The ”Cottage Grove Waver,” Clarence Kreamier. Photo provided
It takes all kinds of people to make up a community. Some people like to blend in and remain anonymous, others like to strut their stuff, loud and brashly. Some are bad, some good and some are just regular folks.
Then there are those who see something they can do to make their community a better place and just start doing it. Without thought of any sort of remuneration, praise or reward, they just find their niche and fill it.
Clarence Kreamier was one of those people.
Known as the ”Cottage Grove Waver,” Clarence would often be at 16th and Main streets in his red, white and blue top hat, bright vest and trademark United States flag, trying his best to make everyone's day a little brighter through the past four years.
For me, it sure worked.
The first time I noticed him, it was like, ”What's this?” but he made eye contact and his big smile went deep. After that I was on the lookout for him and was always happy to get his little dose of kindness as he worked his post.
Sunday, I stopped by his old waving spot, Clarence being sadly not with us any more. His body was no longer able to keep his big heart on this Earth.
In his place were mementoes left by people who had been touched by Clarence's one-man mission.
There were signs, flowers, keepsakes, and flags - lots of flags. Being a proud veteran who did his duty when it wasn't popular to do so in Vietnam, it was understandable that he would always wave old glory.
Other than having my day made better by his wave, I never had a chance to talk with him. My wife did one time in Safeway, when they ended up in line together.
Without his working clothes he looked familiar, but different. When my wife asked, he sheepishly admitted to being the Cottage Grove Waver.
When I talked to his daughter, Nancy Kreamier, and related this anecdote, she said ”That is dad all over.”
She told me that his decision to wave at that corner was his way to express his general philosophy.
”He just wanted to spread kindness, happiness, and to make someone's day,” Kreamier said. ”He believed that kindness is contagious.”
She told me that he hoped that the kindness he put out there would spread all over the community.
”He was the kind of guy that would give you the shirt off his back, he tried to help anyone he could and especially was there for his family,” Kreamier said.
Her loss went deep as her dad was not only a parent but a real friend.
They had cherished traditions such as weekly bowling outings and summer trips to visit family for a working vacation. These times were when the barriers came down and they could be close and talk about anything, not as parent and child - but as two friends.
She related how he was always having the neighborhood kids in to learn to work on cars and woodwork projects. Many a kid learned skills mechanical, practical and those hard to pin down life skills.
One time, when all the kids were doing body work on an old blue pickup, they became the Blue Smurfs from the sanding (blue also being his favorite color).
Family was so important to Clarence. He followed his daughter down to Cottage Grove 10 years ago. His door always was open to any family member who needed a place to land and get back on their feet.
He made a bigger family here in Cottage Grove. When he passed there were not the resources to give him the kind of burial that befitted a man of his caliber.
Kreamier related how touched she was at the outpouring of support from the community.
”I am having a hard time putting my feelings into words,” Kreamier said.
There is an account at Banner Bank to help meet the costs of his burial. You can contribute and give back some of that love that he put out there so many times.
You can also have a chance to express your thoughts and feelings at his memorial service this Saturday, May 4, 11 a.m. at Delight Valley Church of Christ, 33087 E. Saginaw Road. Bring a dish for the potluck and hear what he did for our town.
He will be laid to rest with full military honors beside his beloved daughter, who died from a hit and run driver 25 years ago, later in a private family ceremony.
There was talk at last week's city council of a memorial bench at his waving spot. I hope this comes to pass.
If you really want to honor Cottage Grove Waver Clarence Kreamier, try practicing his daily routine of spreading kindness and happiness in this busy world just because it needs it.
Godspeed Clarence. Keep waving from your heavenly plane and we will try and keep it up down here.
Dana Merryday is a Chronicle columnist and can be reached at 541-942-7037 and [email protected]