For decades attending a Northern Neck wedding or funeral, or participating in one of the Community Lenten luncheon services in Kilmarnock, one frequently would encounter the presence of the Rev. Charles Dameron, a Methodist pastor and preacher.
Whenever he addressed a gathering, he brought to the task a memorable level of kindness and compassion, coupled with erudition and poise. Empathy was one of Charles’s strong suits, and he “wore” it in every happening throughout his life. In modern terms, he related to people, identifying with their needs and wants, and understanding their plights.
Although he had been born in Charlottesville to parents who were educators, Charles was a true son of the Northern Neck, having been raised in the bucolic community of Mila overlooking the Great Wicomico River. After attending local schools, he matriculated at Richmond Polytechnic Institute, where he studied business. After graduation, he pursued employment as an accountant, but he soon realized that the world of numbers was not to be his calling in life, and he left it to enter the seminary to study for the ministry.
Charles’s ecclesiastical career took him to churches across the Commonwealth, culminating in his later years with a focus on congregations in the Northern Neck. He thoroughly understood the importance of knowing his congregants in order to give the level of service that he set for himself. He was truly happy to be able to care for the needs of his flocks, and in the process to become part of their lives in ways far wider than merely being their pastor. He consistently attended to them, and they responded by keeping him and his wife, Sue, as part of their lives after he had moved on to other assignments.
Charles had a particular fondness for words. Over the years, in every conversation I had with him, he would bring up some arcane usage, and he was especially delighted to explain how he had learned it, and—more importantly—how he used it both in preaching and in banter back and forth with others. He would smile after his mini-lecture, having enjoyed sharing his usage, especially if his listener had not heard the adage or idiom previously.
On weekends, Charles and Sue were regulars on the estate sale circuits. He would say that he did not need anything, but he usually wound up buying something, explaining how he would use it once he got home. Charles was not a hoarder, seeing the reason or purpose for everything he purchased, a characteristic far broader in his life than merely passing time shopping. He viewed everyone and everything as having a purposeful function and an intended use, a view he often expressed in his sermons.
From the 19th century well into the 20th, Mila was an important steamboat stop along the Chesapeake Bay circuit out of Baltimore. Charles knew the history of that era quite well, and he liked to talk about the steamboat days in the Northern Neck. His family had lived in Mila Neck for generations, and had been mainstays of the local Methodist Church, which was a guiding factor in Charles’s ultimate career course.
Charles never was rushed, or too busy to spend time listening to others. He had a demeanor well-positioned to be engaging and helpful, as well as a wry sense of humor. He would make comments, both from the pulpit and in conversation, and then wait to observe the listeners’ reactions, before chuckling himself. He was a man gifted with great patience, a necessary trait for his chosen vocation, and he was one always willing to be a friend and helper.
The Rev. John Charles Dameron, July 25, 1944–June 22, 2021. R.I.P.