Joe Reynes headed west

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REYNES, (Major USAF Ret.) Joseph Jr., runner, fighter pilot, former Mayor of Gulf Breeze—and beloved husband, father, and grandfather—went to be with the Lord on February 23, 2015.

Joe was born in Medina, New York, March 1, 1934 to Joseph and Alice Jay Reynes. Joe began his education in 1940 in a one-room schoolhouse sitting on a hillside next to his Aunt Alys and Uncle Paul Ritterbrown’s Ranch in Sunlight Basin, Wyoming. He graduated from New York’s Palmyra-Macedon High School in 1952 and attended the State University of New York at Buffalo. After his Air Force career, Joe graduated from the University of West Florida with a Bachelors of Political Science in 1974 and in 1975 completed his Masters course work in Public Administration.

During his childhood on Long Island Joe was fascinated by the fighter aircraft and aviators flying near his home and became mesmerized by their graceful maneuvers and speed —that sparked a lifelong love of all aircraft and flying. In December 1953, Joe joined the United States Air Force as an Aviation Cadet and was commissioned in January 1955 —receiving his navigator wings in March of that year. In April 1955 he was assigned to the 774th Troop Carrier Squadron assigned to Ardmore Air Force Base Oklahoma (AFB), where he met and later married the love of his life, LaRita Dawn Foster.

In 1958 Joe was selected for Pilot Training and left Ardmore for Moore Air Force base at Mission Texas and and Primary Flight training in the T-28. Six months later he moved on to Basic flight training in the T-33 at Laredo, Texas. Upon graduation at Laredo he received orders for fighter pilot training in the F-100 at Phoenix, Arizona, followed by advanced fighter training at Nellis AFB, Las Vegas, Nevada. In the summer of 1960 Joe received orders for his first assignment as a fighter pilot with the 44th Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS) assigned to Kadena AFB, Okinawa.

In 1962 he received an assignment to the 481st TFS assigned to Cannon AFB in Clovis, New Mexico. Two years later he was assigned to a MAAG detachment at DaNang AB flying both the A1E/H & T-28s during the Vietnam War. In 1965 he deployed with the 481st TF Squadron to Tan Son Nhat AB. On the 20th of September 1965, Joe was shot down over the Mekong Delta while supporting troops in combat and was rescued later that day. In 1966 Joe was assigned to Luke AFB as an F-100 instructor pilot. In 1968 Joe was promoted to Major and moved on to the 461st TF Squadron assigned to McConnell AFB, Wichita, Kansas as he transitioned to the F-105 followed by the Wild Weasel School at Nellis AFB, Las Vegas, NV. In 1968-1969.

Joe flew out of Korat AB, Thailand as part of the “Iron Hand” support missions flying over North Vietnam. In 1969 to 1973, Joe’s final tour was at 5th Air Force headquarters in Tokyo as the Chief of Standard Evaluation. His decorations and awards include: Distinguished Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Distinguished Flying Cross with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Medal with eighteen Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal, Purple Heart, National Defense Service Medal with one Bronze Service Star, Republic of Vietnam Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, Air Force Longevity Service Award with four Oak Leaf Clusters, Combat Readiness Medal, and the Armed Forces Reserve Medal.

He was a dedicated father to his three children Joe, Lisa, and Jeannette. They always felt his love and support through his telling of funny stories and his avid letter writing highlighting their uniqueness with encouragement and guidance. He was a devoted Grandfather to six grandchildren. They often knew his love for them by sharing many adventurous experiences, his many personal notes, and frequent post cards to each of them. He loved the game of baseball. He always said it was “a little boys’ game.” He coached many of his son Joe’s baseball teams, Gulf Breeze little league, and even his grandson Harrison’s team. An avid runner, he assisted the track teams at Chofu High and Gulf Breeze High coaching alongside his children and became the track meet starter—a job he thoroughly enjoyed! After retirement from the Air Force, Joe continued serving his country by serving his local community.

He was elected Mayor of Gulf Breeze in 1980 and was re-elected in 1982. He also worked with the Friends of the library, was Deacon of his church—Pensacola Beach Community Church, volunteered to help veterans navigate tax law at Hurlbert Field, volunteered to help veterans advance their civilian careers through the VFW, and supported many Gulf Breeze Community Causes. Joe was a lifelong member of the Republican Party—he was the Republican Party Chairman for Santa Rosa proudly supporting Ronald Reagan. Joseph is survived by a large and loving family who will miss him dearly: his wife, LaRita Foster Reynes; son, Major General Joseph Reynes Jr. (Karen), Norfolk, VA; daughter, Lisa Marie Reynes, Maywood, FL; daughter, Jeannette Prochaska (Eric), Gulf Breeze, FL; six grandchildren: Marin Reynes, Washington, D.C.; Robert Jason Fifield, Montgomery, AL (Amanda); Sgt. First Class Joseph Etienne Reynes, Ft Bragg, NC; Lyndsey Diane Fifield, Washington D.C.; Samuel Goodwin Fifield, Kansas City, MO; Harrison Royal Prochaska, Gulf Breeze, FL.