No funeral, no problem: Town honors farmer with tractor processional

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Bill Cameron's tractor funeral procession
Bill Cameron's hearse was led by some of Bill's own favorite tractors, driven by area farmers, as people lined the streets of Jeromesville, Ohio, March 26, to pay their respects. See story on page A20. (Judith Sutherland photo)

JEROMESVILLE, Ohio — The sun came out for just a few hours, March 26, over Jeromesville, Ohio, as a beloved farmer was laid to rest.

Since the funeral would allow only 10 people, due to Ohio’s mandatory health constrictions, neighbors took the lead from Keith Hall, of Jeromesville, and showed up on tractors to form a processional to the cemetery.

Bill Cameron, 78, was a life-long Jeromesville farmer. Four of Bill’s favorite John Deere tractors, from his Big Rock Farms, led the procession, driven by friends and neighbors, Keith and Andy Hall, David Bright and Adam Cutlip, the hearse immediately behind them.

A total of 72 tractors followed, driven by farmers from the surrounding area, who wished to pay their respects.

Paying respect

Bill Cameron
Bill Cameron chats with Tanner Harpster on the square of Jeromesville, Ohio. Cameron had friends of all ages throughout his life. (Submitted photo)

The Jeromesville Market, a store that had never closed before, turned out the lights and locked up, employees lining the street, tears flowing.

Bill had been a regular at the market, which he referred to as his “office.” He once jokingly handed his hours in to store manager, Emily Farrao, asking if his paycheck was ready.

People of all ages lined the street, from the funeral home to the cemetery, in a show of respect to the successful farmer, who had built friendships with kindness and wit.

No one was a stranger to Bill, and folks from young to old sought him out for laughter or sage farming advice.

The large turn-out of tractors making up the processional came from as far away as Perrysville, Ohio, and Smithville, from neighboring Wayne County.

“I was surprised and humbled by the turn-out,” Keith Hall said. “It shows how highly people regarded him.”

All makes, models

Every color of tractor made up the collective tribute: a 1939 International Farmall M, driven by Dan McNaull, was the oldest tractor there. An enormous John Deere sprayer, driven by Bryan Eichelberger, represented one of the newest.

A John Deere combine carried Todd and Carrie Harpster, and family, in its cab.

Brenda Eberly carried a bouquet of fresh flowers in one hand as she drove her International.

Some tractors were flying American flags. Hand-drawn signs appeared on others, “In memory of Bill.”

Also in the processional were Allis-Chalmers, Massey-Ferguson, Ford models — and an antique Ariens lawn tractor, driven by Kenny Wise, a life-long friend to Bill.

Jeromesville Fire Department closed the street to traffic. The final vehicle was an Army truck, driven by Dan Bicker.

Coming together

“As we waited beside the combine and watched as every farmer around drove their tractor to get in line, most of them also carrying spouses and children, I realized again how special the farming community is,” Carrie Harpster said. “This is a community that not only loves their land but also loves those who do the same, a community that would do anything to support one of their own … our lives were made even better, because of knowing Bill.”

Bill, known as the kindest neighbor who would show up to help anyone no matter how busy he was himself, had recently purchased a new John Deere tractor for his large crop farming operation, along with seed and fertilizer for the upcoming planting season. Neighbors will step in and put in spring crops.

Bill is survived by wife, Karen, and son, Fred, who lives in Columbus.

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Read Judith Sutherland’s past columns about Bill Cameron:

A fitting tribute to Bill Cameron

Laugh often and find the best in others

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college.

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