Saturday, January 7, 2012
MILTON-FREEWATER - Rob Carter would have been mortified, family members believe.
His funeral on Friday at Milton Adventist Church enjoyed a massive attendance that may have kept more than a few wondering who was left to run the town.
Attendees wore suits, hunting jackets, high and shiny heels, steel-toed boots, baseball caps and elegant coifs. Farmers, infants, veterans, firefighters, business people and family groups poured into the building from both sides, creating a line that inched along for nearly an hour.
In what was leaning-room only, Rob Carter fans crammed into every nook of the 400-person sanctuary and filled the side rooms, foyer and hallway of the church, to praise and pay the beloved businessman the attention he shunned in life.
A week earlier, Carter, 58, was gunned down in his plumbing shop as he dove to save the life of an employee. On Sunday the man police suspect of shooting him, George C. Craigen, was arrested in Walla Walla.
Friday's service began with a roar as a helicopter bearing Carter's ashes touched down in the soccer field next to the large church on Highway 11 at the outskirts of his hometown. As a group of about 40 family members watched from the parking lot, dry grass and leaves took to the air under the chaos of the whirring chopper blades.
Silence fell, however, as the simple wooden box was carried by Travis Trumbull through military ceremony, up the center aisle of the church and placed on an altar. The Carter family followed, equally silent aside from the snuffling of tears.
With that, "Amazing Grace," played on bagpipe by Daniel Winn, filled the space with what was both joyous and mournful notes. As Winn walked, attendees fell into the vacated side aisle to kneel for a seat.
What ensued was more than two hours of prayers, remembrances, video tributes and more music. Those who spoke of Carter, including daughters McKenzie Marly and Morgan Carter Allen, were able to offer a side dish of laughter to the main entree of tears. And all attested to the man's enduring faith in God and close relationship to Christ.
Phrases describing Carter's life were as varied as the audience. "Stubborn, moral, detail oriented, community service, beyond reproach, red-white-and-blue, the "fix-it" guy, humble, hands rough as rocks, honorable and the greatest friend one could ever ask for. One after one, speakers provided glimpses into the man they knew, they cherished and they will miss. He was, judging by the speeches, a mentor to anyone wise enough to seek out his counsel.
Indeed, even those not so wise, Marly recalled. "Dad was always a simple man and never took the easy way out." While a teen, Carter's oldest daughter begged to be allowed to drive herself to Portland. Her parents finally relented, but in three phases. The first was learning to change a tire, the second was changing a tire in the dark. "Phase three," Marly told the group now grinning. "Learn to change the tire in the dark and in the rain. Since it was always raining in Portland, he took a garden hose and sprayed it on me. In the dark. I changed that tire in a downpour. At 16, I was not the most grateful person for this, but when I got to Portland and got a flat tire, I changed it in no time. In the dark, in the rain."
Carter had only been temporarily stationed in the community, reminded the Rev. Duane Geyer. "Thank you for loaning Rob to us," the pastor told God in his closing prayer. "He's back to you now."
As people craned to watch, "Taps" was bugled out and the American flag - due Rob's family for his U.S. Army service - was folded in military precision and presented to Rob's widow, Sally Carter. People then gathered themselves together, many headed for a memorial dinner at the Milton-Freewater Junior Show grounds.
Before doing so, however, most hugged another, seemingly taking the urging of the funeral's presenters to heart - continue to show the love of Rob Carter every day in every way.