Ironic End, Fitting Farewell: Colby Buried at Arlington

By Nevans, Lisa | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 14, 1996 | Go to article overview

Ironic End, Fitting Farewell: Colby Buried at Arlington


Nevans, Lisa, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


History may remember William E. Colby as the director of central intelligence who was fired by the president in 1976 for exposing too much about the intelligence culture.

But to friends and family who gathered for his burial at Arlington National Cemetery yesterday, Mr. Colby was far more complex: an energetic adventurer whose goal had been to head the CIA office in Paris; a young Army veteran in such a hurry to make up for lost time he studied for his bar exam while still a student at Columbia Law School; an accomplished sailor and swimmer who died while canoeing near his vacation home across Neale Sound from Cobb Island in southern Charles County.

Medical authorities ruled that Mr. Colby, 76, probably suffered a heart attack or stroke that caused him to fall out of his canoe the evening of April 27. He then was paralyzed by the cold water of the Wicomico River and drowned. His body was found May 6 after an eight-day search.

"It's really ironic he died canoeing - he loved the water, swimming and sailing," said Paul Teetor, 42, of Fairfax, whose father was a 1940 classmate of Mr. Colby's at Princeton and remained close to Mr. Colby the rest of his life. "The feeling was, he couldn't be dead. It's almost poetic irony."

Mr. Colby was buried with full military honors just feet from his parents, Elbridge and Margaret Egan Colby, under the shade of a maple tree at the cemetery for military veterans. Mr. Colby's father was an Army colonel who served in both world wars.

Mr. Colby held the rank of major in the Army and parachuted behind German lines in World War II as an espionage officer with the Office of Strategic Services, the Central Intelligence Agency's forerunner.

About 150 relatives and close friends attended a private funeral at Fort Myer's Old Post Chapel. Friends said the mourners included John Deutch, the current director of central intelligence; Sen. Charles S. Robb, Virginia Democrat; Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, Maryland Democrat; and retired Gen. William Westmoreland, who commanded Army troops in Vietnam.

At the grassy spot with a view of the Washington Monument where Mr. Colby was laid to rest, a military band played "The Spacious Fermament on High" while a caisson drawn by seven horses arrived with a casket draped in an American flag. …

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