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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow Friends, community, Guard salute Bill Carey

Friends, community, Guard salute Bill Carey

SOLEMN SOUND: Bagpipers Alexander B. Mich and Ronald Tl. Baker played "Amazing Grace" at the funeral of Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Willard K. Carey. They are members of the Oregon State Defense Force Bagpipe Band. (Observer photo/KELLY WARD).
SOLEMN SOUND: Bagpipers Alexander B. Mich and Ronald Tl. Baker played "Amazing Grace" at the funeral of Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Willard K. Carey. They are members of the Oregon State Defense Force Bagpipe Band. (Observer photo/KELLY WARD).

By T.L. Petersen

Observer Staff Writer

As nearly 500 people slowly moved away from Saturdays memorial service for Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Willard K. Carey at La Grandes National Guard Armory, a chilly strand of spring wind flitted across the buildings roof and lifted the American flag, hung at half-mast, out into a last salute.

It seemed fitting, somehow, that the wind wasnt gusty enough to lift all the flags, hung on light poles. Just the main flag the flag in the leadership position.

Filling the gymnasium, and then moving outside to complete the ceremony with full military honors, Bill Careys family, friends, military staff and fellow attorneys said farewell to the man described again and again as a family man and the perfect example of a citizen-soldier.

Carey, a La Grande native, civic leader and National Guard leader, died May 19 from lung cancer. He was 71.

He was a great Oregonian, a great teacher, a great military man, a great family man and a great citizen-soldier, said Maj. Gen. Alexander Burgin, adjutant general of the Oregon National Guard, as he opened the ceremonies.

But Carey was many things to many people, a theme of those speaking Saturday. During the homily, Rev. Susan Verner Smith-Allan of St. Peters Episcopal Church recalled that in his last days, Careys wife had brought a bouquet of roses into his room. Smith-Allen recalled that he asked his family if they saw the roses see in them the love, beauty, grace and power of our Lord he told them. By Gods grace, Smith-Allen said, he was an honorable man.

Maj. Gen. Raymond Rees, vice-chief of the National Guard Bureau from Washington, D.C., and originally from Helix, said Carey enjoyed everyone, and everyone enjoyed him. He was comfortable at every level, and a leader at every level.

Carey had an uncanny ability to see the needs of the future, Rees said, remembering that for several decades those in the ranks of the local and regional National Guard thought that postings and assignments seemed to be made using a Ouija board. As it turned out, Carey was behind those decisions, often planning and shaping careers and events far into the future regarding the National Guard, said Rees, who had led the Oregon National Guard until his appointment in Washington, D.C.

He had a deep-down goodness. He was a born leader and a steadfast friend, added retired Brig. Gen. Wallace P. Carson Jr., chief justice of the Oregon Supreme Court. When I close my eyes, Ill see his smile.

Careys brother, Robert Hopkins Carey of Lake Oswego, ended the celebration of life portion of the ceremony, focusing, between pauses to wipe his eyes and catch his breath, on the family man he saw surrounded by his wife and children during his final battle with cancer.

To the haunting sounds of a pair of bagpipers playing Amazing Grace, the military honors began outside the armory. First a prayer, and then a 21-gun salute by members of the Adjutant Generals Select Honor Guard from Salem brought everyone to attention. Nearly absolute silence paid tribute to Carey as retired Chief Warrant Officer Earl Barton of Portland played Taps, ending as jets from the 142nd Fighter Wing of the Oregon Air National Guard out of Portland flew into sight from the Wallowas and disappeared over the Blue Mountains.

A final resting place for Carey is still to be determined and will be announced at a later time.

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