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updated: 1/15/2011 7:50 PM

Barrington veteran served firefighting services

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  • Caleb Canby III waves an American flag during the 2008 Barrington Fourth of July parade. A memorial service for Canby, a longtime village resident, volunteer firefighter and attorney, will be held Saturday, Jan. 22.

       Caleb Canby III waves an American flag during the 2008 Barrington Fourth of July parade. A memorial service for Canby, a longtime village resident, volunteer firefighter and attorney, will be held Saturday, Jan. 22.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer, 2008


Family members and former colleagues are mourning the passing of Caleb Canby III, who served the fire protection services of the Barrington area for decades as both a volunteer firefighter and attorney.

The World War II veteran and lifelong Barrington resident also served as the attorney who oversaw the incorporation of Barrington Hills and as Barrington's special prosecutor in 1970.

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Canby, 88, passed away at his home on Dec. 31. His memorial, Masonic and Veterans of Foreign Wars services will be held at 11 a.m. Jan. 22 at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 337 Ridge Road in Barrington, with visitation beginning at 9:30 a.m.

"I was saddened by his passing," said Dr. Walter Dalitsch, who first joined the Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District board while Canby was serving as its attorney. "He was just a character, and very, very kind."

Barrington Deputy Fire Chief John Feit was just beginning his career as a volunteer firefighter when he came to work alongside Canby, who had already been at it for more than a quarter century.

While attorney and volunteer firefighter might seem an unusual combination of professions, Canby served at a time before even pagers were available to summon firefighters, so those who volunteered needed to live and work in town so they could immediately take calls and respond to emergencies.

Canby's encyclopedic knowledge of the Barrington area and its many rural addresses, in an era before GPS and the other sophisticated mapping systems of today, also was invaluable to making sure fire engines arrived promptly, Feit said.

"Caleb was a homegrown boy here," Feit added. "He knew everybody."

Canby's wife, Bonnie, said her late husband was born in Chicago in 1922 but moved to what is now Barrington Hills when he was 6 years old.

Though he pursued a law degree from Yale, his particular skills probably would have made him even happier in academia, she said.

"He had a trap for a memory," Bonnie said. "He was able to come up with history or theology or English without looking anything up again. He could remember everything that had happened in town since he was 6 years old."

Inspired by his father's service in World War I, Canby volunteered for the Marine Corps in World War II with only six months left to go at Yale.

After seeing action in several battles in the Pacific, Canby returned home a corporal and completed his degree.

Dalitsch and Bonnie Canby agreed that his 36 years as a volunteer firefighter were another valuable source of knowledge when he came to serve the fire protection district as its attorney.

"He was able to know what the men were saying and report it to the fire district," Bonnie said.

Likewise, he was able to bring up things from a firefighter's perspective when issues fell outside the experience of board members, she added.

Canby's service to both the Marine Corps and the fire department remained important to him throughout his retirement, Bonnie said. He was a dedicated member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7706 and attended the Barrington Fire Department's most recent open house in the fall.

Along with his wife, Canby is survived by three children and six grandchildren, one of whom followed in his footsteps in the military.

Memorials would be appreciated for St. Mark's Episcopal Church. For more information, contact Kahle-Moore Funeral Home in Cary at (847) 639-3817.

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