U.S. Coast Guard Lt. junior grade Thomas Cameron, a Catholic from Portland, died in Alabama Feb. 28 when a MH-65C Dolphin helicopter crashed into Mobile Bay during a training mission.
The 24-year-old was a 2005 Cleveland High School graduate. At the Portland high school, he was captain of the soccer team and an “A” student.
Cameron was on a training mission with three other men, Lt. Cmdr. Dale Taylor, Chief Petty Officer Fernando Jorge, and Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Knight, when the helicopter they were in crashed. An investigation of the accident continues. No information has been released about what caused the crash.
“He was a superhero to everyone who knew him; he lived life larger than anyone I ever knew,” said Cameron’s best friend Lt. junior grade Peter Deneen. “He loved big, competed big, played big — he lived every aspect of life with an unbridled enthusiasm and lust.”
Cameron and Deneen were captains of their college soccer team, and were known as two of the most imposing forwards in the NEWMAC conference. When Cameron scored a goal, he celebrated with leaps and somersaults.
“He was loved by all,” Deneen said. “Professors, coaches, jocks, nerds, underachievers, dropouts, kids, elderly, and certainly girls — he connected with people in a way that I cannot really put into words.”
The young man and his family were parishioners at Holy Family Church in Southeast Portland.
Parish staff members remember Cameron as a positive young man who always made people feel welcomed. He participated in the parish’s youth ministry throughout his high school years.
“Thomas was always a very giving kid,” said Kim Zea, Holy Family’s youth director. She recalled a mission trip to Eugene one summer when the students were carrying out service projects for impoverished members of the community. She said young Cameron discovered his calling in life on that trip – to help people.
“He was so excited to learn that,” Zea said. “He said, ‘Kim, I know why I’m here and it’s these people we’re serving.’ That characteristic really shows in the job he took, working for the Coast Guard.”
He always had a smile on his face, she said.
“This is a tremendous loss,” Zea said. “He had a lot to give.”
Cameron is survived by his parents, Elizabeth and John Cameron, and his older brother Alex. Cameron’s friends are raising funds to support the man’s family in the wake of his death at thomascameron.mydagsite.com. A tribute soccer game will be held in Cameron's honor at 10:30 a.m., Sunday, March 11, at Cleveland High School.
A Mass of resurrection will be celebrated by Father Bob Barricks at 11 a.m., Monday, March 12 at Holy Family Church.