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Tafari Campbell: The Obamas’ Sous Chef Who Lost His Life While Paddle Boarding by Martha’s Vineyard

Tafari Campbell

Tafari Campbell was so beloved that when the former President of the United States, Barack Obama and his family were preparing to leave the White House in 2017, they asked him to come with them and he obliged. He was considered a wonderful person who is not just good at his job but also at bringing people together. Former first lady, Michelle Obama described him “”a truly wonderful man”

How did Tafari Campbell die?

Tafari Campbell unfortunate death happened in July, 2023 while has was paddle boarding by Martha’s Vineyard.

Following a 911 call reporting a male paddle boarder in distress, a search was initiated for Campbell at 7:46 p.m. ET on Sunday. Martha’s Vineyard police and fire agencies responded to the incident, where the individual had entered the water, struggled momentarily to stay afloat, and then submerged without resurfacing.

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Massachusetts State Police, who officially confirmed Campbell’s death to PEOPLE, disclosed in a news release that divers recovered his body from a pond on Edgartown Great Road shortly before 10 a.m. ET on Monday. The MSP Underwater Recovery Unit conducted the retrieval, locating the victim’s body with the assistance of Massachusetts Environmental Police Officers using side-scan sonar from a boat. The recovery took place approximately 100 feet from shore at a depth of about eight feet.

Tafari Campbell

In a subsequent statement to PEOPLE, MSP clarified, “Mr. Campbell was visiting Martha’s Vineyard at the time of his passing. President and Mrs. Obama were not present at the residence at the time of the accident.”

Tafari Campbell worked as the former White House sous chef and subsequent personal chef to the Obama family. The Obamas’ honored him in the wake of his passing after a paddleboarding incident near the Obamas’ Katama estate on Martha’s Vineyard on the 23rd of July, 2023.

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At the age of 45, Campbell is fondly remembered by former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama, who issued a joint statement on Monday, describing him as “a truly wonderful man.”

“Today we join everyone who knew and loved Tafari — especially his wife Sherise and their twin boys, Xavier and Savin — in grieving the loss of a truly wonderful man,” the couple said in the statement, which was sent to PEOPLE”

The Obama’s Comments on Tafari Campbell’s death

In their statement, the Obamas fondly recalled Tafari Campbell, expressing, “Upon our initial meeting, he impressed us as a skilled sous chef at the White House — displaying creativity and a profound passion for food’s ability to unite people.”

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“As the years unfolded, we discovered him to be a warm, enjoyable, and exceptionally kind individual who brought added brightness to all our lives,” the couple reflected, highlighting that it was his remarkable personality that prompted them to invite him to continue as their personal chef.

Tafari Campbell

The statement went on to share, “That’s why, as we prepared to depart the White House, we urged Tafari to remain with us, and graciously, he accepted. He has been an integral part of our lives ever since, and we are deeply saddened by his departure.”

Campbell frequently showcased his culinary creations on Instagram and played a role in crafting the White House honey ale beer, utilizing honey from Michelle’s South Lawn garden during Barack’s presidency. In 2012, a video released by the White House featured Campbell and then-assistant chef Sam Kass demonstrating the beer-making process, as reported by The Washington Post.

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Tafari Campbell’s Family

Born in Dumfries, Virginia, Campbell was happily married for over two decades to his wife, Sherise, and together, they raised twin sons named Xavier and Savin.

A day after his death, Sherise, expressing her profound grief in an Instagram post, wrote, “My heart is shattered. The course of my life and our family’s existence is forever altered. Please keep me and our families in your prayers as I navigate through the profound loss of my husband.”

In another social media update, Sherise, who owns the baking and catering company Sweet Sage, announced a temporary halt to orders, citing “the recent tragedy in our family.”

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Tafari Campbell’s wife Sherise is also also a Chef, a Baker and a Caterer. She has an Instagram page where she shares her crafts.

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