Owensboro community remembers 22-year-old Jaren Campbell
OWENSBORO, Ky. (WFIE) - As the Owensboro afternoon sun washes over the Longhorn Steakhouse, the lunch crowd seamlessly turns into the dinner rush.
It may seem like business as usual for the diners trickling in and out.
The week, however, has been anything but normal for the staff inside.
In mid-January, they hosted a candlelight vigil for one of their own.
Jaren Campbell had worked at the Owensboro location for more than four years - starting his job there when the restaurant opened in 2017.
Store manager Emily Bailey says Jaren was the ultimate team player.
“He always had the best playlists to kind of pump the team up, get them going,” says Bailey. “He was also a realist too, so we would have talks about life, and you know, things that people were going through in their lives. He always had an encouraging word to say or something to make somebody feel better.”
Jaren lost his battle with COVID-19 in early January. He was just 22 years old.
His sister, Jessyca, still takes it day by day.
“Love who loves you,” says Jessyca. “Never take anybody or their love for granted. Ever.”
She says Jaren tested positive for the coronavirus in late December. His symptoms were mild at first, according to Jessyca.
“After a few days,” says Jessyca, “he just got to where he couldn’t eat, couldn’t drink at all.”
Jaren was eventually admitted to the hospital for complications due to high blood pressure. He was there for two weeks.
“Things started to get amazingly better,” says Jessyca, “and then they just kind of, that last day, I don’t know.”
Jaren was not vaccinated. He had no underlying health conditions.
Jaren lost his battle with the coronavirus on January 15th.
“I mean, he was literally the most amazing guy you’d meet,” says Jessyca. “It still seems so unreal.”
“There are little moments where we will be doing something that will remind us of him,” says Bailey, “and you know, we will take our moment. But at the end of the day, we know Jaren would not want us to be upset or to be sad about it.”
Bailey adds, “We are getting by just by thinking about the good times and cherishing what time we did have with him.”
Now, Jaren’s smile lives on - a photo of him is framed in the entry way of the restaurant for everyone to see.
“It makes me feel so good,” says Jessyca. “Just knowing that people get to walk in and that’s one of the first things they see when they sit down.”
Bailey says Jaren was recently named the 2021 Steakmaster for the Owensboro Longhorn Steakhouse.
She says it’s an annual competition among chefs, with Jaren taking home the top prize.
Bailey says the restaurant plans to honor Jaren when awarding future Steakmaster titles.
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