Wayne William Campfield, who helped to create the popular breakfast cereal Alpha Bits, died on April 17, 2023 in Whittier, California at the age of 92. His life exemplified the wonderful spirit of optimism that made America great. Wayne’s unrelenting determination and strong sense of right and wrong carried him through his days.
Wayne was born in 1930 in Irwin, Pennsylvania, in the heart of America’s bituminous coal-mining country, to first-generation American parents of Irish, English and German descent, with dozens of aunts and uncles in a five-mile radius.
When Wayne was five, he moved with his parents to St. Joseph, Missouri. Over the next 12 years, Wayne’s life-long devotions to cowboy boots and country-western music (cue Willie Nelson) took hold.
At age 12, Wayne contracted polio. He powered through it without any medical assistance, but later in life struggled against the muscle weakness brought on by post-polio syndrome.
During high school Reserve Officers' Training Corps inspection, Wayne discovered he couldn’t stand straight, even with a retired Army Master Sargent ordering him to do so. At age 17, and after another family move, Wayne underwent groundbreaking major surgery in Pittsburgh for severe scoliosis, placing him in a half-body cast for his senior year of high school in Herminie, Pennsylvania. As with most things in life, though, Wayne made the best of it, and long considered that year to be one of the best ever.
Wayne joined his family in yet another location, Kankakee, Illinois, and then matriculated at the University of Illinois, Galesburg. Within the year, his father was again transferred and Wayne followed his parents to Michigan. Two years later, after earning some money with General Foods Corporation, Wayne entered Michigan State University.
In 1954, Wayne graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Food Technology and a girlfriend who later became his wife. Wayne began his corporate career in Post Cereals’ Technical Research Department, in Battle Creek, Michigan. There, he had a corporate adventure of a lifetime developing Alpha Bits cereal.
The big challenge for the small team of five men selected for this project was to create a cereal dough that would survive the baking, extruding and puffing process for each of the 26 letters of the alphabet. Success arrived after several years, when the letters did not “blow all apart” when extruded. Alpha Bits cereal began its six-decade run on North American supermarket shelves.
In 1955, Wayne married Catherine Patricia Howe, a Maine girl who had caught his eye in organic chemistry class his senior year of college by wearing socks with her moccasins. In Battle Creek, they had two children. Wayne worked on other new and now-familiar food products, including Post Corn Flakes, Grape Nuts Flakes and Postum.
In 1961, the family moved to Caracas, Venezuela, where Wayne was sent to help guide a struggling cereal production team. Wayne, of course, got things sorted out and then some, but the real adventures arose outside of work. The small-town American boy landed in a republic birthed only two years earlier after a military coup that ousted a dictator. Wayne drove past machine-gun armed government office buildings and armed intersections on his commute to work, and arrived at a factory surrounded by a 12-foot wall topped by glass and barbed wire for protection. He drove through guerrilla uprisings. And yet the warmth of the locals, the beauty of the Caribbean beaches, and the friendships made with many, elevated these six months to first class status.
Wayne was soon transferred to Kankakee, Illinois, to provide and manage technical services for Gaines Burgers, a new dog food under development. Success there led to a position in General Foods’ Toronto office.
In 1966, the young family moved to Oakville, Ontario, Canada, a town midway between Niagara Falls and Toronto. Wayne traveled extensively with his work throughout Canada, enjoying most emphatically his stays in British Columbia and Newfoundland. He focused on marketing Gaines Burgers, and also had responsibilities overseeing marketing of Sanka Coffee, Bakers Chocolate, and Calumet baking powder. At home, he turned his children into golf and tennis players, helped water the family’s backyard skating rink in the winters, and enjoyed listening to his big band, classical, ragtime, country-western and South American albums.
In 1978, Wayne transferred to White Plains, New York, and settled his family in Fairfield, Connecticut. He became active in the Episcopal church in Fairfield, where serious Christian study occurred along with sherry parties on the beach.
In 1982, Wayne left General Foods for new employment with the Kal Kan division of Mars, Inc., in Los Angeles County. He and Katie moved across the country to Brea, California. Wayne built and managed Kal Kan’s countrywide dog food sales to veterinarians. In addition to his regular work activities, Wayne liaised with animal shelter and seeing eye dog groups, making a star-struck connection with actress Betty White in the process.
In 1986, Wayne lost Katie to cancer. He grieved until an angel named Janet appeared.
In 1988, Wayne married Janet and became step-father to three teenage daughters. Wayne and Janet settled in Janet’s longtime home in Whittier, California, a town in which Wayne became active in Rotary International, and the Republican Club of North Orange County, and on the boards of the Rio Hondo Symphony and the Whittier YMCA. Together, Wayne and Janet enjoyed golfing, playing tennis, ballroom dancing and country-western dancing. They also traveled extensively throughout Europe in the company of good friends. Upon retiring from Kal Kan, Wayne briefly ran his own consulting company.
In retirement, Wayne began taking piano lessons. He also wrote the first draft of a full-length novel that challenges America to improve its education system.
Wayne leaves behind his wife, Janet; his children, Marty and Kristen; Janet’s children, Leslie, Dana and Brenda; Janet and Wayne’s grandchildren Jason, Brandon, Alyssa, Austin, Gregory, Brittany, Aubrey, Amelia, Trent, Abigail, Hunter and Tessa; five great grandchildren; and his vizsla, Meka.
Wayne is preceded in death by his parents, William and Ida; his wife, Catherine; and many beloved pet dogs.
Throughout his life, Wayne thanked God each night for another day, and told God he looked forward to tomorrow. In good times and bad, he said this prayer and did his best.
Wayne saw a lot in his days, and he cherished it all. “Always be better,” he told his family. “Always make it better, whatever it is – even if it seems good enough already.” This is a good motto from a good man.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Wayne’s memory to the Whittier YMCA