Cameron Mercer didn’t mind telling people he was religious.
In fact, he sang it in a song.
While living at a local rest home later in life, Mercer was noted for going up and down the hall in his wheelchair, singing, “Oh, How I love Jesus.”
Mercer, a former Clayton councilman, World War II veteran and local tradesman, died April 4 after a short battle with pneumonia. He was 94.
His son, Art, said faith was important not only to his father but his mother, Lena. The two would have celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary this July.
Lena, a Clayton native, said she met her husband during the Great Depression, when he was a member of the Civilian Conservation Corps’ public relief program. Mercer, a native of Brunswick County, was transferred from a camp in White Lake to one in Clayton, where it was “love at first sight,” she said.
They met in May and were married by July.
“It has lasted,” Lena said.
In 1944, Mercer enlisted in the Army and flew overseas to fight in WWII. He served three years and rose to the rank of sergeant.
Art said his dad didn’t talk about his war experience much. He only opened up about it briefly in the 1980s, Art said.
“I think that was from the trauma associated with the war,” Art said.
After the war, Mercer and Lena lived in Bolivia and Wilmington before settling in Clayton. He worked as a carpenter, salesman, machinist and textile superintendent during his career.
In retirement, he served two terms on the Clayton Town Council, from 1987-91 and 1995-99. While his father was in office, Art remembers most his dad’s push to plant trees along both sides of Main Street.
“I really didn’t see that vision, but he was right,” Art said. “They look beautiful.”
Clayton Mayor Jody McLeod served alongside Mercer on the Town Council in the mid-1990s. McLeod remembers Mercer always clearing his throat before he talked and never raising his voice.
He was a mentor to the younger McLeod, who said he learned how to slow down and think through issues.
“He really had the trust of senior citizens,” McLeod said.
“Seniors thought they had a friend in him and that they could relate to him.”
Mercer ran for office other times but lost, including in 2003. Current Clayton Councilman Michael Grannis ran against Mercer that year.
Grannis said he thought Mercer was insightful. “He served during a time that was very difficult for this town but was able to produce some good results,” Grannis said.
Mercer was a Mason. He was also a member and deacon at Hocutt Baptist Church.
In his spare time, Mercer loved camping. Art said his fondest memory is camping with his dad in the Great Smoky Mountains.
Art said when he and his wife moved their family to California in the 1980s, his father and mother traveled across the country to visit them.
“He had a 22-foot Coachmen travel trailer that he pulled across the country with a small station wagon,” Art said.
Today, as the family wrote in his obituary, Mercer is “sitting by a heavenly Maggie Valley-like stream, reminiscing about wonderful family times.”
The family suggests memorial contributions to the Hocutt Baptist Church Building Fund, 314 W. Horne St., Clayton, N.C. 27520.
Online condolences may be made at www.mclaurinatpinecrest.com.
Dunn: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104