Friends And Foes Alike 'Rise In Support' Of Warren Carey's Legacy
Jun 20, 2016 08:19PM
By Bill Gilman
Warren and Elizabeth Carey
One word they don't use is "pretense."
In a world in which most everyone wears a mask of some type for one reason or another, Carey had neither the time nor the inclination to hide his feelings about any topic or individual.
"You always knew where you stood with Warren," said Bruce Panilaits, chairman of the Tewksbury Board of Selectmen. "Good or bad, there was never any doubt."
Panilaitis got to know Carey when the two fought on the same side during the contentious "Slots Parlor" debate in 2013. Having earned his respect, Carey chose to help Panilaitis in his campaign for the Board of Selectmen the following year.
Carey, 80, passed away Saturday morning, surrounded by his family, in his beloved home on Langley Lane. He and his wife Liz had just marked their 60th wedding anniversary on June 16.
Though never elected to the Board of Selectmen or the School Committee, Carey was deeply woven into the fabric of town governance. He served 17 years as Town Treasurer and Collector, as well as serving as Town Historian, a member of the Historical Commission, and Chairman of the Democratic Town Committee.
"Warren was a watchdog for the town of Tewksbury who took tremendous pride in how the town functioned on all levels. He had tremendous detailed knowledge and was sometimes controversial in his positions," said Selectmen David Gay, who had known Carey for 20 years and had served alongside him on the DTC. "He was a Tewksbury classic in every sense of the word, and his noticeable input will be missed for many years to come."
"I admired his dedication and love for the town of Tewksbury," said School Committee Chairperson Krissy Polimeno. "He set a great example for everyone to follow. He will be truly missed."
While Carey was involved in campaigns on the state and national level, he knew how critical local politics are to the day-to-day lives of a town's residents. Because of his passion for Tewksbury and knowledge of its history and issues, his opinions were valued by voters and his endorsement sought by those running for office.
Selectman Todd Johnson met Carey close to 30 years ago, while working for State Sen. Pat McGovern. It didn't take long for Johnson to recognize the type of influence Carey wielded in Tewksbury.
"Over time, I learned that if you wanted to run for office here in Tewksbury, it was essentially a requirement that you needed to 'meet' with Warren to discuss your plan. Those meetings were more like Warren telling and you listening," said Johnson. "If you were fortunate to secure his support, it led to endorsers, yard signs, people to speak with, many votes of support, and of course Warren’s continuous stream of constructive criticisms of how you weren’t doing things correctly."
It would be wrong to think Carey hammered those on the opposite side of political battles, while using 'kid gloves' with his allies. The truth is, he was brutally frank with friend and foe alike.
"Those who know Warren knew that he was quick at times with criticism and sarcasm, but over the three years I served on the Finance Committee and last 10 years I’ve served as a selectman, I also learned, through the many late night calls after a selectmen’s meeting, that he had a heart of gold and truly enjoyed the give and take of discussion or debate," said Johnson. "Along the way, I learned that it was important to have those candid and direct conversations, and that Warren respected me for an honest debate, even when I disagreed with him or called him out."
Selectperson Anne Marie Stronach, a longtime friend of Warren and Liz Carey, echoed Johnson's sentiments and said Carey respected those who were just as frank and honest as he was.
"I am proud to call Warren my friend and always appreciated his open, honest conversations and most of all his ability to agree to disagree. I will miss his insight," said Stronach ."His memory will live in my heart which holds a special place for him. It is a sad day for Tewksbury. He was a great advocate."
For Tewksbury residents like Bonnie Spiegel, Carey was a passionate voice at the Annual Town Meeting, often saying things that others were to afraid to say publicly.
"He would stand up at Town Meetings, whether you agreed with him or not, and say things as it is! Never a phony word out of his mouth," said Spiegel. "He always said very eloquently what other people would not get up to say, in fear of being put down."
While he may have been a burr under the saddle of those who disagreed with him, he earned the respect of his adversaries due to his passion, commitment and love for the town of Tewksbury.
Former Selectman Doug Sears, a longtime rival, said he admired the work Carey did with organizing and mobilizing the Democratic Town Committee and his vast knowledge of Town Meeting procedure.
"While the Republican Town Committee could almost meet in a phone booth, the Democrat Town Committee met in Town Hall, and at Town Election fielded two competing slates of candidates," said Sears. "Warren's passion for governance enabled him to run Town Meeting from the floor: 'Point of Order ...!' He had a keen eye that spotted items in the warrant that he firmly believed merited clarification and discussion."
Former Selectman Jim Wentworth, a staunch conservative Republican, knew he would never get Carey's endorsement when he ran for office, but that didn't stop the two from finding a connection in their passion for the town.
"I had the opportunity to visit Warren and Liz at their house one day and when we started discussing the history of Tewksbury, you could see Warren light up. He love sharing pictures and stories about the unique history of our town and you could see his passion for this community," said Wentworth. "Warren and I disagreed a lot of the time on the way that the Selectmen and Town Manager were dealing with the ongoing challenges facing Tewksbury. But, at the end of the day, we agreed on the fact that we both wanted to continue to do what’s best for the residents of this community."
In addition to his work in local government and politics, Carey was a member of the Historical Society and the Tewksbury Lions Club. At one time, he also served as a call firefighter.
When not embroiled in politics, Carey had a softer side, shown in his love for his family. He and Liz have eight children, 28 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Carey was also a music aficionado, with a collection of more than 200,000 classic 45 records. In fact, he was featured in this article on antiquetrader.com in 2013.
Carey will be laid to rest Friday in Tewksbury Cemetery. Calling hours are Thursday, June 23, from 3-8 p.m. at the Farmer & Dee Funeral Home, 16 Lee St., Tewksbury. At the request of the Carey family, all attending Warren’s funeral are asked to meet at 4 p.m. on Friday, June 24, at St. William’s Church.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Carey's memory may be made to the Tewksbury Food Pantry, 999 Whipple Road, Tewksbury, MA 01876.