By DOUG GRAVES
JEROMESVILLE, Ohio — Just 562 people reside in the tiny village of Jeromesville. Located in north central Ohio in Ashland County just 20 miles east of Mansfield, everyone knows everyone and not much happens there.
But when local and beloved farmer Bill Cameron died on March 19 at the age of 78, people from this county and five adjacent counties flocked to honor him.
It was like nothing the small village had ever seen before when nearly 50 tractors and other pieces of farm equipment rumbled slowly down South High Street on that cloudy afternoon. It was a funeral procession fit for a farmer.
“TRIBUTE TO OUR DEERE FRIEND BILL” one sign read. “YOU WILL BE GREATLY MISSED” read another, as his casket made its way to his final resting place.
Since large public memorials are on hold as the world practices social distancing during the coronavirus threat, just 10 people were allowed to attend Cameron’s funeral, so the farm equipment accompanied the regular funeral procession on its way from Fickes Funeral Home to Jeromesville Cemetery. A handful of Cameron’s “favorite” tractors from his Big Rock Farms led the way.
“Dad would be looking down from heaven and be so proud of just the community of farmers who have done all of this. This is amazing,” said Fred Cameron. “It means so much to me. I couldn’t think of a better way to remember my dad than this, this is the perfect outing and I love it.”
“If we couldn’t physically be in there to pay our respect to the family and all the friends, we can really show out true love by being in a tractor for him,” said Michelle Thewlis.
Cameron’s neighbor, Keith Hall, organized the tribute by calling local farmers. Hall was overwhelmed by the large turnout, but not Dave Bright. Bright knew Cameron for more than 50 years and expected such a turnout.
“He was the stable of the community,” Bright said. “If anyone ever needed assistance, Bill was willing to help.
“He brightened everyone’s day,” said Carla Butdorff. “I grew up here and everyone knew Bill. He really made an impact on the town.”
While social distancing kept people apart at the funeral, there was no such spacing along the streets of Jeromesville. Standing room at the curbside of the tractor procession was at a premium. All ages lined the streets to honor the man who touched so many. After all, he was a farmer who remembered to send birthday cards to the many residents, paid visits to the hospital and took time out from his farming chores to say hello each day to anyone he met.
The procession emerged down the heart of this tiny village with a slew of familiar green John Deere tractors. It was the only brand that Cameron farmed with his entire life. Then, amid the sea of green emerged a red International tractor with a sign reading, “An International tribute to our Deere friend Bill.”
This balmy, cloudy day won’t be remembered with sadness. It will likely be recalled as one filled with smiles and laughter by those in Ashland and adjacent counties who treasured knowing Cameron and all he did for those who knew him.
Cameron is survived by his wife, Karen, and their son, Fred.