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‘She was a trailblazer’: Gilroy COVID Victim Remembered For Her Mission, Music

Ressie Cameron, 87, of Gilroy, died of coronavirus on March 13, 2020

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To Ressie Cameron's many nieces and nephews, she was simply "Auntie" Ressie.

To the many more who looked to her as a mentor and spiritual leader in her church, she was "Mother" Ressie.

"She was just a pillar in the church," said Candace Riley, whose grandmother and Cameron were long-time friends. In the Bay Area's Church of God in Christ, a Pentecostal denomination, Cameron was well known, particularly when it came to music.

"She was a choir master. Choir director doesn't even do her justice," Riley said, recalling how Cameron would direct multiple choirs at San Jose's Prayer Garden Church Of God In Christ.

Cameron came to San Jose in the late 1940s when her family fled racial violence in their home state of Mississippi. She excelled in school, becoming the first-ever African-American elected to student government at San Jose High School then going on to get a degree in Business Administration from San Jose State University.

"She was a trailblazer, a woman ahead of her time," said Cameron's niece Elaine Crumpler. Cameron married Delvin Cameron in 1962. They had a son, Devlin Jr., who died in an accident in 1987.

"She was very confident, very confident in who she was," Crumpler said.

Cameron, it seems, was never more herself than in church and singing.

"She would really bring the energy," said relative Ken Hammonds. "There are some people, the energy that would come in with them. That’s my aunt Ressie."

Hammonds describes Cameron as the ultimate "church lady," the one whose magnetic personality held the congregation together.

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