WATER VALLEY – A tradition from decades earlier will be revived for the Water Valley Christmas parade as grand marshals Cam and Julie Tyler will greet the crowd from the fire department’s vintage pumper. Previously in service in the city from 1937 to 1971, the GMC truck was also the perch for marshals in Christmas parades 50 years ago.
The pumper’s return to limited service will be a deserving post for this year’s marshals who have deep roots in the community, impacting countless lives through their love for people. Julie (Ingram) Tyler is a life-long resident of Water Valley and Cam has called it home since 1990. He grew up in Starkville and Oxford, moving as his father coached football at different colleges.
“But this was the place I came to visit for holidays and the summer,” Cam explained about his childhood memories of Water Valley as he visited his grandparents. The couple’s paths first crossed as they were both working at Crawford and Associates after graduating from college.
“Our grandparents had been friends and our parents knew each other, but we had never come in contact,” Cam explained. “It is still up in the air, who was pursuing who. I will have to admit, if I wasn’t pursuing her, it was only because I was to chicken,” he joked.
Fast forward three decades and their lives together have been meaningful, starting with a family that includes three children, a granddaughter and another arriving later this month. For Cam, it is difficult to report about years of commitment to the community without first examining his role as President of Mechanics Bank since 2008. He has strived to help build the bank, which in turn means investing in businesses in the community, a role that has been a catalyst for the Main Street resurgence during the last 15 years. The bank’s investment during Cam’s leadership also includes a multi-million dollar renovation of the Main Street home office that was completed in 2015, a dream that started with his predecessor. That said, Cam is quick to steer the story away from individual accolades and instead wastes no time crediting others involved at the bank during his tenure.
Julie worked briefly as a home economist after they were married before being a mom occupied more and more of her time. She also helps with her family’s business, Ingram Cattle Company, stepping up to help her brother after their parents passed away.
This is the point in the couple’s story that is so intertwined that it bears telling together. They both have served on the Water Valley Area Chamber of Commerce board multiple terms. Julie has served on the Water Valley Main Street Association Board as their efforts to help with the growth of Main Street overlapped. They have also logged more than two decades with youth ministry at First Baptist Church leading Sunday school classes for high school age kids – Cam teaches the boys and Julie the girls. Julie’s service includes cooking Wednesday night supper at the church during the school year for almost three decades and more recently also assuming cooking duties for the Tuesday morning prayer breakfast.
The relationships they have forged with the youth in the community is what makes their hearts sing – countless meals, mission trips, church services and simply spending time helping mentor them.
“We believe that everybody has a ministry, not just people called to full-time ministry,” Cam explains. “The community work and economic effort are so important, but the place we have been really blessed is through those students.”
“It is more about the blessings we receive because there is nothing like seeing a youth group worship, it is something you can’t easily convey. It just blesses my heart and I am thankful to be a part of it,” Julie adds.
Part of their mission has been making their house an open door for youth they have ministered to and others they have connected with along the way.
“They may not go to our church, but we know them because this is a small town. We are connected because we are all Water Valley Blue Devils,” Cam notes.
Not surprisingly these relationships evolve with the constant stream of high school students over the last 20 years, bonds that continue as earlier attendees reach adulthood and start their own families. And that is where their story comes full circle.
“We say at Mechanics Bank that we are about relationships. I get people in here all the time that are not here for banking,” Cam continues. “They are here because there is a relationship, hopefully.”
The interactions can also just be a friendly passing wave, as Cam points to his office window.
“Multiple times during the week somebody bangs on this window and it is a guy that went through my class or a girl that went through her class. They may just be waving at me, but that is a blessing,” he continues.
But Julie sums it up best, reflecting on all the years together with so many youth in the community.
“Lots and lots of laughter. Lots of tears. Lots of hugging. But lots of fun.”