It amazes me to think I have known John Carey and his lovely wife, Pat for over a half-century.
By Karen T. Butler
It amazes me to think I have known John Carey and his lovely wife, Pat for over a half-century. That is especially hard for me to admit to since I have conditioned my family and friends to believe that I am “eternally nineteen.” Nonetheless, I have known John since the time we were all young and very eager. Not that we have lost that, but “the bloom is off the rose” as the saying goes.
My first recollections are of John looking the part of “the Philadelphia lawyer,” three-piece suit and all. He was rather handsome, I might add. The fact of the matter is that he grew up in Philadelphia, so I am sure that had something to do with it. I always remember the vest; most people did not wear a vest. A vest seemed appropriate on John, and it worked well with the skinny tie.
John and Pat moved to Rye in 1958 and raised their four children here. For John, “Rye is the way it is because of location and people. I love the setting, and think of Rye as a year-round resort.” He added, “Much more can be said about the people, especially those who serve in our local government, in either an elected or appointed capacity. We are fortunate that our City Council members are unpaid.”
When I first met John, it was the 1960s, a time for new ideas. World War II had left folks mostly wanting peace and prosperity. The 1950s, here as across the country, was a sedate decade. By the 1960s, people wanted to change the world. The Civil Rights movement challenged everyone’s conscience. It was an exciting time, but also a rebellious one, heightened by anti-establishment rhetoric.
John always seemed to me to be a man on a mission, a good mission — to make the world, especially Rye, a better place. World War II had a huge impact on John.
His elder brother had political ambitions, but he died helping to drive the Wehrmacht out of eastern France. His brother’s supreme sacrifice inspired John to get into politics.
It was the early ‘60s. John Kennedy and Richard Nixon had battled it out for the Presidency. John and my brother-in-law, Tom Butler, were fervently trying to become Rye City Councilmen, and with that bring two-party government to Rye, a staunchly Republican town. With little in the way of financial resources, the only way to get the campaign going was to recruit supporters to deliver fliers and go door-to-door every week to discuss the issues. John had the ability to reach people. He expressed his impassioned views in a straightforward manner; he was serious, but never dreary.
He caught the attention of Howard Archer, editor of The Rye Chronicle, who in the October 31, 1963 issue, right before the election, wrote an editorial entitled, “Vote For The Man and Not the Party.”
“Rye is holding an election next Tuesday when the voters must decide between the aspiring candidates of the Democratic and Republican parties. Most every voter is registered with one or the other party and is usually quite steadfast in their loyalty. It is frequently inherited through generations without regard to party policy or the caliber of the candidates.
“There are weaknesses in always voting the straight party ticket, which is particularly applicable in the small community where the qualifications of the men running for office should be the prime consideration.
“Our advice to the voters in Tuesday’s election is to vote for the man and not the party. It should not make a whit of difference in providing good government for Rye whether a man serving on the City Council is a Republican or Democrat. They are elected to represent all the people and unless they do so that are unfaithful to their trust.
“…we are not such a hidebound Republican as to believe that a Democrat or two on the City Council would do any harm, and controversial opinion might do some good….”
It started to rain lightly just as the polls closed on Election Night, November 5, 1963. Someone said: “That is good luck.” And good luck it was. No one would ever have imagined that a victory was in store for John Carey and Tom Butler that night, but it was.
I learned a lot from John Carey and others that year. I realized that what I believed in was important, and I could do something about it.
As a city councilman and later as an outstanding mayor, not to mention his years as a trial judge and serving at the United Nations, John Carey stayed true to his mission to honorably serve in public office.
To this day, he remains optimistic about Rye’s future: “Rye will adjust successfully to future changes, even as drastic as climate change and rising sea levels, with courage and imagination, always safeguarding the welfare of its residents.”