Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Joe Carnley, Destin's first dentist, a well-known airplane buff and a community leader, died Saturday at the age of 67

Joe Carnley
Rest in peace, loving, gentle man.  Oh, that the world had a million more like you.

DESTIN — Every day until the day he couldn’t, Joe Carnley called his daughter. Their conversations always started the same way.

“I’d answer the phone and he’d say, ‘Is this my masterpiece speaking?’ ” said Kimberly Huels of Destin. “And I’d say, ‘This is her.’

“And he’d say, ‘I just wanted to call and check on my masterpiece to see if she was doing all right.’ ”

Carnley, Destin’s first dentist, a well-known airplane buff and a community leader, died Saturday at the age of 67.

He had fought a long and almost successful battle against lung cancer.

“The community has lost a huge patriot, a compassionate leader, a brilliant educator and a gifted dentist,” said close friend Mick Guthals of Niceville. “More importantly, they have lost a friend.”

Neither Huels nor Carnley's son, also named Joe Carnley, knew how close Carnley was to death. He worked Thursday, went to the hospital Friday and died the next day.

“He did not retire,” said the younger Carnley, who lives in Tallahassee. “That was my dad. He was a fighter and a survivor, and he never thought of giving up.”

Carnley was born in Florala, Ala., the youngest of nine and the only boy. His father died when he was young and he was raised by his mom and sisters.

From an early age, he knew he wanted to be a dentist and he knew he wanted to fly airplanes.

He was Destin’s first dentist and had one of the early post office boxes there. His was No. 6.

Poor vision kept Carnley from flying planes in the military, but he became a civilian pilot later and a World War II airplane aficionado.

At the time of his death, he owned a hangar at Destin Airport and had recently sold his T-6 Texan, a World War II-era plane.

“The guys he flew with are planning a flyover over the funeral Wednesday (today) on his behalf,” his son said.

He was remembered in a visitation Tuesday night in Florala. Services will be at 1 p.m. today at Evans Funeral Home there.

His children say he was an amazing father who was involved in their lives.

“He made me feel loved all the time,” Huels said. “He was always there for me and always supported everything I did.

“My whole life, I felt like he was more powerful than the president.”

His son said that Carnley woke up every morning loving life and ready for another day.

“I want him to be remembered for his vibrant passion for life,” he said.

He gave a lot to the community, and when he was ill the community gave back to him, his family said.

“There’s nothing that could ever be said thanking all of those who said prayers and supported him,” his son said.

“That’s what got him through.”


Obituary: Dr. Joe H. Carnley (1944 - 2012)

Dr. Joe H. Carnley took his final and most important flight on Saturday morning, Jan. 28, 2012. God has called him home.

Joe was born Feb. 26, 1944, in Paxton, Fla., to Charlie and Mae Elizabeth Carnley. He was a graduate of Paxton High School, where he was a member of the state championship basketball team. From there he attended Western Carolina University on a basketball scholarship and later graduated from Louisville School of Dentistry in Kentucky.

Joe was the first to establish a dental practice in Destin, Fla. His love for dentistry and the people of Destin have kept him here for over 35 years.

Throughout his career, he travelled the country teaching at different universities and dental institutes. Along the way he discovered a love for connecting with people, which eventually led him to become a Dale Carnegie franchise owner and instructor.

Next to his family and dentistry, flying was one of the greatest joys and passions of his life. He flew amongst his closest friends in his World War II Navy warplane, a T-6, attending fly-ins and entertaining locals with their formation flying over the Destin Pass. Dr. Carnley's latest achievement was becoming the 53rd Wing Honorary Commander at Eglin Air Force Base, personally representing the community for the Emerald Coast.

A man from humble beginnings, he never gave up on his dreams and spent the rest of his life teaching others to do the same.

Dr. Joe is survived by his son, Joe (JoeJoe) C. Carnley and wife, Abby; daughter, Kimberley E. Huels and husband, Lee; grandkids, Peyton, Saylor, Joseph "Cameron," and William Henry (Hank); mother of his children, Bridget Carnley; sisters, Juanita, Charlie and Willagee; and fiancée, Tina Anderson.
Services are being held at Evans-Brown Funeral Home on Wednesday, Feb. 1, at 1 p.m. Hours of visitation will be held on Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m. and on Wednesday from noon to 1 p.m.

Flowers are welcome, and donations in Dr. Joe's honor may be made to the American Cancer Society or Smyrna Cemetery Foundation.

Dad, you were the greatest dad and granddad in the world. We love you ... you will be missed.

Evans Funeral Home, Florala, is entrusted with arrangements.

Joe Carnley gives the thumbs up before taking off into the skies.
Kathy Harrison | The Destin Log

Remembering Destin's first dentist: Joe Carnley ‘squeezed every inch out of life'

With roots in Paxton, Fla., Joe Carnley always dreamed big and aimed for the sky. Just a few days after his passing, friends and colleagues reflect on the man who had a larger-than-life personality and “a heart of gold.”

“Anyone who has crossed Dr. Joe’s path knows what a kind and caring man he was, he had the ability to make everyone feel important, no matter who you were,” Mayor Sam Seevers said of the man she called her “long-time mentor.”

“Dr. Joe continually challenged me to be a better person — he instilled in me the importance of making a difference in this community.”

Read more:


The Destin Log wrote a profile of Carnley a couple months before his death.

November 19, 2011
By Matt Algarin

From the dentist's chair to the skies above Destin, Joe Carnley reflects on tragedies and triumphs

Whether it was sleeping in boats at Hudson’s Marina as a youngster or pulling barrel rolls behind the stick of a World War II era T-6 Texan, Joe Carnley has always played by his own rules and has no regrets.

“I’ve got a little bit of a wild streak,” the longtime Destin dentist said with a chuckle.

After spending five months at the Mayo Clinic battling throat cancer, Carnley has hung up his flight suit and sold his planes. But he is cancer free — and back to work, changing the lives of Destinites one smile at a time.

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