Joe Arpaio: I Want To Honor My Wife for Being a Great Partner in (Fighting) Crime
My wife, Ava, and I are celebrating our 61st wedding anniversary Saturday, and I just want to honor her and really all spouses of those who have served in law enforcement.
We have had quite a ride that took us from our first meeting on a blind date in Washington, D.C., in the 1950s, to marrying in Chicago, to moving our young family to Turkey and later Mexico, and ultimately landing in Arizona, which we have called home since 1978.
As the old song goes, she has been the “wind beneath my wings” through it all.
It’s been a test few people pass, but I got off easy; I got the very best when I married Ava.
We lived in the same building in D.C. — the Woodner Hotel, a nice place, which is still around — though that’s not how we met.
We met because my partner on the Washington police force struck out with her, so I asked him to give me her number so I could try.
I didn’t even know what she looked like, but I was up for the challenge and a chance to meet someone new.
We hit it off on that first phone call. I think it was because we started talking about how much we both loved dogs when I heard hers barking in the background.
Ava Lam, who hailed from the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, captured this Massachusetts young man’s heart.
A little while after we met, I left the Washington police department and ended up taking a job with the Las Vegas police after meeting the Nevada sheriff while leading off the inaugural parade for President Dwight Eisenhower in D.C. in January 1957.
I moved out west, but Ava and I kept in touch. Months later, when I was hired by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, which became the Drug Enforcement Administration, she joined me in Chicago, where I was assigned.
A month to the day after I took that job in the Windy City, we were married in a civil ceremony on Dec. 22, 1957. Later, I was transferred to Mexico City, where we were joined together again in a lovely Catholic cathedral.
Ava jumped right into the undercover work I was doing, play-acting the part of the wife of a drug dealer on the phone on more than one occasion to help me bust up narcotics rings in Chicago.
When the agency sent me to Turkey in the 1960s, my wife and young son came with me. We made that country — straddling Europe and the Middle East — our home for the next three years.
Once again, Ava assisted in my undercover work, including one time when she danced with a film actor who we suspected was involved in running drugs.
Though not the stuff of spy thrillers, Ava’s skills in the kitchen proved helpful on the diplomatic front when we were transferred to Mexico City, where I served a four-year stint as regional director of the DEA in the early ’70s.
The agency was seeking to stem the flow of drugs into the U.S. from Mexico, and of course we needed the help of the Mexican government to make this happen.
My wife’s blueberry pie, of all things, assisted in making greater cooperation possible.
It all started when I invited the attorney general of Mexico at the time, Pedro Ojeda Paullada, to our home for dinner.
Ava served her homemade blueberry pie for dessert, and Paullada was an instant fan, as anyone with good taste would be.
Pretty much every time he came to my home thereafter, my wife made him pie. I also passed along some American whiskey for good measure. The relationship Paullada and I built gave me an open door not only to his office but to the Mexican president’s and other government officials’ as well.
It was good old-fashioned American homemade pie diplomacy!
After 31 years working in the federal government, including joining the Army when the Korean War broke out in 1950, I retired in 1982 from the DEA. Little did I know I had a whole other career ahead of me as the sheriff of Maricopa County in Arizona.
It was very high-profile position, and I had a lot of threats — and of course they affected my wife and kids. They weren’t just idle threats. Many arrests were made. Not only did they threaten me, but some vicious threats were made against Ava.
I think it’s hard to understand the relationship between law enforcement officers and their families — how dangerous it can be and how it affects your spouse and kids, wondering if dad or mom might not come home that night.
During my DEA days in particular, there were many gunfights in foreign lands that I was involved in.
Through it all, here we are still together after 61 years.
We had a health scare about two years ago when Ava was diagnosed with a serious form of cancer.
It was during the heat of my 2016 re-election campaign, as well as the highly contested presidential race. I supported Donald Trump from day one of his candidacy and introduced him at a rally in Phoenix in July 2015.
Ava was a big fan too, and she was thrilled when then candidate-Trump called her after learning she was going through radiation and chemotherapy treatments.
Subsequently, he has made several calls to my wife to check on her health and has done so even since becoming president.
He clearly wasn’t trying to be kind to get my support, because he already had it. I’ll never forget what he did for my wife, and she will never forget either.
In May of this year, doctors at the Mayo Clinic told Ava she was in full remission, and I can’t tell you the joy we felt.
We thank God and the incredible staff at Mayo.
I have to give credit to Ava for my success. She’s been a great wife, mother, grandmother and partner in fighting crime.
What does the Good Book say? “A virtuous woman who can find? For her worth is far more than rubies … Her husband is known at the gates … and he praises her.”
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