H.O.P.E., Inc. honors Jerry Reaves

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By Kaitlin Hoskins, News Editor

Board members, staff members and members of Norman “Jerry” Reaves’ family attended a special dedication ceremony Tuesday, November 21 at H.O.P.E., Inc. in East Gadsden.

The board members had been trying to get the Reaves family together for the dedication for a while, and Tuesday before Thanksgiving, all the pieces fell into place.

“This is the perfect time for us to do this,” LeAnn Black, current president of the H.O.P.E. board, said. “We are all so thankful for Jerry and blessed to have known him. There wasn’t anything Jerry wouldn’t do for anyone. I like to think he would be proud of the work we are doing.”

H.O.P.E. stands for Housing Opportunities for Persons with Exceptionalities. The organization works to house individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities in a safe and more independent way than traditional assisted living facilities for those with mental or cognitive disabilities.

Reaves was a longtime member of the H.O.P.E., Inc. board and before that, he was the finance director for the City of Gadsden and served in related roles for the city until his retirement.

Reaves, who is described as “having a heart for God and service” and as a “great man” by those who knew him closely, was known to frequent Walmart and chat with anyone and everyone he could.

“You would have to look hard for someone who didn’t know Jerry,” Black said. “He just loved people in general.”

Reaves died February 4, 2022 at the age of 85. Reaves was born in 1936 in Calhoun County, Alabama. He graduated Etowah High School and joined the U.S. Air Force in 1954. He and Betty Jane were married in 1963.

Several people shared heartwarming stories or fond memories from their time spent with Reaves during the dedication of the administrative building. One speaker, Jeremy Mallett, the executive director of H.O.P.E., Inc., shared that after a conversation about the stock market with Reaves that he later dropped off an envelope with one hundred dollars in it and a note telling Mallett to invest it and that he was proud of him.

“I kept that note in my wallet for a long time,” Mallett said. “It wasn’t about the money — which Jerry gave happily, that’s just the kind of man he was — it was about him saying he was proud of me. Jerry is one of a few men who made such a positive impact in my life. He’s on my Mt. Rushmore of good men. I hope that when I get to be his age I am something like him, even just a little like him.”

Betty Jane, Jerry’s wife, attended the dedication with their son Sam, as well as Sam’s wife Jennifer and Sam’s son Luke.

Sam spoke briefly about his father and how much H.O.P.E. meant to him and how thankful he was for the board and the legacy his father left. He also shared an anecdote about his father’s love of Walmart.

“Every town we went to, he knew where the nearest Walmart was,” Sam said while laughing. “He just really loved Walmart. He loved being near other people. When I was growing up, if dad went to the store and we forgot something on the list, mom or I would call the store and have them page him over the speakers. This was before cellphones.”

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