CARROLLWOOD — She was born on the Cheyenne River Sioux reservation to American Indian parents. Her father traveled North America with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, and her ancestors included chiefs Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. But she had light skin, probably because she had some Anglo ancestors on her mother's side.
So while she was growing up on the reservation, Philomene Chasing Hawk was known by her Indian nickname, White Pale Woman.
She later married an Air Force man she met at a base near her home in South Dakota, became Philomene Campos and lived in Tampa for the past 30 years. But she always cherished her American Indian heritage.
"Her career was her family, really," said her husband, Juan Campos. "She would call everyone in her family every few days. We would always go back for family reunions, powwows, rodeos. We'd sit around a fire, and the older people would tell us stories about life in the old days."
Mrs. Campos, 81, died Dec. 9 after a long illness.
She had been an expert horsewoman in her younger days, and she often competed alongside her brothers in local rodeos. She gave that all up when she met Juan Campos in 1955.
It was love at first sight for both of them.
"It really was," Campos said. "We got along right away and married a year later."
The Campos family, which included two daughters, lived a typically peripatetic military life until her husband retired in the 1970s. The family had enjoyed Tampa when they were briefly stationed at MacDill Air Force Base and decided to settle here.
Even in her later years, her husband said, she never lost her childlike enthusiasm for life. She loved teddy bears of all kinds, simply because they were soft, cute and cuddly, and collected them from her youth up until the end of her life.
All year long, she looked forward to Christmas. She loved the trees, the cooking and the decorations, but most of all she loved giving presents.
"When Christmas came, she turned into a little girl," her husband said. "She wanted to give gifts to everyone, and she did. Everyone she knew, she gave a Christmas present, even if was something small. For her, Christmas was about giving. That's what she loved about it."
She had been born on New Year's Day, just a week after what might have been her first Christmas.
And although she died 16 days before Christmas, her family will honor her by celebrating the holiday the way she would have wanted.
"It's difficult, but we're not going to let it get us down," her husband said. "That was her wish. We'll have Christmas as usual, and we'll decorate the house as usual. And she will be there, just as she always has been."
Besides her husband. Mrs. Campos is survived by her daughters, Carmen Hoaks and Faye Huminski, and three grandchildren.
Marty Clear can be reached at [email protected]