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    Bonita Springs children’s book author battles illness to create joy with whale tales – Naples Daily News

    A debilitating disease forced Capt. Robert “Bob” Cameron to retire from his position as a BP oil executive in 2006.

    In recent years, he works less with oil and more with another kind of black gold — ink — as the author of the children’s book series, “Tuckey the Nantucket Whale.”

    Friends, like fellow Capt. George Sparacino, with whom Cameron graduated from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at King’s Point, New York, know Cameron to be an unmitigated force of integrity.

    “That’s why we’re friends,” Sparacino said. “Anybody that ever needed help in our class from school, this guy was there for people.”

    Cameron’s recent work comes despite the challenges of his condition: superficial siderosis. Superficial siderosis is characterized by an accumulation of iron-containing pigments in places like the brain surface, the brainstem and the spinal cord, according to a 2000 report updated in 2019 from Dr. Douglas J. Lanska of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. Common symptoms, according to the report, can include hearing loss, limb weakness, and nervous system degeneration.

    Cameron, 68, said with his condition and its treatment, his short-term memory is failing him.

    “It’s a lot of taking notes, putting checklists together. Otherwise, you forget,” he said. “You lose focus.”

    Writing despite Cameron’s illness, Sparacino said, “shows a huge amount of internal strength.”

    Even so, writing the Tuckey the Nantucket Whale series has provided him a new focus. From his summer home in Nantucket, Massachusetts, he enjoyed watching whales breach and spout in the Atlantic Ocean. The first book in the series, “A Day With Tuckey The Nantucket Whale,” published in 2015, took readers around to the titular whale’s favorite spots on the island.

    Encouraged by a positive critical reception, Cameron continued penning the children’s books, all illustrated by local Nantucket artist Rod Cole. He’s published five books so far.

    The latest, “Flag Football with Tuckey the Nantucket Whale,” features (with his permission) New England Patriot’s Coach Bill Belichick, and it earned the Mom’s Choice Gold Award from the Mom’s Choice Awards, which evaluates products and services created to educate children and families.

    One copy of the book, signed by Belichick himself, was donated to Homebase SWFL, a local veteran support organization, for use in an auction. Cameron frequently supports Homebase SWFL by donating portions of his proceeds.

    In some ways, Cameron’s books keep alive the memory of his son, Ryan, who died of cancer when he was 4. Cameron dedicated the second book in the series, “Kiteboarding With Tuckey the Nantucket Whale,” to Ryan.

    Robert “Rob” Cameron, Bob Cameron’s son, said the books have helped his dad just as he’s helped the community around him.

    “It really kind of keeps him focused and driven on something,” Rob Cameron said. “He definitely has a vision. He wants to share it with as many people as he can and bring some joy.”

    When he’s not writing another book from his home in Bonita Springs, Bob Cameron enjoys visiting his grandsons, Jakob and Nathan, in Illinois with his wife, Margi.

    “This guy: rock-solid, through and through. Never wavering. Never,” Sparacino said. “It’s not about him. It’s always about helping other people. 

    Andrew Atkins is a Naples Daily News features reporter. Contact him via email at andrew.atkins@naplesnews.com. To support work like Andrew’s, please consider subscribing: https://cm.naplesnews.com/specialoffer/

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