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Robert Harrison Carey, Sr.
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Obituary for Robert Harrison Carey, Sr.

Robert Harrison “Bob” Carey, a man delighted by his family, loyal to his friends, and proud of his Irish heritage, who filled any room he entered with a big smile and a bigger laugh, died on December 20, 2017.

He is survived by his children, Judy Carey Burton (Edson Nye Burton, Jr.) of Lisle, Ill., Elizabeth Lee Carey (Terrance James Linskey) of St. Paul, Minn., and Robert Harrison Carey, Jr. of Bethesda, Md.; and, his brothers James J. Carey of Alexandria, Va., and Dennis J. Carey of St. Petersburg, FL . His sister Mary Jane “Non” Carey Hough of Tallahassee, Fla. survived him by 13 days.

Also survived by those who call him “Baum,” his grandchildren: Edson Nye “Tripp” Burton, III (Sara Lynn Majewski Burton) and Carey Lee Burton (Mitchell Ryan Powers); Elizabeth Nester Carey-Linskey and Peter James Carey Linskey (Kara Schrapp Linskey); and, Robert H. “Kitts” Carey, III and Partridge Nunn “Ridge” Carey; and, his great grandchildren Elaina Lynn Burton and Julianne Nye Burton. He was preceded in death by his wife of 61 years, June Emm Kitts Carey; his father Robert Emmett Carey; and, his mother Ruth Margaret Harrison Carey Johnson.

Born in 1927 in Poi Sippi, Wis., Bob established his legendary work ethic early in life, working on his family’s dairy farm. As his father’s health failed, young Bob stepped in to run the farm, working long hours before and after school. One of his favorite memories of farming was driving the tractor down the crop rows, rousting out pheasant and grouse, which he would shoot with his shotgun. After hitting and destroying the vertical muffler on the front of the tractor three times, his father took away the gun.

Bob was an accomplished dancer, learning how to dance with his sister Non during high school at Green Lake dance halls, which he’d walk to barefoot in order minimize the wear on his good dancing shoes. Bob carried his dancing skills into his college years, when he taught ballroom dancing to supplement his income, and which would later have a dramatic impact on meeting his wife.

After graduating from Berlin (Wis.) High School in 1945, Bob worked on the family farm and in highway construction until enlisting in the Navy in August 1945, one week before the Japanese surrender. With his entry into the Navy delayed until 1946, he completed basic training in San Diego. While in basic training, he was able to properly pronounce and spell the complex name of a fellow recruit of Polish descent, an aptitude that earned him the position of recruit company clerk, which led to him being rated as a Yeoman (administrative clerk) for his Navy specialty.

Because of that rating and because he could type, he was assigned to the Bureau of Naval Personnel in Washington, D.C. where he handled officer records until his early discharge in 1947 as the nation demobilized after World War II.

Using his GI Bill, Bob enrolled at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. to study business administration. He pledged Alpha Tau Omega fraternity, and, using his well-honed musical skills, performed in the student-written and produced Waa-Mu show, a Northwestern theatrical tradition that continues to this day.

In August 1950, Bob was recalled to active duty in response to the Korean conflict, and assigned to the Naval Air Technical Training Center in Jacksonville, Fla. While at a USO event in Jacksonville, Bob met June, the woman who would become his wife. He asked her to dance, but she turned him down. Bob decided to show her what she was missing by dancing with all the other ladies. She was duly impressed, and she accepted his next request.

There was still one hurdle Bob had to clear before he could capture June’s heart—she was engaged to a man back home, where she returned with every intent to marry him. Bob was medically retired from the Navy in May 1952 and returned to his studies at Northwestern. Finally, in January of 1953 June’s father told her she needed to go find “that Yankee,” and she got on the next train overnight to Chicago from West Virginia, leaving only a phone message with Bob’s roommate as to when she’d arrive at the Chicago train station. Bob was there that next morning, and the rest is history. He and June were married in her family home in Princeton, West Virginia on March 27, 1953.

That same year, after Bob graduated from Northwestern University, he and June moved to the Detroit area, where he started his career in real estate and land development with Thompson Brown. Bob became president of the company in 1963. For more than 40 years Bob was a leader in the real estate and land development industry, serving as president of the Michigan Association of REALTORS, Regional Vice President of the National Association of Realtors the following year, and as an active member of the Urban Land Institute for many years.

Retiring in 2000, Bob and June headed back to the Chicago area to be closer to their children and grandchildren. He loved spending time on the Riverwalk in Naperville, eating at his favorite restaurant Rayme’s in Lisle, and trying out every ice cream flavor-of-the-day at Culver’s. As a resident of Brookdale Senior Living since 2007, he served as Secretary of the Resident’s Board, sang in the choir, played poker with his buddies, and enjoyed his after-dinner cigars.

He and his family are forever grateful to his devoted caregivers, who made it possible for him to live independently for the past 10 years.

A celebration of Bob’s life will be held on his beloved St. Patrick’s Day – Saturday, March 17, 2018 at 11 a.m. at Friedrich-Jones Funeral Home & Cremation Services, 44 S. Mill St., Naperville, Illinois. Please join the family for visitation beginning at 10 a.m. and for a luncheon following the service at Cress Creek Country Club, 1215 St. George Dr., Naperville. All are welcome. Memorials preferred to the USO in memory of Bob and June Carey, in honor of their love story that started at a USO dance.


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