I’m not in the habit of quoting myself. It just seems obnoxious, like when people refer to
themselves in the third person. But since it’s so common for people to say nice things about others when they die, I want to show you something I wrote about someone I respected and admired with the words from long before he passed away. This is an excerpt from a column I wrote in October 2015:
There were so many poignant moments during Tuesday night’s drug court graduation ceremony, it’s hard to single out just one. But the one that stuck with me came from one of the people who isn’t even a graduate or the family member of a graduate. It was something drug court officer Jimmy Dale Reynolds said.
He’s a gruff-sounding, grisly old law-enforcement officer. And he admitted to having
that old-school approach that says, “Lock ’em up and throw away the key.” But he’s been with the Jones County Drug Court since it started in May 2012, and during that time,
his outlook has evolved. Officer Reynolds has a no-nonsense approach, punctuated by a deep, Sam Elliot-esque voice. He sets the tone for all of the participants. All six of the graduates referred to how tough he was on them. One recalled him saying, “Either we’re
going to get along or you’re going to get off.”
That’s why it was particularly touching when Reynolds choked up a little and said, “I don’t know who’s getting the bigger blessing, me or them ... We’re not here to throw you away.” No, that doesn’t mean he’s softened up. Not at all. If anything, it’s a reminder that he needs to keep being tough in order to make a difference in these people’s lives. But he’s come to realize, like so many people need to, that nobody wins by just locking up these folks and hoping they come out better. It rarely, if ever, works that way.
The personal interaction Reynolds and drug court coordinator Charlotte Grayson have with the participants is a reminder that all of them are human beings who have a serious problem that pushes them to do things they ordinarily wouldn’t do.
They’re sons, daughters, wives, husbands, fathers, mothers ... People who love and are loved. They come from all sorts of ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, but they have one thing in common — they’ve hit bottom, and either they want to pull themselves out or go six feet under. Those are really the only choices. It’s a life-or-death struggle. That’s not
hyperbole, that’s reality.
I’ll never forget that night in the courtroom in Ellisville, hearing the heartfelt words of Jimmy Dale. When his voice cracked, my eyes almost started leaking. It was so unexpected. So real. You just had to know him to understand. He had to maintain that
hardened exterior to handle the people in drug court. Some are there to beat their
addiction. Some are there to try to beat the system. All have been master manipulators for years. He had to be tough and uncompromising to deal with them. The ones who come through to the other side respect and appreciate that ... and they are many.
First Grayson and now Consuelo Walley are the drug court coordinators in charge of the program, but both would tell you that any success the program has had wouldn’t have
been possible without Jimmy Dale.
He leaves a tremendous legacy in this community with the lives and families he had a
major role in helping restore. Jimmy Dale Reynolds died of cancer on July 5, the day after
Independence Day — which is fitting because of how many people he helped to gain their
freedom from drugs.
Yes, he was tough on the participants ... but that’s because he cared. He knew that was the only way to truly help them. The ones who were there for the right reasons understood
and appreciated that. It’s why all of them made references to him during graduations ceremonies.
About a week before his death, Jimmy Dale was given a year to live. He was taken from
us far too soon — even if his life had lasted the year after the cruel, quick onset of cancer.
Jimmy Dale will be missed. But he didn’t leave this world without making a difference. So
many lives around here were extended and fulfilled as a direct result of his rugged compassion.
What a tribute to him it would be if they continued their lives of purpose by paying it forward to others who are struggling.