Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

For Carey family, success and service went hand in hand

Diaper changes, feedings and joyful bliss usually envelope the first few days of a new mother's life, but the days after Trudy Carey gave birth to her oldest daughter were anything but blissful.

Just 10 days after her daughter Amy came into the world, Trudy learned that doctors had diagnosed her husband with tuberculosis. Bill Carey went to the hospital because he was spitting up blood, and doctors decided to keep him there — indefinitely.

Trudy had to raise her newborn and help run her husband's upstart cattle company. While Bill made telephone calls from his hospital room and his father came down from the Careys' native Wisconsin to handle the livestock, Trudy managed the books.

"That's how I became involved in the business," said Trudy, now 74. "Because I had to."

Pressed into service, Trudy stayed involved. Bill recovered after 11 months and the two teamed to turn their farm interests into one of the state's most respected agribusinesses.

That success, along with Bill's longtime work with 4-H and FFA students and Trudy's volunteer work with industry groups, recently earned them induction into the Florida Agriculture Hall of Fame, one of the industry's highest honors

Bill died in 1997, but Trudy stood proudly to accept the award for herself and her late husband at a dinner during last month's Florida State Fair.

"It was a husband-wife partnership that brought the best out of both of them," said attorney and longtime family friend Joe Garcia.

In 1957, Bill Carey came to Brandon from Wisconsin, where he grew up on a farm, looking to sell a herd of cattle. He struggled to get a good price, so he held on to 19 of the 20. Before returning to Wisconsin, he left the cattle on Ruth and Vernon Graves' pasture where Westfield Brandon mall currently sits.

When he came back, he learned that a man from Cuba had purchased the cattle. The idea of being an international exporter of cattle got its start with that transaction, and Bill soon relocated his new bride to start a life in Florida.

With a degree from the University of Wisconsin, Trudy first worked at what was then the brand-new University of South Florida before joining the family business.

Even after she began handling the accounting, Trudy said she never imagined the business would blossom into one of the most significant in Brandon and in the state. But eventually, it grew to include a 2,000-acre ranch, two dairies, a cattle brokerage firm, a feedlot, a trucking business and, of course, an international livestock export business.

The Careys would go on to develop an export/import business in Poland. They started with cattle, and Bill soon turned over the business to younger son Billy.

"It was very difficult," Trudy said. "We banked in Vienna. There were no checking accounts in Poland. The phone system went through Sweden or Denmark. No one had phones. They used teletypes on the farms.

"Bill took Billy over and trained him and Billy was responsible for a huge, huge undertaking," Trudy said.

"I would say, 'What should I bring Billy?' and he would say, 'Bring toilet paper.' "

The business eventually branched out into other products, including alcoholic beverages. Now the younger Carey continues to live in Poland as chief executive officer of Central European Distribution Co.

"Now Billy says bring golf balls or tennis balls."

The Careys' daughters, Amy and Jill, live in Brandon and follow in their parents' tradition of community service.

Success in the business world never deterred the Careys from giving back to the community and the agriculture industry. Bill loved helping kids find animals to raise for beef and dairy projects.

Trudy was elected president of the Florida Cattlewomen's Association in 1987 and chairwoman of the Florida Beef Council in 1992. She also served two terms on the National Beef Promotion and Research Board. The Florida Department of Agriculture named her woman of the year in 1997.

After Bill's death — he was struck by an Amtrak train while driving to his farm in January of 1997 — Trudy remain involved in the community. She teamed with Garcia to help raise nearly $2 million for what would become the Bill Carey Boys & Girls Club.

Trudy stays busy as a member of the Boys & Girls Club Foundation board for Hillsborough County. She also plays bridge weekly and spends time with her grandchildren.

They were born after Bill died, but discovered all of their grandfather's accomplishments when they watched a video at the awards dinner.

"They got to see what he had done and what I had done. That was really neat."

For Trudy, that may have been the best award.

That's all I'm saying.

For Carey family, success and service went hand in hand 03/17/11 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for the week of June 26-July 2.


    Vans Warped Tour: The festival returns Saturday to St. Petersburg's Vinoy Park, featuring shock-metal icons Gwar, hardcore punks Sick Of It All, ska band Save Ferris and indie-pop group Never Shout Never ($39.50-$49.50). vanswarpedtour. …

    Crowd for the Motionless in White band at the 2014 Vans Warped Tour at Vinoy Park, Friday, July 25, 2014.  CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times
  2. Airbag maker Takata bankruptcy filing expected in Japan, U.S.


    DETROIT — Drowning in a sea of lawsuits and recall costs, Japanese airbag maker Takata Corp. is expected to seek bankruptcy protection in Tokyo and the United States today.

  3. AP: Rick Scott to name Jimmy Patronis CFO on Monday


    From the AP's Gary Fineout:

    Florida Gov. Rick Scott is turning to a long-time political ally and former north Florida legislator to take over one of the top elected jobs in state government. 

    Then state Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City Beach, left, and Gov. Rick Scott, tour downtown Panama City, Fla. on Tuesday, April 19, 2011. Scott will name Patronis CFO on Monday.
  4. Despite Pride success, Grand Central business owners upset over losing parade


    ST. PETERSBURG — The Grand Central District was packed with people Sunday, there to enjoy the St. Pete Pride Festival.

    Patrons eat lunch and cool off inside of the Community Cafe during the St. Pete Pride Street Festival along Central Ave. in St. Petersburg. LUIS SANTANA   |   Times

  5. Rays blow another lead, lose rubber match to Orioles (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Orioles rallied past the Rays on Sunday, winning the rubber match of the three-game series 8-5.

    Baltimore Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop (6) scores in the eighth in the final game of a three-game series between the Tampa Bay Rays and AL East rival the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, June 25, 2017.