FLORENCE — Kaye Persinger of Marion, Ohio, — who was known as Kaye Dickson when she ran for Pinal County Sheriff five years ago — said she’ll miss Reyes.

“He was just a great human being. He really related with people, and I think that’s what made him a great sheriff. I don’t think he ever looked at himself as a politician. I don’t think he met too many people he didn’t like.”

Reyes was proud to have once been offered the U.S. Marshal’s position. But “he just didn’t feel like he could let the people of Pinal County down” and he didn’t want to be in Washington, D.C., so far away from his extended family. “So he turned it down and remained the sheriff,” Persinger said.

She said perhaps her fondest memory of Reyes is when she was considering a run for sheriff. She told Reyes she wasn’t sure she wanted to run and wouldn’t run unless he was her campaign manager.

“He said he didn’t think he could help because nobody would remember him. That’s how humble he was.” He did help Persinger’s campaign, “and we just had a blast.” Of course, everyone’s memories were longer than he imagined. “Any room he went into, he knew everyone there; there was not one single place we went into that people did not know who he was. … Even after all those years, people still went up and introduced themselves and talked to him.”

Sandie Smith, who was a Pinal County supervisor during Frank Reyes’ last years in office, recalled he “was a pleasure to work with and he was a great part of the team.”

Reyes, who was Pinal County sheriff from 1977 to 2000, died in his sleep Jan. 5 with his family by his side.

Reyes never really said in Smith’s presence what kept him running and serving as sheriff, “but I think he enjoyed being a public servant,” Smith said. “I think that is so important, that people want to serve. I believe he was a good public servant. And, you know, the voters thought so, too.”

Smith recalled when Reyes redesigned his office in black-and-white tones, like a classic police car, and invited her over to see it. “It really looked pretty cool inside.”

After his retirement, Reyes — who had a son who died in service to his country — founded the Pinal County Veterans Memorial Foundation with Tom McCarville and Jim Dunn.

“The three of them started the organization, worked on filing all the paperwork (to become a nonprofit) and set the direction, mission and vision for the organization,” said Robert Miller, who is president of the foundation today.

Reyes and the other founders continued to promote the foundation by word-of-mouth, which has paid off in the last five to six years, Miller said.

“He was very involved for as long as he could be,” Miller said. The organization held a groundbreaking ceremony a little more than a year ago. Although the pandemic slowed the group’s plans somewhat, they hope to see the beginnings of construction in the next month or two, “and probably giving some recognition to Frank Reyes” for his work toward the memorial, Miller said.

The memorial will be at the entrance of Paul Mason Sportsplex at 2525 N. Pinal Ave. in Casa Grande. For more information, visit https://pcvmf.com/.

Anna M. Lucas, who was retiring after 35 years as a Pinal County dispatcher in 2016, told PinalCentral at that time that she had an especially fond memory of Reyes coming to her rescue early in her career:

“We dispatched for Mammoth (police department) at the time, and an officer was shot and killed. I was working the graveyard shift by myself. I had no idea what to do. I did everything I was taught,” but she was overwhelmed. Her supervisor was out of town. She called everyone else in town she could think of, but no one was answering at 3 a.m.

“Out of panic — out of desperation — I called Frank. I said, ‘Sheriff, I need help.’ He said, ‘I’ll be right there,’” and three minutes later he was.

“He knocked on the door, I let him in, and I just started bawling. … I briefed him on everything. He said ‘OK,’ gave me a hug and said, ‘Pull yourself together. We’re going to do this. I’ll take the radio. You take the phones. We’ll get through it.’”

Lucas said she was still grateful to Reyes three decades later. “I love, love, love that man so much.”

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Mark Cowling is the county reporter for PinalCentral and covers the town of Florence, San Tan Valley and the surrounding area. He can be reached at mcowling@pinalcentral.com.