Longtime Vernon businessman and athlete King Cam died in his sleep at age 72 on March 14. (Photo submitted)

Vernon ‘larger than life’ businessman dies in sleep

King Cam was known for his hard work with cars and snowplows, and his prowess in hockey and golf

He was a large man being fondly remembered for his larger than life reputation in all aspects of his life.

King Cam, longtime Vernon athlete and businessman, died in his sleep March 14 at the age of 72.

Cam’s bravado would go on to become notorious on the hockey rink and the race track.

“He had a personality even bigger than his name,” wrote Dave Ogasawara on Cam’s obituary page.

Cam played semipro hockey with the Reno Aces and was scouted by the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers during their Broad Street Bullies years. He was once suspended for punching a referee, but he was so popular that more than 1,000 fans signed a petition calling for his reinstatement, and he was.

Upon returning to Vernon, he played senior hockey with the Vernon Cougars.

“King was always pleasant to be around off the ice and was very giving,” said teammate Marty Stein. “He was a great teammate as he stood up for his teammates. He didn’t have to do that very much due to his intimidating size. He was a great person. Gone too soon.”

Cam moved to Vernon with his parents as a teenager and one of his first jobs was sweeping the sawdust off the floor at Ben’s Meat Market. He operated Alley Auto Works in the Harwood neighbourhood for 40 years, and, prior to that, operated King Cam Towing in the old Anderson subdivision.

Despite a gruff exterior, Cam was a mentor to many young men and students over the years, teaching them how to work on their cars and taking them in as aspiring mechanics in his shop. He also operated a snow-plowing business in the winter months (including the long time clearer of snow at the Morning Star), but it was on the ice and race track where he earned his reputation as a fearless hustler.

On the race track, Cam and his No. 59 car competed in stock car competition from B.C. to California, earning many trophies in the 1970s. He was once pulled over for speeding in California in his Porsche 911.

The officer asked if he had a license to drive that fast, and he replied: “as a matter of fact…” and pulled out his NASCAR license. The officer waved him on without a ticket.

One racing weekend at Vernon’s old Tillicum Raceway, Cam blew the engine in his car on Saturday, and on race day, his wife Christel woke up to find the engine in her car gone, King having worked all night to swap it into the race car.

Many restored classic cars and trucks rolled out of Cam’s shop over the years. He continued to play hockey for the Vernon Cougars and later oldtimers hockey until recent years. An avid golfer, the dedication he put into all areas of his life was tenfold on the golf course.

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He was club captain at Spallumcheen Golf Course for many years, and when not at the shop or having lunch and shooting pool at the Village Green, he could be found on the links. He encouraged the same fearless attitude in his children, all of whom were enrolled in sports and inherited his competitive spirit. All the kids were taught to drive in the family tow truck long before they were old enough to get a license.

Cam is survived by his three children, Dean, Denise and Delphine, and dear friend Gail. He was predeceased by his wife Christel in 2004. He will be remembered by many.

A service will be held at a later date.



roger@vernonmorningstar.com

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