John “Jack” O’Camb, a popular El Dorado County volunteer who was the “voice of the Bruins” as a longtime football announcer for Ponderosa High School, died April 19 of pneumonia, his family said. He was 76.
A big frame, a generous heart and an endless supply of corny jokes made Mr. O’Camb a lively man with a warm soul at home, at work and in the community. As a top salesman for 22 years at Sears on Arden Way in Sacramento, he was known as “Big John” to co-workers and repeat customers, to whom he sold everything from greeting cards to major appliances.
On Sundays, he filled an entire pew at Catholic churches in Placerville, Folsom and El Dorado Hills with his wife of 55 years, Rosemary, their six children and two foster children. He was a devoted family man who met his wife in a church youth group and enjoyed telling people, “We’re so Catholic, we even hate condominiums.”
His timeworn lines got a friendly reception from captive audiences at Ponderosa High School in Shingle Springs, where Mr. O’Camb was the football announcer for 35 years. He started as a last-minute, volunteer fill-in for a missing announcer and went on to call the freshman, junior varsity and varsity games for the Bruins until he left the booth in 2011.
His booming voice filled the air “even when the microphone would go down,” said his son Joel, a former Ponderosa player. He sprinkled his play-by-play with catchphrases, including “There’s a hanky on the turf” for penalty flags.
At halftime, he delivered a signature line urging fans to support concession vendors, who donated proceeds to sports programs: “Don’t forget to visit the snack bar – because not everyone can be athletic, but everyone can be an athletic supporter.”
“I wish we had recorded all the off-the-mike stuff in the tower,” longtime co-announcer Fred Harter said. “Jack was just the kind of guy who always kept you in stitches with his stories.”
Mr. O’Camb also was active in El Dorado County as a leader in the French Creek Outlanders 4-H Club and a member of the El Dorado County Livestock Auction Committee. He spent 16 years as a volunteer firefighter for the Shingle Springs Fire Department, which honored him twice as “firefighter of the year.” For the last nine years, he delivered Meals on Wheels to homebound clients as a driver for the Senior Nutrition Program.
The son of a plumber and stay-at-home mom, John Patrick O’Camb was born Nov. 5, 1937, in Covina near Los Angeles. He joined the Army in 1958 and was stationed in Germany but flew home for three days after boot camp to marry his wife. After the birth of their first child, the couple returned to the United States in 1960 and settled into civilian life in Los Angeles and Orange County.
He sold typewriters for Olivetti Underwood and worked for a natural gas company as the family grew to six children. Annual family vacations at Folsom Lake with friends inspired him and his wife to move in the late 1960s to Shingle Springs, where they raised their family and two foster children.
Mr. O’Camb won sales contests and enjoyed meeting people at Sears. He went out of his way to serve customers – including delivering refrigerators and freezers in his pickup to buyers who could not wait for regular delivery – and retired in 1993.
“He was always smiling and greeting people – not the used-car-salesman type of greeting, but a best friend you haven’t seen in ages,” said his son Joel, who often visited his father at work. “He had a photographic memory … and other tricks that he used to remember people’s names when they came back.”
Mr. O’Camb spent the last 15 years in Cameron Park. After retiring from Sears, he worked in the clubhouse at El Dorado Hills Golf Course and was a shuttle driver for a local Mercedes dealership. He was honored by Ponderosa High School with the dedication of a new football announcer’s stand in his name as the “voice of the Bruins.”
“He used to tell everyone that he was the ‘SOB’ at Ponderosa High School – the ‘sound of the Bruins,’ his son said. “The school changed it to ‘voice of the Bruins’ so they could paint it on the sign.”
In addition to his wife and son Joel, Mr. O’Camb is survived by four other sons, Jim, Steve, Ken and Mark; a daughter, Susie Rupley; and four grandchildren.
A memorial was held April 28 at Holy Trinity Church in Cameron Park. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made through El Dorado Savings Bank to the Jack O’Camb Meals on Wheels Fund or the Jack O’Camb Ponderosa High School Athletic Fund.
Call The Bee’s Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Davila.