 10, 1950, the same day Vince Scully broadcast his first Major League Baseball game as Phil would recall proudly. His Hoosier roots always remained strong, but he quickly developed a passion and pride for the Tar Heel State when he moved to the Triangle area in 1982. Phil had a long interest in food and cooking and nearly a decade of experience in the restaurant business when he opened the Flying Burrito restaurant in Chapel Hill in 1986. The restaurant became a fixture in the area for decades serving original, creative, and delicious Mexican seafood dishes. Fresh hot peppers of every variety, some grown (and all eaten) by Phil himself, could be found every night. These were also a chief ingredient in his Flounder Juice, a renowned hot sauce full of many different flavors that he concocted in the basement of his home. To the delight of many, he bottled limited quantities so others could enjoy it at home as well. Second only to the fabulous food, the camaraderie and vibe at the "Burrito" were the main drawing cards as they were truly an extension of Phil's persona. The welcoming attitude promoted a comfort zone across all generations. The music was always great- both live and recorded. The patrons included celebrities and locals with a bar scene that could be lively or sleepy, but always fun and full of opinions. It is not unusual to hear of people who met in other regions or countries, who spent time in Chapel Hill, and who connected more closely by sharing their stories of the Burrito even though they may have been there 20 years apart. Captain Phil's last chapter of work was the Sleepy Creek Smoked Seafood Co. It was a wholesale seafood business in which he would bring fresh catches from his beloved Carolina coast ( where he lived his latter years ) and deliver them to his restaurant friends in the Triangle. This included a Saturday booth at the Farmer's Market in Carrboro where he would engage with his many old friends while making new ones, and still provide great food to all. He credited the success of that business to Ben Campbell, his nephew, whom he brought into the business as a partner at age 14. Phil's nature was generous, curious, positive, accepting, forgiving, and inclusive. He was one of those uncommon people who had a common effect on most all who knew him - they called him a friend. His ability to connect with so many is a testament to his interest in others and his willingness to open himself to them while sharing his knowledge in his many and varied interests. This long list of interests besides food and cooking included music, fishing, auto racing, baseball, basketball, the NFL (nicknamed "Mr. Football" after many incorrect predictions), books, boating, boxing, history of all kinds,knives, knots,clouds, oceans, radios, and flashlights to name a few. Many of these topics were discussed in his frequent late night phone calls made "just to see what's going on". It's not a given that everyone always relished a review of the Indianapolis 500 or World Series winners since 1955 at midnight, but it was understood and appreciated that this was one of his many methods of reaching out and maintaining close personal ties. His physical trademarks were broad shoulders, huge hands, dense Fred Flintstone type feet, and a wide forehead on which he would stick up to a dozen quarters at a time eliciting giggles from both children and adults alike. Phil's wardrobe was diverse. It contained a collection of stylish Irish caps ( size 7 7/8 to accommodate his large head, a family trait he embraced ), fine Oxford cloth and linen shirts, khakis, and penny loafers contrasted with his mainstay work outfit of various food-stained T-shirts/Polo shirts, sweat pants, and well worn, toes-up, gnarly tennis shoes or funky Teva sandals. Phil lived a very full life as he liked trying new things, meeting new people, and going to new places. He enjoyed his time living in New Orleans, Florida, and Colorado and his many visits to Mexico. These experiences all contributed to his own version of the "Spanglish" language. This became a surprisingly effective form of communication as it was usually accompanied by multiple hand gestures and facial expressions to ensure the understanding was complete. This style often brought a smile to the Spanish speaking person Phil was talking with as he/she seemed to enjoy the innovative approach to the language. More often than not, it led to yet another friendship. Phil was a great football player, a horrible golfer, and an even worse tennis player. He pursued Tae Kwan Do when he was in his fifties. Many of his opponents, half his age, commented on his remarkable upper body strength. This strength was well documented as he was known to pump out 50 quick push ups with his nieces and nephews sitting on his back. He ultimately earned a Black Belt and later taught the martial art to kids. He was also a sea captain, a licensed realtor, a military policeman ( stationed in Okinawa), a welder, a godfather, a mentor, a teller and reteller of bad jokes until he eventually made them funny, a boxing promoter, a golf tournament founder and sponsor ( The Flying Burrito Invitational with a plaid sport coat going to the winner), a community supporter/philanthropist, and an avid Tar Heel fan of all sports. He was rarely on time which necessitated the creation of a new time zone called "Phil Time". He loved dogs, especially Bassett hounds that he never trained other than having them howl along while he played the harmonica. However, his music was not confined to the dogs as he and David Roskin formed the much enjoyed Tiny (Phil) and Whitey (David) and the Just Say Yes Blues Band. Phil was the front man singing, playing blues harp, and occasionally displaying some nifty dance moves as they performed many nights of some serious Chicago style blues in the area. Phil loved his family and their traditions, and he will always be missed and loved by all. But our fond memories of good times together will live on as his spirit continues to soar. He is predeceased by his father Allen and his sister Jenny (Conrad). His remaining family consists of his mother Barbara, wife Vicki, daughter Deirdre (Mitch), grandsons Max and Sebastian, sister Jorene (Joe), brothers Mike (Suzy), David (Jan), John (Kim), and David Roskin (Lori). He adored his nieces and nephews - Sarah, Eric, Leah, Libby, Gretchen, Pete, Christian, and Ben-- and his godchildren Celia and Sofie. A celebration of Phil's life will be held on October 21st from 1:00-5:00 at Snipes Farm,2339 Jo Mac Rd, Chapel Hill, NC.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News & Observer