LTC Earl Craig Betts (RET), age 91, of Carlisle, just three months shy of his 92nd birthday, passed away peacefully in his sleep much more quickly than expected Thursday, February 8, 2018 at UPMC West Shore Pinnacle Hospital. After a long and brave battle with COPD; as all good soldiers do, he faded away into the evening twilight with dignity, courage and grace. A true soldier at heart, he lived out his life always putting Duty, Honor and Country first, along with making limitless sacrifices for his family.
He was born May 26, 1926 in KeoKuk, Iowa to the late Allen and Madelaine Betts, and was the widower after thirty five yrs of marriage to Frances (Black) Betts who passed June 28, 1992. He never remarried and remained a contented bachelor for the last twenty five years, while residing with his son, Scott A. Betts, in Carlisle; where they were frequently seen dining out as regulars at The Elks Club, Mayapple Fiddlers Restaurant, The Rustic Tavern, and the former Rillos Restaurant. They also shared their home with some furry friends, his beloved cocker spaniels through the years: Barney, Mandy, Sonny and Bartles. He was a true animal lover and his dogs accompanied him pretty much everywhere on many car rides for walks at the Carlisle Barracks Golf Course & Golf House and the Letort Stream Park, by the Carlisle Barracks Bowling Alley and former Officers Club Swimming Pool picnic area.
He grew up in Holtwood, PA of Lancaster County where he graduated from high school, then attending Bullis Prep School of Silver Springs, MD to receive an appointment into the USMA, West Point, NY. He always expressed very fond memories of growing up in the small idyllic town of Holtwood, in a simpler time where his father worked at the hydroelectric plant on the dam, and he enjoyed attending many high school reunions, even up until very recently. He then proudly attended and excelled at the United States Military Academy from (1945-1949), earning a B.S. in Military Science & Engineering, graduating with the “Class of 49” and The Long Gray Line. Through the years, he always kept in touch with his former classmates, and attended many functions as a member of “Founders Day Society/Class of 1949”, until learning that sadly many have passed on. He loved serving his country as an artillery officer: to include many career highlights during assignments as Battery Officer, 33d FA Bn, EUCOM, Germany(Aug 50-Jul 53); Commanding Officer, Battery B, 50th AAA(AW)(SF) Bn, AFFE, Korea (Aug56-Nov 57); Commanding Officer, Air Defense Nike Missile Unit, Btry D, 3d Msl Btn, 52d Arty, Hingham Air Force Base, Hull, Mass.(Apr 58-Jul 59);Tactical Officer for The Corps of Cadets, 1st Regt, USCC, West Point, N.Y.(Jul 60-Dec 63); while also attending the prestigious Command & Staff College, Quetta, Pakistan(Jan-May64) and U.S. Army Command & General Staff College, USACGSC, Fort Leavenworth, KS.(Jun 65-Feb 66); then honorably concluding his military career serving as Deputy Secretary, serving under General Gallagher at Root Hall, United States Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, PA(Jan 67-Jul 69), where he served with distinction, and especially enjoyed setting up the annual UN trips to New York City for the students and their families every November. He then made the difficult decision to retire in July of 1969, to reside permanently in his wife’s hometown of Carlisle, PA, primarily because his concern and regard for his wife’s health issues. He started off his civilian career working briefly in management at Reeves Hoffman Division, a Quartz Crystal Manufacturer Company, located in Carlisle, PA, before he began a rewarding career with the Pennsylvania State Liquor Control Board, serving as The Director of Retail Operations in 1970 for twenty yrs until retiring in 1990. Because he always felt that he had given up his first love to serve his country, cutting his military career short for personal family reasons, he was especially grateful for his second chance to utilize his military leadership skills at the state level with the PLCB, as he quickly fell right into place; always priding himself for running a tight ship, through reorganizing and streamlining major structural components in his chain of command, and was largely responsible for the redesigning & updating of the state liquor stores he visited and inspected throughout the state, as well as focusing on major merchandising aspects and displays, and increasing inventory by offering a greater selection of wines and liquors, in order to increase profit margins, enabling the state store system to thrive and compete in the current marketplace. It must be noted that he largely credited his success at the PLCB to his wingman and longtime assistant William B Schwartz, who joined him in 1974 and became like a second son to him.
Known fondly as “Craig” to his friends and family, he was often seen buzzing around town in his station wagon, with dogs in tow, making frequent trips to the commissary, golf house snack bar or craft shop for woodworking on post. He also loved cooking & fine wines, a sort of a galloping gourmet, so to say, and hosted many great steak dinners including his famous salads with homemade salad dressing & and many glasses of cabernet, on his prized and pristinely kept back porch, his favorite spot to spend time during the summer months. In addition, he was an avid and skilled oil and watercolor painter of landscapes and still life, with his favorite subject matter focusing on his love for painting the sea and ships. Not to mention, being a master woodworker of picture frames, furniture and historical replica battleship models of the Revolutionary War Era, with his prized achievement being his own creation of England’s “The HMS Victory Battleship”; which he worked on tirelessly for hours at a time in his extensive woodworking shop in his basement. He was a former member of St. John’s Episcopal Church of Carlisle, The Carlisle Country Club, The Carlisle Elks Club Lodge 578, The Carlisle Arts Learning Center, and The West Point Society of Central PA, as well as a generous donor to many local charitable foundations. After retirement, he especially enjoyed traveling cross country in his RV, to visit his brother Jim in Green Valley, AZ, right outside Tucson, where his parents had retired; in addition to making memorable camping trips in his RV to Chincoteague/Assateague bayside campground with daughter’s family and two grandsons. Later on, a new family tradition developed, with treasured memories of many yearly golfing/beach trips made to various resorts in Myrtle Beach, S.C., with son, daughter’s family & two grandsons, along with her father-in-law; with every trip centered around happy hours and dining out at the many restaurants on the strip such as the Carolina Roadhouse, various seafood buffets, and Merrell’s Inlet venues. One of his fondest and most meaningful experiences was being able to attend the Army/Navy Game, post 9/11 in November of 2001, with his big brother Jim, also a fellow West Pointer, Class of 1943, along with his daughter and husband & friends, hosted to luxury box seats by close family friend John Fowler Jr, the 4th.; afterwards being able to reunite with former classmates for a wonderfully fun-filled dinner at the historic & famous Bookbinders Restaurant in Philadelphia; where a three pound lobster was ordered by my dad, who at least shared it with the rest of us! We would especially like to thank our attorney and close family friend, John B. Fowler, the 3rd, for his support and friendship to my father for the last fifty years, it meant so much to him!
