Not everyone around town knows his name, but they definitely know his uniform.
Proudly wearing his U.S. Marine Corps dress blues, Oxford resident Clarence Cameron can be seen year-round collecting donations for veterans organizations, participating in patriotic ceremonies, visiting classrooms to share his life experiences with students and molding today’s youth into tomorrow’s leaders.
To honor his commitment to both the community and the nation, Cameron will serve as the grand marshal of Oxford’s Christmas parade, scheduled to roll along Washington St. (M-24), between Mechanic and East streets, on Saturday, Dec. 2.
The parade, organized by the Oxford Chamber of Commerce, starts at 2 p.m. and this year’s theme is “Christmas on the Big Screen.” So far, 31 entries have signed up.
“It’s quite exciting,” Cameron said. “I wasn’t expecting it. I was at a loss for words when they informed me about it. I’m looking forward to it. It’s quite an honor.”
Cameron served in the Marines from 1953-56 and rose to the rank of corporal. He spent 14 months in postwar Korea. He credits the Corps with saving his life and making him the man he is today.
Growing up, Cameron didn’t have the best homelife. His mother and father got a divorce and he was one of about 10 people living in a small house meant for four in Detroit.
With limited prospects and education, his future looked bleak. He had dropped out of Detroit’s Pershing High School to go to work for Hudson’s Department Store.
“Basically, I was going nowhere,” Cameron said. “I really didn’t get any support. My cousin joined the Marines, so I thought that would be a good deal for me.”
Fortunately, his decision to enlist just 10 days before his 18th birthday turned his life around. He credits the Corps with teaching him discipline, giving him motivation and direction in life and helping him develop a love for his country.
Following the military, Cameron, a member of Oxford American Legion Post 108, built a good, solid, happy life for himself.
He married his sweetheart, Margaret, and together, they raised four children – Clifford, Dody, Bonnie and Penny. He and Margaret celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary in August.
Cameron is “very proud” of his son Clifford, who spent 22 years in the Air Force and retired as a master sergeant.
“When he got out (of the service), he started ordering me around because I was only a corporal. I had to remind him that I was his dad,” said Cameron with a chuckle.
Professionally, Cameron spent 39 years working for the U.S Post Office before retiring as a building maintenance supervisor at the Pontiac branch.
“I started as a carrier in Berkley,” he noted.
He also spent a number of years as the director of golf for Heather Hills Golf Club in Macomb’s Bruce Township.
Outside of work and family, Cameron has spent much of his life mentoring young people, helping them mature and keeping them on the straight and narrow.
“It’s just a great treat working with young people. I like watching them grow up and make a name for themselves,” he said. “It keeps me young. It keeps me off the couch.”
He coached the girls golf team at Romeo High School for 19 years, twice earning Coach of the Year honors.
For the past seven years, he’s served as commanding officer of the North Oakland County Young Marines.
Founded in 1959, Young Marines is a youth education and service program that promotes mental, moral and physical development in boys and girls age 8 through the completion of high school. Leadership, teamwork and self-discipline are the program’s focus with the ultimate goal being each Young Marine lives and promotes a healthy, drug-free lifestyle.
Cameron is passionate about the Young Marines program because it gives children and teens the encouragement, values and confidence they need to make something of themselves and enjoy happy lives. The group builds character and teaches young people to be polite, respectful and responsible.
Young Marines are frequently spotted around town marching in various parades and conducting flag-raising ceremonies.
Part of the reason Cameron devotes so much of himself to the Young Marines is to give kids the support he never received growing up.
“I didn’t have a role model to help me along,” he said.
The most important piece of advice Cameron has for young folks is “stay in school and get your education.”
“It’s worth a million dollars,” he said.