Steve Carmick: 1938-2021


Steve Carmick went home to glory, surrounded by the love of his family and the prayers of those whose lives he touched across four decades as an attorney, advocate, and pillar of the community in Chehalis, Wash. Steve was born in Detroit, Mich., to Louis G. Carmick Jr. of Washington, D.C., and Elizabeth L. Carmick (née Dickson) of Kensington, Md. His parents were in their 40s when they met in law school at George Washington University. From his father, an engineer and patent attorney, Steve inherited an analytical mind and a strong sense of duty and honor; while from his mother came warmth, optimism, and a love of books and music. Born in the shadow of World War II, Steve’s character was formed in a time of heroic national sacrifice, endowing him with a lifelong interest in military history and a commitment to service to others.
Growing up in Dearborn, Mich., young Stephen saved money from his paper route to buy a pellet gun, which was promptly confiscated by his father for a firearms safety infraction. Steve was quick-witted, with a gift for performance and debate. This came in handy in a family whose informal motto was, “I’d rather be right than president”. He was something of a hellion in high school, attending several schools in rapid succession before landing at Howe Military Academy in Indiana. After joining the Civil Air Patrol in 1954, he went on to serve as a U.S. Air Force weatherman in 1958 to 1959.
After leaving the service, Steve was selling insurance in Chicago when he met Alyce Ayn Gwin of Berwyn, Ill. The two soon married and bought a ranch house in idyllic Northbrook, Ill., where they had two children: Carol in 1961 and Russ in 1963. While studying nights and weekends to graduate from college (North Park University, 1969) and law school (DePaul University, 1972), Steve worked as a reserve policeman and arson investigator, and served on the Northbrook Volunteer Fire Department (1963–1978).
In his spare time, Steve Carmick drove a Formula Vee race car in the Central Division of the Sports Car Club of America. His team was the Mickey Mouse Racing Club, his car was No. 5, and his racing colors were dark blue and silver. Many weekends were spent pursuing the need for speed at racetracks across the Midwest. Finding money for race car parts in a young family’s budget added to marital stress, as did personal and social changes; and in 1972, Steve and Alyce divorced. But a shared belief in the unbreakable bonds of family made them amicable co-parents, celebrating Christmases together even after Alyce and the kids moved to California in 1974 and remaining friends until her death in 2015.
When Steve opened his law office in Waukegan, Ill., in 1977, his letterhead and business cards read “MODLO,” which stood for “My own damn law office.” These were the swinging bachelor years, when Steve sported big sideburns, raced cars, skydived, and scuba-dived at Club Med. But that era came to an end in 1977, when Steve Carmick met Mary Sue Turner (née Ragland) of Crystal City, Mo., at a meeting of Parents Without Partners.
Soon realizing he had met the love of his life, Steve got down on one knee and proposed to Sue at Weiboldt’s department store. Despite intense embarrassment, she eventually said yes. At their wedding in Northbrook in 1978, the bride and groom were given away by their four children: Carol, Russ, Matt, and Nan (born 1970 and 1973 from Sue’s first marriage). Following their parents’ example, the kids came to see each other as siblings in a way that made the “step” part irrelevant. Of all his achievements, Steve was most proud of his loving expanded family.
Wanting to escape the big city, Steve and Sue placed ads in Bar Association journals across the western states looking for a small town that needed a lawyer. In 1980, they moved to Chehalis. As Steve frequently said, “I wasn’t born in Lewis County, but I came as soon as I could”. With Sue at his side, Steve became an enthusiastic and stalwart contributor to numerous organizations that shared his broad interests. As a founder of the Fire Mountain Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol, he led Search & Rescue missions and helped mentor a generation of cadets into young leaders and pilots. For over two decades, he served as JAG (Judge Advocate General, or military attorney) for the Washington Wing of the CAP, and as a volunteer fireman with the Riverside Fire Authority, retiring well into his 70s.
As Steve’s practice grew, his clients could always rely on his shrewd counsel and eloquent advocacy. So too could those organizations he helped found to benefit those in need: the Legal Aid Society of the Lewis County Bar, the Lewis County Shelter Program, and Love, Inc. The Centralia Corps of the Salvation Army was his passion, and he served on its Community Board of Directors for over 20 years.
As president and instructor for the Centralia Rifle Club and coach of the W.F. West High School Rifle Team, Steve instructed hundreds of junior shooters in firearm safety. He was a determined team-builder, mentoring other professionals to achieve their personal and financial potential through Carmick & Co. and International Leadership Development.
Guided by faith in Christ based on the Gospel and the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, Steve was a founding member and subdeacon of St. James Anglican Church in Tumwater. As past Worshipful Master of Chehalis Lodge 28, he assisted good men to be better ones through the brotherhood of the Free & Accepted Masons of Washington State. In 2012, on his retirement from the active practice of law, Stephen Thomas Carmick, Esq. was admitted to the bar of the United States Supreme Court.
In retirement, Steve and Sue shifted their focus to travel, visiting locations like Hawaii, Europe, Tunisia, Japan, China, and Gabon, West Africa, home of daughter-in-love, Corinne Turner (née Pangoye). Along with his grandkids, Steve doted on Ol’ Blue, his 1950 flathead Ford pickup, which he tricked out in blue and silver and drove in the local Quarter Milers’ club.
But before Steve could see the fulfillment of his plans for a post-quarantine family visit to Philadelphia and Gettysburg, he was called to depart on a greater adventure. Surrounded by family who gathered to care for him at home, he met the challenges of his final illness with a courageous and loving heart.
Steve Carmick is survived by his wife, Sue Ragland Carmick; children, Carol Carmick of Portland, Ore., Russ and Rose Carmick of Phoenix, Ariz., Matt and Corinne Turner of Bethesda, Md., and Nan Turner of Kansas City, Mo.; grandchildren, Elizabeth, David, and Rebecca Carmick, and Alison, Danielle, and Nathan Turner; and niece, Lisa Gwin.
There will be an informal gathering via Zoom, Saturday, May 8, 2021, from 5 to 7 p.m., where Steve’s family and friends can share memories and appreciations. Contact for the link. The in-person memorial will be Thursday, July 1, 2021, which is Steve and Sue’s 43rd wedding anniversary. A funeral mass will be held at 10 a.m., at St. James Anglican Church in Tumwater, followed by a graveside ceremony at 3 p.m., at Claquato Cemetery, with a gathering to follow at the Veterans Memorial Museum in Chehalis, Wash.
Memorial donations may be made to any of the organizations Steve supported, or through acts of loving service to community.