Pride In The Past, Faith In The Future: A Dad’s Gift To His Daughters

On March 13, 1946, Dad began his 27 year career with the Ohio State Patrol.   What started out as a way to raise a young family in hard times became his life-long passion.  Three generations in our family have grown up on stories from Dad that were really lessons of life learned from his service to the law.   And I believe my love of the law and service to others came from him and I hope I have passed it on to others.

For three years, ending in 2008,  Dad fought cancer that defied all odds, amazing his doctors, his family, and friends.  In  January we learned that the cancer had returned with a vengeance.  And as the word spread that “the Captain’s” time was short, Dad was flooded with calls and visits from family and friends who wanted one last story and one last talk, and dad made many calls himself to tell more stories.  It was as if he wanted to make sure we knew how important it was to live life with these values that he learned as a patrolman.

On a warm beautiful North Carolina morning in May our entire family had gathered in Raleigh, North Carolina to celebrate the marriage of my daughter to an Ohio State Buckeye grad (which Dad was extremely grateful for).  Dad insisted the celebration go on despite their inability to be there; the first family gathering they had missed.   And as if in anticipation of the inevitable he talked to each one of us daughters the week before and told us again how much he loved us. He told us not to be afraid and to do what was right and to take care of each other. It seems quite fitting or perhaps planned that Dad left us that Memorial Weekend with the same dignity he had lived his life.

We three sisters firmly believe his plan was for us all together as a family so we could strengthen each other.  Just as I am sure he imagined, we spent the day re-telling his stories to each other about The captain, the patrol, and the men and women he served with.  Dad also taught us that laughter can make the unbearable bearable and despite our grief, the house rocked with laughter throughout the day.  We all told our favorite patrol stories and what it was like growing up as children of an Ohio State patrolman (not an easy feat then or now).  For the next two weeks each of us struggled to find some peace in our loss of this man who so influenced us and our families.

On June 8, 2008, I sat in an over-flowing church in Ohio for his memorial service. All of our family and Wilma’s family were there, his many friends, his beloved state patrol family, and the troopers who turned out to make the final journey with him made our family complete. I took strength as the troopers slowly raised their white gloved hand in final salute

Dad taught us by stories and exposure to men and women who serve others through the legal profession that the law is first and foremost about a sense of integrity that you do the right thing.  It is easy to forget this when you get into the day to day workings of your career. You have to hold true to your own core value that you will do what is right even when others don’t.  To do less is to dishonor what you and thousands of others do day in and day out.

He also taught us that the law is about having a strong sense of fairness, righting a wrong, and of allowing the road to justice to start with you. What matters is that you understand that justice can’t be measured and that your role is to make sure that in the end it survives.  It does not matter what your legal career is, it doesn’t change the fact that you are part of the laws that make this nation work. Don’t underestimate what you do.

Finally he made sure we understood that the law is about admitting wrong when you are wrong, taking responsibility for your actions, and allowing others to do the same.   The law only works when it works both ways.  We can’t be all right and we can’t be all wrong.  The law simply demands that we understand and make it work.   And what matters is the act of responsibility not the action that precipitated the event.

Because you get  caught up into the daily efforts of getting the job done in spite of over-whelming odds I think it is easy to forget how privileged you are to be part of the law.  It is a path or a journey that will define you in the end.   You might never know what one thing you did that righted a wrong or made a difference but trust me, you cannot be a part of the law and not have this happen.  It means you have to keep yourself focused and your pride centered.

The week before Dad died, I wanted to make sure he understood how much we admired who he was and he simply told me being a part of the law and service to others made him the man he had become.

As the group of solemn state troopers led the procession from the church and stood guard over his remains, I felt a sense of peace that what was begun for Dad with his beloved Ohio State Patrol should rightly end with them standing by his side and ours.

I now realize that my dad had no choice but to be who he was.  If you are truly into doing what you do for all the right reasons then you too have no choice as well. You must honor the law and hold yourselves to the highest standards of integrity, honor, and commitment to be the very best you can be.  It is a duty imposed on you by a higher authority.

I see the law changing daily.  I see good men and women become great men and women simply by being a part of the law.   And I have seen some who never quite get it, but those that do seem to have a passion for the law. They wear the cloak of justice with a great deal of pride and they refuse to allow others to tarnish it. And they understand that if you have a passion for the law then you did not choose the law, the law chose you.

Inscribed on Dad’s grave marker are the Ohio State Patrol Flying Wheel and a simple phrase which has carried his family through thick and thin.   We believe it honors all of those who have gone before him, who now carry on the tradition, and who some day may choose an area of the law as a career.  The marker simply has his unblemished name,  Dwight M Carey followed by: Pride in the Past, Faith in the Future.

Presented at the 100th Anniversary Celebration of the Ohio State Patrol, Columbus, Ohio, 2008, with all three daughters present.