On Sunday, September 11, former Representative Vinal George Carey passed away at the age of 88. Representative Carey served the 36th District of Delaware for 26 years beginning in 1986. His seat in the Delaware legislature is now held by Representative Harvey Kenton who succeeded Representative Carey when he chose not to seek reelection in 2010.
“For the second time in recent weeks, I’ve said ‘goodbye’ to a friend and confidant and the Milford area has lost a part of what makes it special,” Representative Kenton said. “George Carey was forthright, plainspoken and had a wisdom that was informed by a simple pragmatism. In short, he was the embodiment of Sussex County and our community is poorer for his passing.” Representative Carey is the second Delaware legislator to pass in recent weeks as Representative Jack Peterman passed away on August 10.
Representative Carey was a strong supporter of the Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Program which has preserved almost 120,000 acres of farmland in Delaware. The legislation has been cited as one of the most successful initiatives of its kind in the country. He successfully sponsored legislation to reform the extensive tax ditch system in Delaware in order to eliminate encroachment problems. His legislation “grandfathered” structures that had been placed in tax ditch right-of-way areas when those tax ditches were not disclosed during title searches or permitting. Representative Carey was a member of the Joint Bond Bill Committee, played a key role in funding the Delaware Veteran’s Home, served on the House Energy, Natural Resources, Capital Infrastructure and Agricultural Committees.
“George Carey was truly a one-of-a-kind type of legislator,” Senator Gary Simpson said. “He was always so full of life and could bring a smile to your face even on those days when you really didn’t feel like smiling. His down-to-Earth witticisms always left everyone with a hearty laugh, and his common-sense solutions to problems were usually right on the mark.”
He was born May 2, 1928 and married Jeanette Messick in 1948. The couple had three children, Dennis, Dale and Karen. Carey Farms dates back to the late 1800s when Representative Carey’s grandfather, a blacksmith, farmed 80 acres of land. His parents, Vinal and Hessie Phillips Carey, purchased the farm in 1930. After completing high school, Representative Carey farmed with his father while also purchasing land on his own. Eventually, he owned almost 1,000 acres in the Milford area where the family raised crops, chickens and, until 1995, dairy cows. The farm was placed in farmland preservation in 1997. Dale and Dennis Carey both worked with their father on the farm while their sister, Karen Carey-Wilkerson, entered the teaching profession. She passed away in 2014.
According to his colleagues, Representative Carey became one of the most colorful members of the legislature, using his gift of a “wry sense of humor that often cut to the bone of a debate.” State House Minority Leader Danny Short of Seaford said that Representative Carey was never given to making speeches or seeking attention, but when he spoke, people listened.
Representative Carey belonged to many different organizations in the Milford area, including the Milford Chamber of Commerce, the Delmarva Poultry Improvement Association, the Milford Historical Society, the Delaware Bay & River Oversight Committee, Friends of the Milford Library and the Friends of the Milton Library. He was a member of Slaughter Neck Methodist Church. At one time, he was the only full-time farmer serving in the Delaware State House.
“He was one of the last full-time farmers to serve in the State Capital and agriculture lost one of its most ardent supporters when he decided to retire,” Senator Simpson said. “Without hesitation, I enjoyed our years together in the Legislature and my prayers are with Jeanette and the rest of the family as they grieve through their loss. Rest in peace, my friend.”
A viewing will be held from 6 to 8 PM on Wednesday, September 14 at Rogers Funeral Home in Milford. The funeral will be held at the Slaughter Neck United Methodist Church in Argos Corner at 11 AM the following day, Thursday, September 15. There will be no viewing at the funeral service. Interment will be in the church cemetery.