LTC Earl Craig Betts (RET), age 91, of Carlisle, passed away peacefully in his sleep 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 35 yrs of marriage to Frances (Black) Betts who passed June 28, 1992. He resided with his son, Scott Betts, along with some furry friends, his many beloved cocker spaniels through the years..
He grew up in Holtwood, PA 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 then proudly attended and excelled at the United States Military Academy from (1945-49), earning a BS 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”. He loved serving his country as an artillery officer: to include many career highlights during assignments as Battery Officer, EUCOM, Germany(Aug 50-Jul 53); Commanding Officer AFFE, Korea(Aug56-Nov 57); Commanding Officer, Air Defense Nike Missile Unit, 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 Command & Staff College, Quetta, Pakistan(Jan-May64) and US Army Command & General Staff College, USACGSC, Fort Leavenworth, KS.(Jun 65-Feb 66); then honorably concluding his military career as Deputy Secretary, serving under General Gallagher at US Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, PA(Jan 67-Jul 69). He then made the difficult decision to retire in July of 1969 in Carlisle. Next, he began a rewarding career with the PLCB, serving as The Director Of Retail Operations in 1970 for 20 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. He was instrumental on the redesigning & updating of the state liquor stores as well as focusing on major merchandising aspects and displays. It must be noted that he largely credited his success at the PLCB to his wingman and longtime assistant William Schwartz, who joined him in 1974 and became like a second son to him.
Craig loved cooking & fine wines, and hosted many great steak dinners on his 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”. 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,; in addition to making memorable camping trips in his RV to Chincoteague with daughter’s family and two grandsons. Later on, a new family tradition developed, with treasured memories of many yearly beach trips made to various resorts in Myrtle Beach, SC with family with every trip centered around happy hours and dining out at the many restaurants in Myrtle beach. One of his fondest and most meaningful experiences was being able to attend the Army/Navy Game in November of 2001, with his big brother Jim, also a fellow West Pointer, Class of 1943 hosted to luxury box seats by close family friend John Fowler IV.; afterwards being able to reunite with former classmates for a wonderfully fun-filled dinner at the historic & famous Bookbinders Restaurant in Philadelphia.
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. Somehow, just pondering over his many paintings hung in his library gave him a great sense of pride. 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. 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”. “
He was survived by his son, Scott A. Betts of Carlisle who just sadly recently passed, 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. He was a cherished father, son, brother, uncle and friend. He will be dearly missed by all who had the fortune to know him.
Memorial services, celebrating father and son, will be held at 3:00 p.m. on Friday, March 2, 2018 at the US Army War College Memorial Chapel with Chaplain (COL) Jerry C. Sieg officiating. 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, 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