JEROMESVILLE -- Years from now, the people of Jeromesville will talk about the funeral procession held Thursday, March 26 for lifelong resident Bill Cameron.
They'll remember how the community was determined to recognize the owner of Big Rock Farms despite restrictions on large gatherings, how more than fifty tractors drove down South High Street for the occasion and how one beloved individual could bring people together from a distance during the coronavirus pandemic.
William (Bill) Cameron died March 19 at age 78. He was born Aug. 4, 1941 to Fred and Ruth (Sellers) Cameron. He graduated from Jeromesville High School in 1959 and married Karen McFarlin on April 27, 1968.
He was a husband, father and a cherished friend and neighbor to more than he likely realized.
Beyond the more than 50 individuals participating in the tractor procession, an additional 50-plus distanced themselves from one another along South High Street for a peek at the motorcade from Fickes Funeral Home to Jeromesville Cemetery following a 1 p.m. service, which was limited in attendance. Those on South High Street sat on pickup truck beds, inside their cars, on golf carts and in lawn chairs.
GALLERY: Jeromesville's Bill Cameron remembered with tractor procession
Jeromesville's Bill Cameron was remembered Thursday with a tractor procession. The parade of tractors traveled down High Street after a small funeral service was held.
William B. Cameron, 78, died March 19, 2020. The event allowed the community to gather in a socially-distant way to grieve their beloved neighbor and friend.
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The owner of Jeromesville Market, Brent Soles closed the store and stood outside among family.
"My wife told him that when he died, during the funeral, we would close the store. We've never closed the store in 17 years, but it's closed right now for this procession," Soles said.
Cameron had visited the store so often, he called it his office. Once he even created a timecard, handed it to Soles and requested a paycheck. For more than a decade, the joke continued.
"He said, he expected to get paid, and he'd always sit there, 'waiting for his paycheck,'" Soles said with a laugh. "And I kept telling him talk to my wife, but she said, 'no.'"
When he wasn't farming, Cameron could be found at the store. The village's storyteller, Cameron was known by Soles family and customers alike.
Soles' daughter, Emily Farrao remembers Cameron's jokes. They'd always make her smile.
"I don't think they could have picked anything else better for him. It's a way we can all honor him," Farrao said.
To the once owner of the former J-Ville Pit Stop Laurie Yates, Cameron was the person who'd always call on her birthday.
Yates met him after opening the J-Ville Pit Stop in 2010, and they later realized they were 20 years apart in age. She turned 58 the same year he turned 78. Every April 9 afterwards, Yates could expect a phone call from Cameron. He never disappointed.
She also recalls how Cameron would pick up a pizza every Friday night from downtown Jeromesville.
"He'd drive by our house, and he always drove real slow, and we'd be like, 'Oh, there goes Bill with his pizza,'" Yates said.
The last time she noticed him drive by, she thought about calling him, but dismissed the notion. She'd soon be hearing from him on her birthday.
"He was funny; he was witty; and he was always telling jokes. He was a fun person. He'd always make your day when you saw him coming," Yates said. "He'd say things like, 'I'm glad you got to see me.' ...Just funny things like that."
The story from Thursday -- the one of hundreds coming together, socially-distanced to celebrate someone they love -- it's the type of story Cameron might have reflected on while chatting with Yates at the J-Ville Pit Stop or Soles at his "office."
Maybe he'd point out how the sun came out for the occasion, creating ideal conditions to be outdoors and wiping away the dismal uncertainty the coronavirus had brought to Ohio.
And maybe he'd highlight how procession started with a slew of John Deere tractors. Then, amid the sea of green emerged a red International tractor with a sign reading, "An International tribute to our Deere friend Bill."
And surely, he'd break into a broad smile as he talked about his friend Kenny Wise, who came driving down South High Street on a small orange lawn tractor -- following dozens of larger tractors and other massive farm equipment.
It wouldn't be a tale of sadness. It would be a story that brought smiles, tears of laughter to a room of friends because to Cameron, no one was a stranger.