One look around the home of Santa Fe College alumnus Ralph Cameron will make it pretty clear where his passions lie. He’s a hunter, golfer, biker, Harley Davidson enthusiast and proud American. Seems the last three go hand in hand (and hand) without fail.
Ralph is a fourth generation Gainesville native and a 1971 graduate of GHS – back when it was the only public high school in Gainesville and had the largest graduating class in the school’s history.
In 1976, Ralph graduated from SF’s first building construction class. To this day he proudly displays his SF diploma in the home office he and his wife, Bonnie, share.
Ralph and Bonnie are Realtors with Coldwell Banker M.M. Parrish. Between them, they have 70 years of combined real estate, construction and mortgage industry experience. Throughout their careers, they have been a top-producing sales team in Alachua County numerous times.
“The Camerons helped more than 90 buyers and sellers trade nearly $17 million in residential real estate in 2012,” said J. Parrish, owner and broker of Coldwell Banker M.M. Parrish Realtors. “They finished top in our company and top in the entire Gainesville market and are incredibly focused on exceeding their customers’ goals and expectations every single time.”
“Ralph and Bonnie are exceptional Realtors who bring tremendous value to their customers and colleagues,” Parrish added. “They truly represent the pinnacle of our industry, and we are extremely fortunate and proud to work with them every day.”
But, back to the Harley passion. Ralph and Bonnie have logged more than 180,000 miles each on their Harleys to all 48 lower states and Canada, and might even make a trek to Alaska, eventually (according to Bonnie). The two recently returned from a trip to Pennsylvania, despite the less than sunny summer this year.
“We rode 2,100 miles in and out of the rain,” Ralph said. “But that is part of the fun of it.”
It was their love of Harleys and their country that inspired the Camerons to create one of the most successful fundraisers Alachua County has ever seen in terms of participation. One that earned them a rarely given “Key to the City” in 2007, now proudly displayed in their home amid the Harley memorabilia and adjacent to the plantation shutters that have been signed by nearly every veteran and biker to visit their home. Ralph and Bonnie are the founders of Bikers on Parade for the USA, the largest and longest veteran’s motorcycle parade in the U.S.
“It was because of the horrible attacks against our country on September 11, 2001, that we started this event,” Ralph said. “That first year, we hoped we would get at least 50 bikers to ride with us and we ended up with over 1,200 participants.”
Santa Fe College served as the starting point of the parade each of the nine years it was held from 2001 – 2009. The event proved to be wildly successful, raising a total of $510,000 to benefit local veteran’s charities and the local Red Cross chapter. At the end of the final ride, a Veterans Bridge Endowment fund was established at Santa Fe College in the name of Bikers on Parade for the USA. The fund awards scholarships on an annual basis to a combat wounded veteran, female veteran, and first-generation in college veteran. What a legacy to an amazing event!
Though Bikers on Parade has run its course, Ralph and Bonnie continue to look for ways to serve the community. Their plan for 2016 is to hang a US flag on every home they sell. ABC News reported that if every American would spend an extra $3.33 on U.S.-made goods, nearly 10,000 new jobs would be created. With each flag and flagpole they purchase – made in the USA and bought from a local merchant – Ralph and Bonnie are helping create new jobs.
Ralph and Bonnie are proud grandparents to 13 grandchildren and truly believe there is no richer life than being bound together by love of family. In fact, they turned their family room into a dining room with enough seating for 25 people, all grandchildren included.
“We have love, passion and enjoyment in all aspects of our life and career. To us, it is all about God, family and friends,” Bonnie said.