By CASEY NEILL
THE scent of pizza wafted into the packed auditorium as the service to farewell Pastor Don Cameron came to a close.
“Don loved pizza because it was a community food,” Rowville Baptist Church Pastor Wally Starchenko had told mourners earlier.
“It was always to share.”
He’d also commented on the overwhelming attendance at the Faith Christian Church in Dandenong North on Wednesday 23 March.
Most in the crowd agreed that “a couple of thousand” people had turned out to farewell the Cornerstone Contact Centre co-ordinator who died on 13 March following a six-week battle with aggressive cancer.
Pastor Starchenko said the attendees included a primary school teacher who Don continued to Facebook right to the end.
“It just shows the character and the nature of who Don was,” he said.
“Don had this way of making you feel like his best friend.”
Don’s wife Jo compiled a 12-page collection of stories from his friends and family by way of a eulogy – “just a small snapshot” of his life, Pastor Starchenko said.
Watch preacher Dave Kranjec speaking.
It was filled with the humour that Don was well-known for and often had the auditorium erupting in laughter and reminiscing about their own encounters with the pastor.
Pastor Starchenko said Don’s humour disarmed people and served him well during his 25-odd years at Cornerstone.
“It made it impossible to be intimidated or threatened by him,” he said.
Don visited Cornerstone as much as possible during his final weeks.
“It was his second home,” Pastor Starchenko said.
Don was born on 13 November 1970 and attended Keysborough’s Resurrection School and Chandler High School.
As a child, he would make up stories about what his toys got up to when they were sleeping and build Moomba floats from shoeboxes for his mother to judge.
Pastor Starchenko said Don discovered Christianity in his early 20s, loved his faith and attending church, and read the Bible cover to cover at least once a year.
“He read it and he lived it. He loved it and he taught it,” he said.
Don and a mate were baptised at the bottom of the water slide at the Noble Park pool, the mourners heard.
“We come here today knowing Don is with his friend and his saviour, Jesus Christ,” Pastor Starchenko said.
Don worked for the Australian Tax Office for several years, including a stint in Canberra where he met his wife Jo.
His story was that she spotted him at church and instantly fell in love with his long hair.
Pastor Starchenko said Jo’s story was very different.
Don would answer the phone when she called to speak to his housemate Ralph and engage her in lengthy conversations.
Jo felt sorry for him and thought he must be lonely, mourners heard, so she invited him to attend a church group that met at her house.
They married in May 2002, only after Collingwood fan Don cut his hair short and Jo pledged not to barrack for Carlton.
Pastor Starchenko said Don was besotted with his daughters Annabelle and Jemimah, aged 8 and 10.
“God did great things through Don,” Pastor Starchenko said.
“He was a renowned talker but also a very good listener.
“Don loved people who were difficult to love.
“Don was a helper yet he rarely asked for help himself.”
Preacher Dave Kranjec spoke at Don’s request, urging people to find salvation in Christianity.
Don had provided him with some words to share on his behalf, among the most moving being: “I’m only a sinner saved by the grace of an almighty God.”