Patti Cameron was born in 1957 in Nelson B.C. to Marion and Len Matthews, but didn’t stay in the West Kootenay for long. The Matthews family moved to the Elk Valley in 1963 and Patti has lived in the area ever since. Her family had ties to the area as her mother and grandmother were from Coal Creek. Her father was a mechanic and upholsterer and opened a business outside of Fernie.
The third of six children, Patti learned how to sew as a child and still has the first sewing machine she ever used; it even still works. She also learned other skills that turned into passions, including gardening and cooking good food. Patti remembers her childhood as being tumultuous at times. “It was a fight to survive,” she says.
Patti left home at only 17 years old, which postponed her high school graduation. She pursued her high school diploma, receiving it at the age of 21. At that time, Patti had dreams of becoming either a hairdresser or interior designer, the latter of which came true 15 years ago when she took an online course for interior design.
Patti met Randy Cameron through her best girlfriend in November of 1975. One year older than Randy, she wasn’t too keen on him at first but persuaded herself to give him another chance. The two have been married for 38 years and have two children and four grandchildren.
Their son lives in Sweden with his wife and young child while their daughter Crystal continues to live in the Elk Valley. She is a registered esthetician and helps out with the family business.
Patti credits strong communication as a key to a successful marriage. “It’s a full time job,” she says. “Communication is huge.”
This past June, her husband Randy was recognized as the Volunteer of the Year for RDEK Electoral Area A, an honour Patti thinks is well earned. The two have been volunteers in the community for over three decades.
“It’s just something we do,” she says of their volunteer efforts. “If we can help out in any situation, there are no questions asked. It’s a good feeling.”
The Camerons volunteer for nearly everything they can, including starting a Tae Kwon Do club for 350 children a few years ago to snow plowing local roads and driveways in the winter. Patti says her husband is a humble man, who would never have expected the Volunteer of the Year award.
“He’s not one to blow his own horn,” she says.
After needing three tents to redo their vows, Patti decided to purchase the tents and rent them out after they were finished. This was the beginning of Patti’s Party Tent Rentals, which she currently operates full time. As she describes it, “It’s like interior designing under a tent.” In the 12 years it has been operating, Patti’s Party Tent Rentals has grown, with 15 tents, 1,500 tables, and 400 dishes to help accommodate people’s outdoor party needs. Patti also rents bouncy houses for family-friendly events and estimates she has four to 12 events on any given weekend from May until October.
After living in the Elk Valley for over five decades, Patti has seen the area change drastically. “You used to be able to leave town for six months and not lock your door,” she says. “Or walk down the street and know everyone.” Patti also notes the extended business hours and consumer friendly environment as a change. She remembers a time that if your groceries weren’t purchased by Saturday at 5 p.m., you had to wait until Tuesday morning for the grocery store to open again.
With over five decades in the Elk Valley and her continuous efforts to give back to her community, Patti Cameron has become a recognizable face in Fernie, and an ideal candidate for Face of the Valley.