Towards the end of his journey for the last two years, he was very limited in energy as his body became starved of oxygen from the ravaging effects of COPD, but he continued to push on, never complaining, spending most of his time either watching Fox News in his kitchen while sipping his burgundy(always a hardcore conservative and huge Trump fan); or sitting in his library where he was still able to paint, using his pool table as an aisle, despite being left-handed, and unable to lift his left arm to paint due to nerve damage from a previous back surgery. Somehow, just pondering over his many paintings hung in his library gave him a great sense of pride, accomplishment and peace, and the will to go on for the son that had always needed him, for whom he selflessly carried on his back like a fellow wounded soldier across the battlefield, all the way until the end, always putting his own welfare and health second. For his daughter he also gave immeasurably: she recalls how he bought and helped dress her in new school dresses in first and second grade; as well as picking her up at the playground in first grade at Rice Elementary School, Mt Holly, to take her for stitches on her chin after she was bumped off a seesaw; not to mention a special homemade birthday cake with strawberry frosting prepared for her 7th birthday party celebration, which he planned all by himself at Forbes Ave. residence, Carlisle Barracks; these were challenging circumstances placing undue hardship on my father as a military officer, but couldn’t be avoided, caused by my mother’s absence due to illness. In addition, his daughter recalls how much she appreciated her dad’s flying out to be there with her for the birth of her first son, Craig, while residing at Camp Pendleton, CA Marine Corps Base; when her husband, Michael was deployed to The First Desert Storm War in Kuwait, in spring of 1991. The measure of a man can only truly be expressed through the hearts and minds of the family and friends who knew him the best. It should be said that he always exemplified the values of the Corps through a life well lived by demonstrating through example only the highest levels of excellence in character, loyalty, integrity, generosity, humility, valor and the strictest moral code. From the words of the West Point Alma Mater, engraved on the stone plaque at Delafield Pond & Lodge, donated by the “Class of 49”, “May It Be Said, Well Done; Be Thou At Peace”, a reference to Matthew 25:23. This soldier finally rested, soaring highly towards heavenly race among fields of angels, unencumbered by earthly limitations or physical maladies, looking downward onto memories of youth, marching on the parade field to the cadence of the battle rhythm as a young man, across “The Plain” which rises magnificently over the Hudson River; on a cold, snowy Thursday morning in February, just after twilight, stars gleaming brightly against this clear night to light his flight, with moonlight casting shadows upon the glistening white blanket warming the cadet chapel & cemetery; he looks onward, as the angelic statue of “Fame” atop Battle Monument seems to herald him on ; finally, he is further beaconed one last time, and guided home by a verse from “Taps”; “Day Is Done, Gone The Sun, From The Lake, From the Hills, From the Sky; All Is Well, Safely Rest, God Is Nigh”. “Soldier Rest, Gently Pressed, To The Calm, Mother Earth’s Waiting Breast; Duty Done, Like The Sun, Going West”.
He is survived by his son, Scott A. Betts of Carlisle, his daughter Sandra L. and husband Michael Chohany of Carlisle, and two grandsons, Craig S. and Joseph M. Chohany. In addition to his parents and wife, he was preceded in death by a brother, James A. Betts, of Green Valley, AZ, in October of 2002, as well as both his grandsons’ paternal grandparents, Steven D. Chohany of Etters, PA in May of 2015, and Gloria J. Chohany of Lewistown, PA in May of 1999. He was a cherished father, son, brother, uncle and friend, and will be dearly missed by all who had the fortune to know him As his son and daughter, we are so proud to have called him “Dad”, and are deeply saddened that he had to leave us so quickly, but will forever keep his memory alive in our hearts to carry on his legacy; life just will not be the same without his presence, the sound of his voice, those scruffy eyebrows, his comments on politics, his frequent lectures about how our generation has managed to screw up everything, and how he doesn’t want to be around to see the doom & gloom, when it happens! He was alert and sharp as a tact to the end, but he was smiling less and had lost that twinkle in his eye, not very interested in conversation, especially due to severe hearing loss, and certainly not interested in getting a hearing aide anytime soon, he was tiring so easily, it was time and he was ready; That’s when we have to be able to let them go because it’s about what is best for them, not us.
Private graveside services will be held on Friday, May 11, 2018, at 10am, at the West Point Cemetery, USMA, West Point, NY. We encourage all friends and family to attend to honor our father!
Arrangements have been entrusted to Hoffman Funeral Home & Crematory, 2020 W. Trindle Road, Carlisle, PA. In lieu of flowers, charitable donations can be made to: The American Lung Association; Wounded Warrior Project; NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) of Cumberland and Perry Counties, PA; and Castaway Cockers Cocker Spaniel Rescue.
To sign the guestbook, please visit www.HoffmanFH.com