Farewell, friend: More than 1,000 gather to say goodbye to Sheriff Carey Winders
By Steve Herring and John Joyce
Published in News on February 2, 2014 1:50 AM
A North Carolina Highway Patrol officer walks past the patrol's caisson that was used to carry the coffin of Wayne County Sheriff Carey Winders to his final resting place Friday at Wayne Memorial Park.
MOUNT OLIVE -- Big heart, big shoes, a sense of humor that was second to none -- and a legacy that will live on for years to come -- that is how those who gathered Friday to remember Sheriff Carey Winders described their friend and colleague.
More than 1,000 people -- including hundreds of law enforcement personnel from Wayne and surrounding counties -- packed Kornegay Arena at the University of Mount Olive for the memorial service to honor the 57-year-old sheriff, who died Jan. 24 of an apparent heart attack.
Winders' signature hat rested on a pedestal in front of his flag-draped coffin.
"As far as I am concerned, Sheriff Carey Winders can never be replaced," said Dr. Richard Glosson, one of two clergy who officiated at the memorial service. "His legacy will live on forever. His name will always be a part of Wayne County. The shoes that have to be filled, those boots are big shoes. And that hat he wore won't just fit anybody."
Glosson recounted personal glimpses of Carey Winders, the family man, shared by Winders' wife, Teresa, and the couple's three daughters. He encouraged those gathered to think back to their own memories of Winders, the man and notorious prankster.
Wayne County Sheriff's Office Maj. Fane Greenfield moved the crowd to tears and laughter as he remembered his leader and friend.
Winders was a model for what a man should be, Greenfield said.
"If we could take Sheriff Winders' heart, and cut it up into little pieces, ladies and gentlemen and give the Republicans some," Greenfield said. "Give the Democrats some. Give the blacks some. Give the whites some. This county, this country would be a better place because he had a heart of nothing but love."
Greenfield said he was humbled that the Winders family would allow him to stand before the congregation and tell them how much he and his colleagues loved "this great man."
"Not only was he our boss, but a loving friend that had a heart of gold -- a sheriff who loved his family, Wayne County, the Wayne County Sheriff's Department and Detention Center. And we loved him. The Bible says that we are the light of the world and Sheriff Winders let his light shine wherever he went.
"I can hear him now, slipping down the hall into Maj. (Daryll) Overton's office and hiding something on the desk, or pinching him in the side and falling out laughing."
But the sheriff had a soft side, too.
Greenfield recalled how Maj. Tom Effler had told him how he had watched Winders cry after testifying in a case involving a little girl who had been killed.
"I am pretty sure that he was thinking about his girls," Greenfield said.
Winders loved to have fun, but most of all, he loved people, and wanted people to love him, Greenfield said.
"The sheriff was given a great gift from God," he said. "He loved serving the citizens of Wayne County and North Carolina. I want everyone here to understand one thing, that the sheriff loved others. He loved his county.
"If you could not work for Sheriff Winders in a law enforcement officer's position, you didn't deserve to work in law enforcement. He had one weakness that I could find in him and that was he hated, he hated to fire anybody. It would hurt him so bad."
He ended his comments with the promise on behalf of the men and women who worked with him to carry on Winders' work.
Winders' pastor, the Rev. John Massengill said he had never had the occasion to know Sheriff Carey Winders.
"That is not a bad thing, I don't guess," he said. "At Union Grove, I knew Carey Winders. I knew the husband, the father, devoted church member, community man."
Massengill said as he prepared for the service he had tried to figure out how to separate the man from the sheriff.
"After hearing so much, and reading so much and talking with so many -- you can't," he said. "And I think that when you think about how much he has meant to so many people in Wayne County for so long, the thing that made him so successful as a sheriff within the community was that he was Carey Winders.
"He always seemed to me like he was the same wherever he went. He was always Carey. He did not come across with any airs. That is something that is endearing. It is something that is rare. It is something that will be missed. We need to remember that. We need to treasure that."
Winders was an example of what a sheriff was supposed to be, but a friend as well, Glosson said. He was well-respected across the state, he added.
Also, Winders was a mentor and "dear friend" to all he worked with. His door was always open not only to his employees, but to all of the people of the county.
"Carey didn't walk around like he was better than everybody else," Glosson said. "He was just down to earth -- cowboy boots, hat. He was a hard worker.
"I know for a fact there were times when Carey would go for days without sleep in order to solve a crime. He wanted justice regardless of what that crime was."
Winders worked hard to make Wayne County safe and a better place to live, Glosson said. The sheriff would cross party lines to get the job done because he believed in doing it the right way.
"He took the Wayne County Sheriff's Department to new level during the 20 years that he was sheriff," he said. "It is a sheriff's department that other sheriff's departments now look up to and respect. It is a sheriff's department that is second to none. It is a sheriff's department that the people in Wayne County look up to."
Dignitaries from across the state, including Gov. Pat McCrory, as well as legislators from both sides of the aisle and dozens of county officials, not to mention family and friends, were on hand for the service.
All a little sad, but many with special memories of their own.
They stood, and some dabbed tears, as the sheriff's family entered, followed by the personnel at the Wayne County Sheriff's Office and Detention Center.
They were his family, too, a fact that more than a few of those charged with leading the service were quick to point out.
There were the usual Scriptures and a couple of traditional hymns, but the service also included a nod to Winders' love of rock music -- Eric Clapton's version of "Knocking on Heaven's Door."
And after the benediction, there was the final call to service -- a dispatch that came over the radio calling the sheriff to duty.
The call went unanswered.
Bagpipes began to play.
Outside the arena, the entire Wayne County Sheriff's Office stood at attention and saluted as the parade detail and pallbearers, led out by the piper, carried Winders' casket to the hearse to begin the procession to the cemetery.
In a serendipitous tribute, church bells sounded as the clock struck 3 p.m.
The caisson that carried Winders' casket to his final resting place at Wayne Memorial Park at Dudley was led by the same horses used to take President Ronald Reagan to his burial place in Simi Valley, Calif., in 2004.
The animals retired to North Carolina to rest in Wayne County until called upon once more to retire another great leader.
Hundreds gathered again graveside to witness the burial with Sheriff's Office honors and Masonic rites.
Across U.S. 117, citizens gathered in mourning.
Only part of the highway that runs past the cemetery remained open. Drivers slowed. Those who knew turned on their lights.
"We came to show respect, to honor our sheriff and our county," said Raymond McKinzey, one of those mourners.
McKinzey, of Goldsboro, carried an the American flag across U.S. 117 and stood by as the burial service was conducted.
Back across the highway, he spoke about the loss the county has suffered.
"He will be missed by a lot of people. It was a very moving service, very well-played. But we will keep going," he said.
Neither the Winders' family nor law enforcement spoke to the media Friday, but the hundreds of law enforcement officers from across the state who turned out in uniform spoke volumes.
As did the spouses, the service men and women from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, the Wayne County court officers and citizens who took time away from their jobs Friday to honor Winders.
And then there was the giant American flag raised from the extended ladder of Dudley Volunteer Fire Department's Ladder 1 truck -- one more tribute to a man that many said deserved all that and more.