‘Patriarch of Ivins,’ former mayor Jack Reber dies at 100

IVINS — Jack Reber, a part of the greatest generation who has been proclaimed by the city of Ivins to be its patriarch, died Wednesday. He was 100 years old. He passed away at the Southern Utah Veterans Home in Ivins, a facility Reber played a role in getting built.

In a file photo, former Ivins Mayor Jack Reber is honored at a flightless Honor Flight ceremony held at the Southern Utah Veterans Home, Ivins, Utah, Feb. 4, 2017 | Photo by Hollie Stark, St. George News

Reber, at age four, was part of one of the first 11 families to settle the part of the Santa Clara Bench that would become the city of Ivins. After serving in World War II, he had a long tenure on the Ivins Town Council before its cityhood and served as the town’s mayor from Jan. 2, 1978, to April 9, 1980.

Current Mayor Chris Hart announced Reber’s death during Thursday night’s Ivins City Council meeting in a new City Hall that is just a few weeks old. 

“He was a very special man responsible in some ways for everything that has happened here,” Hart said.

On June 16, Ivins held a “Jack Reber Day” to celebrate his 100th birthday complete with a parade from the Veterans Home to the old City Hall. The motto of the event, plastered on signs, was “He was the cause of all this.”

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

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

The “all this” Reber is responsible for can be seen throughout Ivins, according to a proclamation made by the city in June. 

It’s in the water, as Reber led efforts to install the city’s first culinary water system and the first fire hydrants.

It’s in Heritage Park, which Reber solicited donations for to have built as the town’s first park. 

It’s in its prosperity, as a strategy of selling town property helped take Ivins out of debt and put it on the road to cityhood. 

And it’s in the Southern Utah Veterans Home, where Reber spent the last six years of his life.

While mayor, Reber asked Allen Blood, who at that time owned a great deal of the land in Ivins, to donate 10 acres for municipal use. That land was used for the Veterans Home.  

A part of Ivins history has passed away,” Ivins council member Dennis Mehr said. 

Reber’s life began on June 16, 1921, as the son of Ernest John and Jetta Gubler Reber. Four years later, the Rebers came on a buckboard wagon to a place that had not yet been called Ivins to be among the first to settle there. For a year and a half, 4-year-old Jack Reber lived in a boarded up tent with no water or lights as his father built a farm and a small home.

As a teenager, Reber was part of Dixie High School’s first graduating class and in 1940 graduated from Dixie College. A year later, 13 days after the Pearl Harbor attack, he married Anna Belle Leavitt with whom he would ultimately have six children. Belle died in 1982 and Reber would later marry Johanna Owens in 1988.    

In file photo, Jack Reber participates in the City of St. George/American Legion Post 90 Veterans Day Parade and Concert, St. George, Utah, Nov. 11, 2013 | Photo by Alexa Morgan, St. George News

Jack and Belle spent 1942 and the first three months of 1943 in Pasadena, California, where Reber aided the war effort by helping to weld aircraft. It was the last time Reber would not count himself as an Ivins resident. In April 1943, the Rebers returned to Ivins, buying a small home, some property and a small herd of cattle. Jack worked as a mechanic in St. George and farmed in Beryl.

In 1944, war came calling. Reber joined the Navy and used his mechanical skills to help repair damaged ships, mostly in Guam. He served for the next two years and was on record as being the oldest World War II veteran living in Ivins.  

After his service, he returned to Ivins as a farmer, maintaining a farm and home in both Ivins and Beryl. He would also ultimately turn to public service as an Ivins council member and mayor. 

A funeral service for Reber will be held Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Metcalf Mortuary Chapel in St. George. He will then be laid to rest at 11 a.m. Monday at St. George City Cemetery on Tabernacle Street 80 years to the day of the United States’ entry into World War II. He will receive military honors.

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

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