Ex-sheriff Joe Crevasse dead at 96


Published: Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 7:29 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 11:29 p.m.

Joe M. Crevasse Jr., the University of Florida’s first police chief and the longest serving sheriff in Alachua County history, passed away at his home on Monday.

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Former Alachua County Sherrif Joe Crevasse.

He was 96.

His son, Buddy Crevasse, who himself had a career of more than three decades with the Sheriff’s Office, recalled how his father wore a suit — not a uniform. He did not carry a gun, his son said, and he lived by straightforward rules.

“Treat people well. Give back to the community,” Buddy Crevasse said. “He was a good example, a good role model. He told me to deal with folks the way I wanted to be dealt with and treat people with respect.”

Crevasse’s long, influential career in local law enforcement began in 1947. He was UF’s head groundskeeper and, when university officials decided to start a police department, he volunteered to be chief.

In 1955, Gov. LeRoy Collins appointed Crevasse to finish the term of Alachua County Sheriff Frank M. Sexton. Crevasse was subsequently re-elected five times before his retirement from office in 1976.

A history of the agency, compiled by Katheryn Odom with the public information office, noted that Crevasse “focused on building the agency from a small backwoods department into a professional organization.”

His tenure started when Alachua was still a dry county and the agency battled rampant moonshining, Buddy Crevasse said. Under Joe Crevasse, the agency moved away from a system of relying on fees for funding and became a part of the county’s regular budget expenditures. An operations manual including regulations for employee conduct was also developed.

In the 1970s, Crevasse hired the agency’s first uniformed female deputy.

“He was a good man and a good sheriff,” said Ralph Cellon, who served on the County Commission from 1968 to 1972. “He was progressive, very professional.”

Away from law enforcement, the Crevasse family also operated a florist’s shop and landscape nursery. Today, the third generation of the family operates Crevasse’s Regency Florist.

Crevasse was active in the Florida Sheriff’s Association, the Florida Sheriff’s Youth Ranch, the Rotary Club and other local charities and civic organizations.

“As sheriff, he belonged to everything he could belong to,” Buddy Crevasse said. “And he didn’t just belong, he was active.”

In retirement, Crevasse ate daily at LaFamilia Cuban restaurant. His favorite meal was “chicken wings fried in my Cuban bread crumbs,” owner Terry Sapp said.

Sapp recalled Crevasse’s generosity and his warmth with people.

“He became a mentor to me,” Sapp said. “He came here and he gave me advice.”

Sheriff Sadie Darnell said she knew of Crevasse and the respect his name carried in law enforcement circles for years but did not meet him until her 2006 campaign.

“I was intimidated when I first met him while running for sheriff, because he was old school and I didn’t know what he thought of a woman running for sheriff,” Darnell recalled.

She asked Crevasse that question directly and he said it was not a sheriff’s gender or race that mattered, but their commitment to hard work and serving the people.

Darnell said that Crevasse gave her support and advice on the campaign trail, and the two grew to be close over the years. She said visited him last week, bringing one of his favorite desserts — banana pudding.

“I will miss him greatly,” she said. “I learned a lot from him, and he raised the bar as far as professionalism in law enforcement.”

The Sheriff’s Office headquarters building on Southeast Hawthorne Road was dedicated to Joseph M. Crevasse Jr. in a ceremony last April.

Contact Christopher Curry at 3784-5088 or chris.curry@gvillesun.com.

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