“As we continue to honor our veterans beyond Memorial Day, Florida Keys Community College pays tribute to Emil LaVache, a patriot, FKCC alumnus, sheriff’s deputy, and treasured member of the community, who passed away on Friday.

FKCC is grateful to all servicemen and women and their families for their dedication, commitment and sacrifice, and for their continued service to protect our freedom.  Over the years, the College has benefitted from the services of many veterans.  Each one deserves special recognition.  Today, however, we reflect on the life and legacy of Emil LaVache.

Emil, a Brooklyn native, served our country for 31 years in the U.S. Army, including combat missions during the Korean and Vietnam Wars.  He installed radio towers in both locations and trained troops to do the same.  During his time in Korea, a bad case of tuberculosis caused him to lose part of his lung, and in Vietnam, exposure to Agent Orange led to the development of thyroid and prostate cancer.  Emil’s perennial positive attitude surely helped him to persevere through such tribulations.  He rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel before retiring with 80 percent disability.

His last job with the Army—in the recruitment department—brought him and his wife Bernice to Key West in 1977, where they made a home and embraced the community.  Emil’s love and unwavering commitment to Bernice was widely known as he attentively cared for her personally until her death in 2002.

Emil enrolled in FKCC’s Basic Law Enforcement Academy in 1984 to train for a new chapter in his lifelong career of public service.  While he may have been one of the oldest recruits in his academy, his military experience and strong work ethic made him a model student and exemplary officer.  He worked for the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) for 25 years as a deputy and nine years as a volunteer reserve officer.

Emil became most recognizable in his role as an ambassador for law enforcement.  His love of children helped him to excel as he regularly visited all of the schools in the County, as well as FKCC.  He taught thousands of children, young adults, and not-so-young adults, classic lessons about personal safety and crime prevention—from locking cars to ‘stranger danger.’

He led the Neighborhood Crime Watch organization and made daily security checks at FKCC and many other organizations in the Keys.  Even well into his eighties, Emil could often be seen volunteering his time at the MCSO Animal Farm, St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen, and the Basilica of St. Mary Star of the Sea.

Emil was a true patriot and gentleman.  He made lasting impressions on generations in the Florida Keys.  The FKCC family remembers and salutes Emil.  We will continue to value his leadership and service to our country and community.”

— Jonathan Gueverra, FKCC President & CEO