Graffiti artist Ralphy ‘Redr’ Campos dies of COVID-19 at 38: ‘He really had a great heart’

He lived on the Southwest Side in a ZIP code that’s recorded 2,506 cases, third-most in Illinois.

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Ralph Campos and his father at a Chicago Bulls game in 2019.

Ralph Campos and his father at a Chicago Bulls game in 2019.

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Ralphy Campos spent years scaling rooftops, traversing train tracks and leaving his mark.

Campos, a prolific graffiti artist known as “Redr,” quickly became a beloved figure in Chicago’s tight-knit community of vandals as he scrawled his name across the city. He died last week of COVID-19 at 38, leaving behind three children.

While much of Campos’ art has been wiped clean by city workers as he moved away from graffiti in recent years, his father said his indelible impression was left on those he loved.

“He really had a great heart,” said Campos’ father Ralf Campos. “He sympathized with others. If you were hurting, he sympathized with you and your hurt and your pain. That’s why so many people loved him.”

Ralph “Redr” Campos was a well-known graffiti artist in Chicago.

Ralph “Redr” Campos was a well-known graffiti artist in Chicago.

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Ralf Campos first sensed “something wasn’t right” when his son started feeling sick about two months ago. But he said the artist and party promoter never displayed the typical symptoms of coronavirus, such as a fever or respiratory issues.

Campos’ condition worsened on Mother’s Day just hours after he visited his mother’s gravesite to leave flowers. That’s when Ralf Campos rushed his son to Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, where an X-ray revealed he had developed blood clots in his chest and legs.

Two days later, Ralf Campos got an alarming phone call shortly after hanging up with his son.

“The hospital called me back about 10 minutes or so afterwards, telling me they needed to resuscitate him,” he said, noting that he asked the caller if they had the wrong number because he had just spoken with his son.

“I said do whatever you have to do but bring him back,” he said.

Ralph “Redr” Campos is survived by his three children and other family members.

Ralph “Redr” Campos is survived by his three children and other family members.

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Those efforts were ultimately unsuccessful, and Campos was pronounced dead that night, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office. In addition to pneumonia and a blood clot in his lungs, COVID-19 was listed as a primary cause of death.

Campos had been living at his father’s home on the border of Chicago Lawn and Gage Park — an area hit particularly hard by COVID-19. The home is in the 60629 zip code, which has recorded 2,506 cases of coronavirus, third-most in Illinois.

Ralf Campos said he was unaware the toll was so high in the area.

“I really gotta be careful out there,” he said, though he noted that he recently tested negative for the virus and hasn’t experienced any symptoms.

Other artists have started memorializing Campos, who had been focused on promoting underground parties and hadn’t actively been doing graffiti for a few years. A massive, silver-and-black piece with his name appeared last week at Pershing Road and Western Avenue, though it was buffed away by city crews within days.

“He was a ride or die guy,” said “Track,” a fellow member of CAB 312 crew who helped paint the memorial for his fallen friend. “If anything happened, you knew he had your back.”

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Ralf Campos stands in front of a giant piece dedicated to his son, who died after contracting COVID-19.

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Ralf Campos said the outpouring of support from his son’s friends has been a bright spot in the wake of his passing.

“I knew that I loved my son so much, but I didn’t know how many other people loved up on him,” he said. “It’s just good for me to know that.”

The family held a wake for Campos Wednesday afternoon at Christian Funeral Home in Albany Park, and a funeral was scheduled for Thursday at Mount Auburn Funeral Home in Stickney. A GoFundMe launched to cover the costs of the services has raised more than $8,200, exceeding its goal $7,000 goal.

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