His quick wit, honesty and passion for his family and the community he served earned Larry Dever the respect and admiration of all those who had the honor of knowing him.
Such sentiments were made clear by the size of the crowd attending Wednesday’s memorial service for the late Cochise County Sheriff, overflowing the 1,300-seat Buena High School Performing Arts Center.
“The tremendous attendance you see here tonight is a reflection of how far and how deep the loss of Larry Dever has affected our world,” said Rod Rothrock, chief deputy of the sheriff’s office.
Rothrock was of one several speakers — most from the law enforcement community—who shared their memories of Dever and testified to his life as a man who loved his family above everything else, and who led by example; leaving behind a path for all of those who would work to serve their community.
“It was a pleasure serving for a man who continuously set the example of honesty and integrity. He insisted that his staff not only do the right things, but that we do the right things for the right reasons,” Rothrock said.
Building on that sentiment, Sierra Vista Fire Chief Randy Redmond said that Dever’s leadership and the impact it had on those who worked for him will leave a legacy for years to come.
“I believe his determination for what he believed in, and his desire to serve his community will be his legacy,” Redmond said.
Calling the late sheriff a “wise” man, who was able to see the broader issues more easily than some, Redmond said, “Everybody in this room that spoke to him can say they learned something from Larry.”
Listening to the memorials many speakers, those lessons undoubtedly included leadership and conviction, but also included lessons like keeping an eye out for Dever’s quick wit.
While their schedules kept them from meeting more than he would have liked, Sierra Vista Police Chief Ken Kimmel said he and Dever never missed an opportunity to trade a friendly barb or two.
The chief recalled one such time in May of last year when he and Dever were both attending a public safety symposium in Washington, D.C. Later that evening after the event was over and the law enforcement officials were socializing, Kimmel approached Dever and other sheriffs after changing out of uniform into more casual attire, including slacks and a “beach-type shirt.”
“As I approached the concession area, there were all kinds of people in cowboy hats. I’m assuming they were all sheriffs, so I felt a bit uncomfortable, and Larry said, in front of everybody, ‘Chief, there are no beaches in Cochise County,’” Kimmel said.
In a testament to his efforts on the national level to bring attention to the issues facing Cochise and other border counties, several federal officials were in attendance, including Representatives Ron Barber and Jeff Flake and U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl.
Dever was very much a “regular guy,” Kyl said. “Yet, you all would not be here tonight if he wasn’t also very extraordinary. I think of Gary Cooper or John Wayne playing the good guy. Quiet spoken, respected by all, feared by the bad guys. A man of few words, but when he spoke, everyone listened. That was Larry, except, he was real life.”
Part of what drew people to Dever was the fact that he consistently acted on his convictions, said Harold Eavenson, sheriff of Rockwall County, Texas, who served along side Dever with the National Sheriffs’ Association.
He recalled a time when Dever failed to show up for a conference call on border security because he had gotten his vehicle stuck in the San Pedro River trying to apprehend illegal immigrants.
“From my perspective about it, there was nothing unusual about his effort, because I was familiar with the fact that he had testified before Congress seven, eight or nine times, and if they had listened to him, we wouldn’t be having problems we’re having today,” Eavenson said, drawing one of the largest applause of the evening.
Speaking on behalf of his family, Sheriff Dever’s son, Brendon Dever, thanked those in attendance and the Cochise County community for the outpouring of support offered to his family in the last week.
While many people surely knew Larry Dever the sheriff, Brendon Dever said he wished many more could have also seen him as he had, in the quiet moments with family, “holding a crying grandson on the porch as the stars came out … singing a quiet lullaby.”