(8/1) John Rollins Reaves, former Emmitsburg Mayor and Town Council President, died on Friday, July 20, at his Emmitsburg home at 90 years of age.
Reaves ascended to the position of Emmitsburg Mayor on August 7, 1979, upon the resignation of then-Mayor and Vigilant Hose Fire Chief, Eugene Myers. Reaves was serving as the Council President when Myers resigned. Myers resigned halfway through his 2-year term to devote more time to the Fire Company.
Reaves is described by those who knew him as a "reluctant mayor" because he never chose to run for mayor and after serving the nine month balance of Myersís term, he chose not to run for election to any town office.
Charles Long, a former employee of Reaves, said Mayor Reaves "was more of a doer than a bureaucrat" while in office. "He was very glad when the term (as mayor) was up. I can remember every Friday night him sighing and saying, ĎI have to go up to the town office and sign checks.í"
The Rev. Ronald E. Reaves, Reavesí son, recalled that one of the key attributes of his fatherís role as mayor and town commissioner was "not being supportive of the expansion of town boundaries (through annexations). He loved the town the way it was."
Mayor Reaves was born in Orlando, Florida in 1921. He joined the National Guard in 1941 before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Following that assault, his guard unit was activated.
Reaves went on to serve in the Pacific Campaign with the 1st Battalion of the 32nd Division, and participated, as a squad leader, in assaults in North Papua New Guinea in 1944.
In July 1944, during one fierce engagement, Reaves stated that his unit surprised a large force of Japanese troops trying to ford a river to attack the landing beach (where Reavesí unit had executed an amphibious landing). Reaves recounted, "We just opened fire on them from the shore. So many died in the river that it turned red with
Reaves then went on to fight on Customeron Morotai Island, a small island located among the Indonesian Maluku Islands. In late-1944, Reaves and his staunch but disease-ridden and combat-spent unit returned to the States and did not fight again (Read John Reavesí WWII exploits).
After World War II, John married the love of his life, Betty Jane Rohrbaugh and opened Reaves Electric Company, an appliance store, in Emmitsburg. Former employee Long said, "I worked for him for 19 years. He was very easy to work with."
Granddaughter Pam Miles said, "He [Reaves] loved fixing electrical things." She was always amazed that, whenever she went into his apartment, "he had something [creative] hooked up to make his life easier."
John Hollinger, a board member of the Emmitsburg Vigilant Hose Company, fondly remembered Reaves, "Iíve known him a long time. I had done business with him, and he did business with us down at the garage. He was a good and honest man."
Former Mayor Reaves was interned in the Elias Lutheran Churchís graveyard, next to the church he had devoted so much of his life to.
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