Robbery a sad ending for life of generosity, service

Dick Rooney was taking care of the saddest tasks. When he opened a drawer in his stepfather’s desk, he saw a snipped-out newspaper article.

“It was right on top,” he said.

His stepfather was Harold Caywood, an active and industrious 91-year-old who died Thursday. The Everett man was featured in this column — the article in his desk — on Jan. 5, 2001. On his 80th birthday, he was still working full-time.

Along with tireless worker, Caywood earned many descriptions in his long life: World War II veteran. Father, grandfather and great-grandfather. Prize-winning artisan.

Tragically, horribly, there is one more description: Victim.

Harold Eugene Caywood died about six weeks after being beaten and robbed at an Everett gas station. A 26-year-old suspect is in custody at the Snohomish County Jail.

Caywood’s death is under investigation by Everett police and the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office. Detectives are waiting for the medical examiner to determine cause of death, which may take several weeks, before releasing more details about the case.

“What’s so sad, until this happened he would go out just about every day,” Rooney said Tuesday. Caywood lived on his own in the Silver Lake area home he and his late wife Dorothy had shared.

Caywood had a regular table at Applebee’s restaurant near Everett Mall, his stepson said. He did his own grocery shopping. He played Keno at Angel of the Winds Casino. He liked James Bond movies and Westerns.

After his wife died in 2002, Caywood took jewelry-making classes at Everett Community College. “He wasn’t much of a TV watcher,” said Rooney, who is in his 70s. Caywood’s intricate beading projects won blue ribbons at the Evergreen State Fair. He crafted beaded bracelets for relatives, and turned silver coins into rings.

“All the grandkids called him ‘Grandpa Hal,’ ” Rooney said. “Once he took up jewelry making, if anyone broke a clasp or something, a couple of the great-grandkids would call him ‘Grandpa Hell’ — for ‘Oh hell, I can fix that.’ “

In addition to Rooney, who lives in Everett, Caywood is survived by children Frank Bliss, Nancy Manning, Michael and Don Caywood, and Susan Fenner. His son Steve Caywood died in 2003.

The youngest of 10 children, Caywood grew up in Wyoming, in the town of Buffalo. In 1940, he joined the Wyoming National Guard as part of the 115th Cavalry Regiment. The equestrian unit migrated to Fort Lewis, and during World War II became the 115th Mechanized Cavalry.

When it came to his war years, “he always called himself one of the luckiest people around,” Rooney said.

Caywood’s regiment was supposed to ship out to the Philippines, but was delayed waiting for vaccines. When they finally did head out, the troop ship he was on turned around because Pearl Harbor had just been bombed.

“He never left the States again until 1945,” Rooney said. His stepfather’s Army service was spent on patrol duty on the West Coast. Just after the war, he was among occupation forces in Japan.

Caywood, who had been married previously, met his future wife Dorothy at Fort Dix, N.J. The couple married in 1947.

They lived in Montesano before settling in Santa Maria, Calif., in 1961. With military experience in radio school, Caywood worked in communications at California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base. Among his jobs was helping to track Apollo spacecraft, Rooney said.

“We went through all his memorabilia and found commendations for all his work related to the first walk on the moon — some signed by astronauts,” Rooney said.

Caywood retired from ITT Federal Electric Corp. and moved to Everett in 1985.

Rooney, a GTE retiree, said his stepfather jumped at the chance of a second career. At 80, Caywood had been working 16 years for Telecom Network Specialists, a subcontractor for phone companies. He left that job after his wife died.

“I like to have something to do,” Caywood told me in 2001.

On Tuesday, his stepson was close to tears remembering this extraordinary man.

“He was probably going to give the guy some money. Why did he have to hit him?” Rooney said. “We were kind of thinking, at his age, he could go anytime. But not like this.”

Service Friday

A memorial service for Harold Caywood will be at 11 a.m. Friday at Purdy &Walters with Cassidy funeral home, 1702 Pacific Ave., Everett. Donations may be made in memory of Harold Caywood to Families &Friends of Violent Crime Victims, P.O. Box 1949, Everett, WA 98206.

Herald Writer Rikki King contributed to this story.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, muhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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