800 remember Ben Carr

Funeral in academy chapel for midshipman killed in car crash

November 29, 2006|By Ruma Kumar | Ruma Kumar,Special to The Sun

When St. Mary's High School Principal Charles Reiter called the Carr home to offer condolences on Friday morning, all Ben Carr's sister Catherine could say through the tears and shock was, "He's perfect, he's perfect, he's perfect."

His bright, broad smile. His love of life, of sports, of God and family and country. All of it was gone suddenly when the car he was riding in hours earlier careened off Glen Isle Road in Riva and hit a tree.

Reiter was among more than 800 family members, friends and midshipmen who gathered yesterday at the Naval Academy Chapel to remember Charles "Ben" Carr IV, a 20-year-old junior from Edgewater.

Some women wore sunglasses inside to mask the emotion in their eyes. Others held each other tight. Others muffled sobs by clasping their hands tightly over their mouths.

More than 100 mourners wore St. Mary's school uniforms, most of them 11th-graders who are in Catherine Carr's class. Others were teachers from St. Mary's who remembered Ben's enthusiasm when he attended the Catholic school from 1992-2004. He was an honor roll student and on the wrestling, lacrosse and soccer teams.

There were also more than 100 midshipmen from Ben's company, the 29th. Their training prepares them for peril at sea, but does not brace them for a sudden loss like this.

A sign hanging on an officer's house on the campus said: "Ben Carr Won't be Forgotten."

Carr engendered a lot of good will in his years at the academy. In the Carr family guest book at the John M. Taylor Funeral Home, several families of plebes - first-year students - wrote touching notes of how Carr had helped them.

Sandy and Joe Wich of Towson, whose son A.J. worked out with Ben each week and played on a handball team with him, recalled how their son called Ben "the coolest."

"A.J. said, `Even though I was a lowly plebe [Ben] treated me with the respect he showed to everyone,'" Sandy Wich wrote.

Bernie Bernsten wrote about the "privilege of knowing Ben and coaching him for those years on our ASC Cruisers soccer team."

Louise Greene of Decatur, Ill., remembered "dear and gentle Ben - hiking, canoeing, crabbing, sailing, biking, boarding, surfing - we cherish the memories of boyhood."

Carr, a systems engineering major, planned to attend Naval Postgraduate School in California.

On Thanksgiving night, he went out with another St. Mary's alumnus, Patrick Tormay Britton-Harr, 22, of Pensacola, Fla. They were traveling north on Glen Isle Road at 1:30 a.m. Friday when Britton-Harr lost control of his BMW sports coupe on a curve and struck a large oak tree.

Britton-Harr hurt his leg and arm and was begin treated at Prince George's County Trauma Center in Cheverly.

County police said Britton-Harr smelled of alcohol and officials took a blood sample for tests, but toxicology reports won't be available for at least six weeks, said Kristin Riggin, a spokeswoman for the Anne Arundel County state's attorney's office.

The Carrs did not speak at yesterday's funeral. Instead, there was a homily by St. Mary's Deacon Leroy Moore and Navy Capt. Owen Thorp, a family friend.

"The years between 13 and 20 are a confusing, exciting time," Moore said. "It's unthinkable that such years would include a funeral. A funeral Mass for [such a] young man is particularly difficult. Everything about it seems so contradictory. ... the incomplete plans, the short-circuited energy."

But Moore urged the gathering to remember Ben Carr's love of life. "In terms of physical presence, Ben's not with us," Moore said. "But in terms of a spiritual presence, he is with us and will be until the end of time."

Thorp said he remembered Ben as the only midshipman who endured the grueling training of plebe summer with a smile. He was one of the few always eager to march in parade.

"If he were here today, to those from St. Mary's he would say, `Lean on your faith'" to get through the loss, Thorp said. "Because faith can move mountains.

"And he'd say, `Don't forget to smile.'"

Burial was at the Naval Academy cemetery.

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