As good with a wrench as he was with a gavel, Wilford “Will” Carey died Feb. 3, leaving a long legacy of community service. The attorney, judge and car collector was 76.
Carey served as legal counsel for Hood River County and numerous jurisdictions in eastern Oregon, and served for 37 years as municipal court judge for the City of Hood River.
“He will be sorely missed,” said Wayne Annala, whose firm Carey joined in 1973 (now Annala Carey Baker Thompson and VanKoten.) “We will have to redouble our effort and some of us have to work even longer hours than we’re now working.”
Survivors include his wife, Sheryl. A memorial service is planned for Feb. 9. Turn to page A6 for a full obituary.
Carey collected and restored vintage cars for many years, and filled a large garage with his treasured vehicles. Every year he would drive one of his cars in the Hood River July 4 parade, often as escort to that year’s Grand Marshal.
“As far as I knew, almost every client he had and everybody he bumped into, even if they were not clients or his opposition, before his relationship had seasoned too much, they liked him. Some really liked him,” Annala said.
Ron Rivers, chair of the Hood River County Board of Commissioners, at Monday’s meeting said Carey was a “friend of the community” who served an important role.
“We lost a real valuable person this weekend,” Rivers said. “He was my personal lawyer for decades and I’m sure he was a lawyer for some of the people on the county commission.
“I’ll never forget Will. He was a character. He was always there for us as commissioners,” Rivers said.
“City of Hood River staff was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Judge Will Kenneth Carey this past weekend,” stated a Monday email from the City of Hood River.
“Will Carey will be remembered by City staff for his sincere caring for all defendants who entered his courtroom and for his longstanding commitment to our community.”
Carey served in Vietnam as an army captain, where he received military honors for injuries sustained during the Tet Offensive in 1968. Carey was also an active member in many service organizations, including the American Legion, Rotary, Columbia Gorge Opportunity Connections, and the Crag Rats Mountain Rescue.
In a 2001 profile in the Hood River News, then-Police Chief Rich Younkins said, “Will Carey looks at individuals rather than grouping everybody together.
“He determines, based on his read of the person, whether the individual would benefit more by a stern lecture and small fine or whether it’s someone who needs a stiffer fine. He’s just always been there for us and for the community.”
And then there were the cars. He had a garage full of them, and restoring old vehicles was his passion and therapy, he told the Hood River News in 1981.
A graduate of the University of Oregon law school, Carey and his wife, Sheryl, a legal secretary, moved to Hood River in the fall of 1972. Carey served as deputy District Attorney until November 1973, when he joined the Annala Lockwood law firm.
In 1974 Carey was appointed to both the hood River County Chamber of Commerce and as chairman of the Republican County Committee.
He served as Cascade Locks’ legal counsel from 1982 to 2008, and as Hood River County counsel from 1991 to the present.
“We will sincerely notice he is gone; he was a very integral part of all of us as a group and we will have to keep scrambling to provide his services,” said Annala, who brought Carey aboard when the firm was known as Annala and Lockwood.
Asked if it was he who hired Carey when the young attorney joined his firm, Annala said, “Among lawyers, you can say that very little ‘hiring’ goes on. It is usually a matter of joining forces with someone in a way that meets everyone’s needs. We were equals.”
Following Carey’s death, Hood River Municipal Court was cancelled on Monday, Feb. 5.
Municipal Court has been postponed until Tuesday, Feb.13. People with matters before the court are advised to call 541-386-3942 if alternative scheduling arrangements are needed. Judge Pro Tem Ruben Cleaveland will serve on an interim basis.
Carey “enjoyed the fact that he was liked, always felt a little bad if people didn’t think the world of him. In our business you’re going to get at cross-purposes, and you can’t be a judge in Hood River without a few people being really mad at you when you were forced to sock it to them for an unreasonable fine for blowing a stop sign,” Annala said.
Careys’ clients included Wasco, Sherman, Grant, and Gilliam counties and cities and ports from Hood River east including Condon, Arlington, and The Dalles.
“He liked doing that, and we used to kind of chide him for that,” Annala said. “He’d drive all night and arrive somewhere just in time to get started. We’d ask him, ‘Do we need quite so many municipalities that far east of us?’ He never had a very specific response. He’d say something, like ‘They asked me to take the job and I said would and I don’t want to let them down.’”
That far-flung service reflected his Ontario and Idaho upbringing, according to Annala.
“He’d stayed rooted. He was pretty well thought of even by lawyers in downtown Portland,” he said.
“He regarded himself as an eastern Oregon young man,” Annala said. “He never had a moment’s doubt that he was eastern Oregon, through and through. He could blend with and get along with anyone from anywhere in eastern Oregon, because he was one of them. He didn’t put on the pretense of wearing boots, but he was eastern Oregonian. It was one the keys to his success.”
A 1981 Kaleidoscope by staff writer Bob Leung featured several local car enthusiasts, and a photo of Carey posing with his award-winning, and rare, 1956 Chevrolet Nomads.
“People that collect cars look at it as a better investment than putting money in the bank. It’s a lot more fun, too,” Carey was quoted.
“My job as an attorney has a lot of pressures. Going out to work on a car is my kind of relaxation.”
The article stated, “Carey walks into the dimly-lit room where his restored cars are and beings pulling off the cover of one of his prized cars, ala Dr. Frankenstein’s unveiling of his wonderous monsters. He walks past each of his cars, carefully explaining each one; s uniqueness, and stops at a 1957 Bel Air Hardtop, with a 283-cubic engine and 283-horsepower, the first time in automobile history the horsepower matched the size of the engine.”