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Spokane native, a Rogers grad, among dead at Fort Hood

Fri., Nov. 6, 2009, 12:15 p.m.

Family members of Michael Grant Cahill, a Spokane native killed at Fort Hood, Texas, on Thursday waited for hours after the rampage with no word of his whereabouts.

They called hospitals and other facilities where victims were taken, and got nothing.

About 11 p.m. Thursday, a sergeant in a patrol car pulled up to the family home in Cameron, Texas, and told them that Cahill, 62, was one of the 13 people killed in an attack believed committed by a lone gunman.

Among 38 others who were wounded was an 18-year-old Post Falls soldier, George Stratton III.

Cahill, who was described as a devoted family man, worked as a civilian physician assistant in the clinic where the rampage occurred.

“We went all day hearing nothing,” said Cahill’s daughter, Keely Cahill Vanacker. “It was very frustrating.”

Becky Cahill, a sister, said she called her brother’s cell phone, but got no answer, and then called a hospital near the base with no luck.

Vanacker, of Kerrville, Texas, said on Friday that the military had provided almost no information about how Cahill died.

Cahill’s body was being transported to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware for an autopsy, Vanacker said.

“My dad was a wonderful person,” she said in a telephone interview.

“He loved his job. He loved working with people and helping them with their physical needs.”

Becky Cahill, of Lincoln City, Ore., said she and her brother talked on the phone several times a week, and that his death has left her feeling cheated.

She said she is trying not to focus anger on the Army major suspected in the shooting because that would bring her down to his level. “This mindset has got to change,” she said.

Cahill suffered a heart attack several weeks ago, and had a stent implanted in an artery, returning to work a few days later, she said.

Cahill was born in Spokane and attended Rogers High School, where he ran on the track team and graduated in the mid-1960s. His father was a truck driver and his mother worked in retail. The family moved across Spokane during Cahill’s high school years, so he walked to Rogers for two years in order to finish there, Becky Cahill said.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Eastern Washington University in 1973.

During college, he met his wife, Joleen Murphy Cahill, at Gonzaga University, where she took classes.

Cahill joined the Army National Guard where he was trained as a physician assistant, and then worked for the Veterans Administration in Portland, Ore., and at small rural clinics during his career, Vanacker said. He retired from the National Guard as a chief warrant officer.

She said that while she was growing up the family lived in three states, including communities as small as 200 people.

Vanacker said her father was committed to bringing health care to people who needed it, and believed that his career as a physician assistant offered the opportunity to provide care at a lower cost.

She said her father was always at home when he wasn’t at work.

The family traveled a lot on vacation, and took trips to the mountains of Montana or the Oregon coast. They frequently visited Spokane during summers when she was younger, she said. Her father was a canoeist.

He enjoyed talking about current events and politics, and sometimes would keep going until midnight, she said.

“He loved his family very, very much,” Vanacker said, and most of his spare time at home. “I always picture him coming home.”

He had planned to be at the Vanacker house next month for a family Christmas gathering.

William Cahill, a cousin living in the Spokane area, said Michael Cahill had not lived in the Spokane area since after college.

The Cahill family’s history in the Inland Northwest dates back to 1876, he said, with members found throughout the region.

The Cahill farm was on Moran Prairie, Becky Cahill said.

Cahill Road near Spangle is named after the family.

Joleen Cahill is originally from Montana.

Michael Cahill is survived by his wife; Vanacker; another daughter, Kerry Cahill, of Chicago; a son, James Cahill, of Levelland, Texas; two sisters, Becky Cahill and Marilyn Attebery , of Spokane Valley; and one grandson.

Arrangements for services are pending.

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