By Lissa Alexander
Don Cameron was a child of the Great Depression, and although his family had no money growing up, his mother made sure everyone’s needs were met.
“I owe everything to the women in my life,” said Cameron. “I do. I’ve been spoiled.”
The Society of Organized Services recently received a $100,000 boost to its $1-million Project Rebuild campaign from Anne and Don Cameron. Anne — Don’s late wife — is another shining example of a strong woman with a “heart of gold.” That’s why Don is excited his donation to SOS will support women in the Parksville Qualicum Beach community.
“I hope that it does a lot of work for the women in our communities, because we don’t give them a fair break all the time,” he said. “I think we better smarten up.”
Don was inspired to support the campaign in such a meaningful way because he knew that SOS would invest his donation in areas that would make the most difference in the lives of local residents.
Born in Wilkie, Sask. in 1931, Don was the second of five children. There was “absolutely” no money growing up, and his mother had to take the children on a train to Vancouver, where her husband was working in the shipyards for 10 cents an hour.
Don completed his schooling in Vancouver and enrolled in pharmacy at UBC, graduating in 1955. He was offered a three-month trial at a pharmacy in Prince Rupert and ended up staying for 30 years. He married and had four children in that city, three boys and one girl.
Halfway through his time there, he purchased the store. He and his first wife both worked at the pharmacy six days a week, for five or six weeks in a row, and then retreated to a home they purchased in Courtenay to take a break.
They had friends in the Parksville area, who suggested that they look at a beautiful home overlooking the ocean. “My wife looked around and said, ‘buy it,’” he said. “Well, I bought it.”
That was 36 years ago.
After relocating to the area, Don and his first wife purchased the Englishman River Gallery. Sadly, she was killed in a car accident a few months later.
Don met Anne, also a pharmacist, while working in Parksville. They married, and together they ran the art gallery from their home for about 20 years.
Anne passed away nine years ago. Don says she contributed a lot to the family and deserves recognition.
“She supported me when I wasn’t very rich, and I supported her when it was time to quit,” he said.
And, he recalled with a smile, she used to drive their tractor to the mailbox, cutting all the grass along the way. She also removed snow with the tractor on a couple of occasions, clearing the road for the neighbours.
A few years ago, Don was delighted to take part in the SOS Seniors Connecting program, where he was able to meet and socialize with local people and enjoy educational speakers.
“I like the whole idea of SOS,” he said. “To me, it’s a fine organization.”
The first $100,000 of a multi-year pledge from Anne and Don Cameron will come through a special RBC Charitable Gift Fund that Don created through his RIFs (Retirement Income Funds). Don recommends others donate in this way if they have the opportunity.
For more information on SOS Project Rebuild, visit sosprojectrebuild.com. To learn more about how you can make a living legacy gift to your community, call 250-248-2093.