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VanCamp Is Remembered As ‘Nice, Kind and Polite’

July 2, 2011
By SHELLEY HANSON - Staff Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING - While growing up in Elm Grove, David VanCamp liked to play hockey and basketball in the street with his friends and explore the woods behind his family's home on Fernwood Avenue.

That's how one neighbor remembers him.

''He was a nice kid. He was nice and kind and polite - the whole family is,'' said the woman, who wished to remain anonymous.

''They were just kids playing and growing up,'' she added, while clutching a tissue used to wipe tears away from her eyes.

VanCamp, 29, a captain in the U.S. Army, died Wednesday in Iraq during a rocket attack.

Other residents in the neighborhood where VanCamp grew up, called Elm Terrace, also described him as a nice, quiet boy. But he also had his fun, as pointed out by Barbara Knollinger.

''He was ornery just like the rest of them. But they were not bad boys,'' Knollinger said of VanCamp and his three brothers. ''They were quiet boys. Their mom and dad are like that, too.''

Joe Birch, Knollinger's ex-husband, said their daughter, Amy Birch, dated one of VanCamp's older brothers, Dennis.

Amy Birch, 40, who now lives on Carmel Road in Wheeling, said she met David VanCamp when he was a baby and watched him grow up.

''We all hung out together. We played kickball and had a good time. He was a good-hearted person. It tore me up when I heard,'' Amy Birch said, noting she had not seen VanCamp since he joined the service many years ago.

''Him being raised around here makes it harder to accept,'' she said. ''He was a neighborhood-street kid. He got along with all the neighbors. ... I've been in and out all day - I'll just start crying. He was young, he still had a life to live. But he was doing this to help the rest of us.''

Amy Birch believes VanCamp was planning to eventually retire from the Army.

''Poor thing, he didn't make it,'' she said.

For Knollinger, VanCamp's death is just ''too close to home.''

''I don't like to see anybody go through it,'' she said of the family having to deal with losing him.

Evelyn Birch, Joe Birch's wife, noted VanCamp was wounded in battle in 2006 and returned to duty afterward.

''He was dedicated - to just go back, knowing how close you are the first time,'' she said.

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