Ralph Cameron King was born on November 5, 1955, in our nation’s capital. He was the fourth child born to Calvin John and Sallie Fitzgerald King. Cameron was a true middle child because he came after Vallerie, Greg and Tim but before Sallie, Warren and Dean. He was a beautiful baby and grew up to be a very handsome man. He had curly hair, jewel-like blue eyes, eyelashes to die for and a winsome smile. In his younger days, woman would literally swoon when he would walk into a room.
Ralph Cameron was named for his grandfathers, Ralph King (Pop-Pop) and Cameron Fitzgerald. Pop-Pop was a mechanic for Chambers Funeral Home in Washington, DC, and Grandfather Fitzgerald was an apple farmer in Nelson County, VA. It was a name that suited him because, like his grandfathers, he had mechanical ability and he loved nature.
The King family lived in Langley Park when Cameron was a small boy, and then they moved to 502 East Schuyler Rd. in Silver Spring, Maryland. The town of Silver Spring would become his home for life.
Cameron loved nature and enjoyed going into the woods with his brothers and sister, Sallie. Our brother Tim tells the story of one day while in the woods, Cameron discovered a bird with a broken wing. He could not fix the wing, but he wanted to help the bird, so he made a nest and laid the bird gently on the nest so that it would be comfortable and not suffer. Cam had a tender heart.
He was always curious and constantly learning. He loved to memorize interesting facts and surprise you with them. As a teen, he loved Rock and Roll music. He was given a drum set and enjoyed playing the drums to records and songs on the radio for hours at a time.
Cameron was also a very hard worker. He had a variety of jobs including working at the Pizza Kitchen on Flower Ave. and serving as a bus boy at the Holy Trinity Mission Seminary on New Hampshire Ave. in Langley Park.
Cameron graduated from Montgomery Blair High School in 1973. After graduating, he worked for the United States Naval Ordnance Laboratory. His boss wanted to hire him permanently. However, because of a government hiring freeze, he was not able to offer him a job. But because his boss thought so much of him, he recommended him to the Maryland Park and Planning Commission for a position there. He was hired and served as an equipment operator until he retired in 1999. He worked for the parks for over 23 years. Cameron was proud of his work. He planted trees and created beautiful places for people to enjoy. He had an important part in creating Brookside Gardens. He liked to take his friends and relatives to the Brookside Gardens and show them the trees he had planted.
Cameron’s nickname was the Big C from DC. He loved the city of his birth. For years, he would go downtown every Fourth of July to see the fireworks. He enjoyed going into the city and touring the monuments. He was an avid Redskin fan. He planned his weekends around their games. He didn’t miss a game and didn’t want anyone calling him or bothering him when a game was on. He was a loyal fan even though he would get disgusted and fuss when they would lose. Cam also enjoyed the sport of boxing. He owned a punching bag, and we all can remember the sound of him pounding away.
Cameron’s first car was a Ford Fairlane. But what Cam really loved were motorcycles. Part of the reason he liked bikes was that they were cheap on gas and insurance. Cameron owned several bikes in his lifetime. He loved the feel of the open road and the freedom of bike riding. His last vehicle was a brand new white Ford truck, which he paid for in full with cash. He was so proud of his truck, and he kept it in mint condition until his death. The truck is still in the family and running like a charm. Our brother, Greg, is now the proud owner.
Cameron loved the ocean. He would make an annual trip to Ocean City, MD. Once a year when the Chesapeake Bay Bridge was open to pedestrians, Cameron would go. He walked across the bridge many times during his lifetime.
Our brother never married but as his brothers married and began to have children, he became like a second Dad to his nieces and nephews. He loved to taking them to RIO where they would play video games, ride rides, eat cheeseburgers and have so much fun. He also loved to take them to the movies. He was a generous and attentive uncle, and he never missed sending them a gift for their graduation or special occasion.
Cameron had a wonderful sense of humor. He used to call me every Tuesday, and often he would tell me a joke and suggest that I use the joke in my sermon.
Cam was very frugal. He tired to squeeze the last ounce of blood out of every penny he every earned. He was an excellent manger of money. He paid for his condo in full and left this world debt free. He was frugal but at the same time extremely generous. For example when our parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, it was Cameron who paid for our father to have a brand new suit for the occasion. It was the suit Dad was buried in. If you had a need, Cameron opened his wallet and helped. He used his resources for others.
It is no secret that Cameron was an alcoholic. After he retired, his drinking increased significantly and for the last several years, his addiction isolated him from his family and his friends. Our family will always be grateful for Sallie and Liz who stayed connected to Cameron, visited him and cleaned his apartment. They also begged him to seek medical help. Their efforts, along with the prayers and support of so many, finally helped Cameron to give up the bottle. On March 14th he called the rescue squad and asked them to come and get him. He realized he needed help. He told his family that his burden had been lifted. He did not want to drink any more. From that day on, he remained sober. We as a family celebrated his sobriety. We presented him with his first month chip from AA on Sunday, April 15th while he was in Holy Cross Hospital. All of us gathered around his hospital bed to give him the chip. He was so touched.
After his hospital stay, he was moved to Oakview Rehab and Nursing Care in Silver Spring. Because he was diagnosed with end-stage liver disease, his only hope for survival was a liver transplant. He went to Oakview with the hope that the rehab would get him strong enough to be considered for a new liver. Sallie and Liz worked with Oakview and all of Cam’s doctors doing everything they could to help him turn his disease around. In addition to Sallie and Liz, all of his family and many of his friends, surrounded him with love, care, support and prayer.
But it was not to be.
While Cam was in Oakview, I would try to call him every day, and at the end of our conversation I would say a prayer. I would end the prayer with the traditional “Amen” and then he would always say, “So Be It.” So be it is what the word “Amen” literally means. A fact Cam liked to remind me, the minister, of.
On Friday, July 20th Cam was taken to Holy Cross Hospital for the last time. He was admitted into ICU with low blood pressure. Cameron had fought hard and done everything he could to turn his liver disease around, but he was tired and didn’t want fight anymore. It was decided he that he would to go and live out the remainder of his days with Sallie and Liz in their home in NJ under the care of Hospice. He was taken by ambulance to Samaritan Hospice in Mt. Holly, NJ on Friday, July 27th. He died at the Samaritan House a week later.
During the last week of his life all of his brothers, Sallie and I and two of his nephews went to see him. Those who could not come, called or Facetimed him. He died knowing how greatly he was loved and how much he would be missed. The last words he spoke to us were, “I’ll see you later.” He died on a Friday, August 3rd just as the sun was coming up with our brother, Warren, at his side. His death was very peaceful. He did not suffer. He never lost his sense of humor. He joked and laughed with the Hospice staff until the very end. We will always be grateful to the Samaritan Hospice for the care they gave him. They provided a place where all of his needs were met. Like the nest that Cameron built for the bird with the broken wing, Samaritan Hospice gave Cameron a peaceful place to die with dignity and grace.
The last book of the Bible is the Book of Revelation. Revelation gives us a glimpse of what heaven will be like. It is place where there is no more pain, no more suffering and no more tears. It is a place where we will be reunited with all those who have gone before us. It is a place of peace. The last word in the Book of Revelation is “Amen”. And so as Cameron would say: “ So Be It!”
The Rev. Vallerie F. King