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Kim Campbell Honors Legacy of Late Husband

A LOVE STORY

How does a 23-year-old dancer meet and marry a music superstar, 22 years her senior?  For young Kim Woollen, it all began on May 28, 1981, when a fellow Radio City Music Hall dancer, Lynn, arranged a blind date for her with Glen Campbell. Lynn had met a member of Glen’s band, Carl Jackson, years earlier, and they arranged the double date when the band was playing in NYC.  They all had dinner,  including Glen’s parents, followed by a James Taylor Concert.  Kim had heard of Glen Campbell, but had no idea how famous – or how old – he was.  Nor did she know that he’d been married and divorced three times, had five children, and was addicted to both alcohol and cocaine.  The pair was mutually smitten, and after a rollercoaster 18 months of dating, the couple married in 1982.  Kim was convinced that through their mutual faith in God, her deep love for Glen, and determination to help him, he would overcome his demons.  “We now belonged to one another in the covenantal bonds of a marriage dedicated to God,” she says.  “I was certain that the worst was behind me.  I was wrong.” 

THE DARK YEARS

While life with Glen was an exhilarating whirlwind of the nicest homes, cars, and trips money could buy, celebrity friends, travel, performances, and having three children in the first several years, it was also punctuated by countless embarrassing and dangerous scenes when Glen was drunk or high.  Because he wouldn’t remember or take responsibility for them later, his bandmate suggested that Kim record his rantings and ravings.  So during one such occasion, when his parents were visiting, Kim taped the drunken episode.  “…Glen slammed doors, yelled at his father, and berated his mother until she cried and locked herself in her room,” Kim painfully recalls.  The next day, when he was sober, she gave Glen the tape, and told him he needed to listen.  Though he said nothing to Kim, he soon  announced that he had quit drinking.  The problem was, his addiction wouldn’t let him.  Another time, after the birth of Cal, their first child, Glen became dangerous.  “This one was bad,” she remembers.  “This one had him pointing a pistol at me.  He leveled the gun at me as if he were lining up a target. I froze. Then, without a word, he turned and walked the other way.”  Though Kim was beside herself with fear and anger, she feared that if she left him, he’d end up dead.  As more and more people in Glen’s life confronted him about his drinking problem, he seemed convicted.  A few years later, after two more children, Glen didn’t come home one afternoon after golfing.  Kim learned he’d gone to the course’s Men’s Grill, where, of course, he was plying himself with liquor.  Infuriated, Kim left their young sons with the housekeeper, took their baby, Ashley, and drove to the golf course.  Walking boldly into the club full of men, she found her husband, handed him their baby daughter, and walked out.  He found her crying in the restroom, sincerely apologized, and they went home.  That’s when Glen finally stopped drinking, through much, much prayer.  Though he relapsed in 2003 and spent a month in the Betty Ford clinic, their lives were mostly very good during those sober years.  Kim attributes it to God’s grace and transforming power. In the early 2000’s, the family started noticing he was becoming forgetful. 

ALZHEIMERS AND THE FINAL TOUR

In late 2010, Glen was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, which the family decided to announce publically in 2011.  They also decided that Glen would do a farewell tour, despite the many challenges which are part and parcel of dementia.  The tour covered the country over 456 days, and 151 shows.  While the producers and family wondered if people might come hoping to see a spectacle, they found loving, appreciative fans who knew of Glen’s disease, and wanted to support him and hear his great talents once more.  Though there were many challenges, and a a few shows that didn’t go well, for the most part the tour was a triumph, and is showcased in the documentary, “I’ll Be Me.”  By the spring of 2014, the Kim and the family decided it was best for Glen to join a care community in Nashville, called Abe’s Garden, where he lived until his death in August, 2017.  Kim went to see him every day, and Glen was content and at peace, though in time he would no longer understand what anyone said to him.      

A NEW CALLING

Caring for her beloved husband as he deteriorated was heartbreaking and devastating, Kim says, yet those were some of the most meaningful years of her life.  There is so much she wants other families to know about caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s that she started a website called “Care Living” to inform and encourage others. “Don’t wait until a time of crisis to look into all your options,” she says.  There comes a time when the most helpful thing a family can do for their loved one is to find a care community for them to live in, Kim believes.  She and her family found that caring for Glen was 24/7 work, and utterly exhausting.  “It’s easy to stop caring for yourself, and that doesn’t help either person,” she says.  Kim founded the Kim and Glen Campbell Foundation, which advocates the use of music as medicine, and she’s also developing a program for assisted living residents using music and movement.   

Mentioned in the Video

 

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Guest Info

Guests
Credits

Author, Gentle On My Mind (Thomas Nelson, 2020)

Widow of Glen Campbell, who was in the Country Music Hall of Fame, Six-time Grammy Winner, incl. one for Lifetime Achievement

Founder, Careliving.org website which educates and advocates for caregivers

Member, Patient/Caregiver Advisory Council for Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Board member, Abe’s Garden (a care community in Nashville, where Glen lived his last few years) in association with Vanderbilt Center for Quality Aging

Founder, Kim And Glen Campbell Foundation which advances the use of music and movement as medicine, cognitive therapy

She and Glen have three grown children: Cal, Shannon, and Ashley

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