From buckboard wagon to horse-drawn carriage: 100th birthday parade held for ‘Patriarch of Ivins’

IVINS —  Despite the heat wave gripping Southern Utah, a crowd of family, friends and community members came together Wednesday in Ivins for a parade – and Jack Reber was the cause for all of it.

The parade started at the Southern Utah Veterans Home and ended at City Hall, marking the occasion of Reber’s 100th birthday celebration and the proclamation of “Jack Reber Day” in Ivins.

The term “founding father” is commonly tossed around and used for many people, but in Reber’s case, it is literally correct, as the Ernest John and Jetta Gubler Reber family was the 11th original family of pioneer settlers to make Ivins their home.

Jack Reber came to Ivins on a buckboard wagon when he was 4 years old. Ninety-six years later he was driven around town in a horse-drawn carriage with a police escort as he waved to cheering onlookers.

Asked the secret to a long and happy life, Reber told St. George News it is “peace and love.” 

Ivins Mayor Chris Hart proclaims Jack Reber Day, Ivins, Utah, June 16, 2021 | Photo by E. George Goold, St. George News

When Reber’s extended family gathers for pictures, one phrase that he said comes up frequently is “I’m the cause of all this.”

This phrase could be seen on the banner of a large truck filled with Reber’s family members that followed behind the carriage in the parade: “Jack Reber Posterity: He’s the cause of ALL this.”

Known as the “Patriarch of Ivins,” Reber’s service to the community is extensive and fruitful.

In addition to serving on the City Council for many years, he was also Ivins mayor from January 1978 to April 1980. During his time as mayor, Reber was responsible for getting the city out of debt, completing Ivins City Park and finishing the installation of a culinary water system complete with fire hydrants.

Mayor Chris Hart joked on Wednesday that Reber had “accomplished more for the city in a couple years than I’ve done in 12.”

“He’s a special man from a special family,” Hart said, “and I hold him in high regard. He’s a great guy.”

Another of Reber’s lasting legacies is the creation of the Southern Utah Veterans Home in Ivins. As mayor, Reber approached the Allen Blood Estate about donating 10 acres of land to the city for future municipal use.

His request was granted, and the 10 acres eventually became the site of the veterans home.

Reber himself is a veteran, serving with the Navy and welding damaged ships in Guam from 1944-1946.

Some of the extended family celebrating Jack Reber Day, Ivins, Utah, June 16, 2021 | Photo by E. George Goold, St. George News

After his service in the military, Reber returned home to Ivins. He worked as a mechanic in St. George and as a farmer, mostly in the Beryl desert area near Enterprise.

His daughter Annette Densley said her father “worked us really hard.” 

“He taught us all to work, which we’ve all been so grateful for in our older years as we grew up,” she said. “He just worked so hard his whole life. He’s not a very big man, but he worked bigger than life.”

Reber’s eldest son, Robert, echoed the sentiments.

“One thing he always told me, he said, ‘Son, if anything’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.’” Robert Reber said. “So I always adopted that in my entire life, as a work ethic. He taught me how to work, almost too good. I always worked two and three jobs my whole life and forgot how to settle down and take life easy. I don’t think that’s a bad thing.”

He said his father wasn’t always pleased with his children’s choices, but they always worked out in the end.

“He didn’t like it much when I started dating girls because they called a lot,” he said. “He didn’t like me on the phone all the time. He said if I probably wasn’t on the phone as much, I would have had better grades. But, you know, they called me and I called them, and we just had a good time.” 

When asked about all the growth in Ivins that resulted from his father’s service, Robert Reber answered with a anecdote about Anthony W. Ivins, an early apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“He once said, ‘The time will come when Ivins and St. George will be one,’ and everybody thought he was off his rocker,” he said, referring to the ease of interconnectedness between the cities. “Well, it’s exceeded that now. In fact, it’s gone all the way to Hurricane and beyond. And our family was here for it all.”

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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