Friends, family remember Vancouver police sergeant

Wayne Reynolds lost cancer battle March 11

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Vancouver Police Sgt. Wayne C. Reynolds was diagnosed nine months ago with a rare, aggressive form of lymphoma that typically strikes men two decades his senior. He immediately started chemotherapy, only to join the 17 percent of mantle cell lymphoma patients for whom chemotherapy doesn’t work. He then tried a drug, recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration, to suppress his cancer. After that failed, he hoped for a breakthrough in treatment options.

Reynolds, who worked for the Vancouver Police Department for 24 years, faced his diagnosis and prognosis with courage, the Rev. Gary Lazzeroni said Tuesday during a memorial Mass at St. Joseph Catholic Church.

“There is no fear in love,” Lazzeroni said, quoting from the Gospel of John.

Reynolds, who enjoyed a variety of assignments including patrol, property crimes and traffic, died March 11. He was 46.

As pallbearers brought in his casket, police officers lined the center aisle, slowly raising a hand in a salute while Sgt. Brian Kelly from the Portland Police Bureau played bagpipes. Other officers escorted Reynolds’ wife, Nichola, and their daughters Kathryn, 21, and Samantha, 15.

Police Chief James McElvain followed, with Assistant Chief Chris Sutter and Acting Assistant Chief Mike Lester.

“Wayne was able to love his way through his disease,” Lazzeroni said, speaking to a crowd of approximately 300 people. Love from God, family, co-workers and life-nourishing friendships “chased away any thought that his disease was some kind of punishment.”

Lazzeroni said Reynolds was transformed by the fight for his life and the realization he wasn’t in control.

He knew there was a place for him in God’s house, the priest said.

“We did not want him to go there this soon. He did not want to go there this soon. But go there he has, with courage and faith,” Lazzeroni said.

Sgt. Steve Dobbs, who served as a pallbearer, said after the Mass that Reynolds was diagnosed in June. He had flu-like systems, followed by excruciating abdominal pain that prompted him to go to the emergency room one evening. Doctors found his spleen was enlarged, which led to tests that uncovered the disease.

Mantle cell lymphoma, so named because the tumor cells originate in the “mantle zone” of the lymph node, accounts for 5 percent of non-Hodgkin lymphoma cases, according to the Lymphoma Research Foundation.

After learning he had a rare form of blood cancer, Reynolds was positive he would live at least seven more years, which he had been told by doctors was possible, Dobbs said.

“He was very optimistic,” Dobbs said. “He never lost his passionate focus for living.”

Reynolds’ last assignment was as audit sergeant. He went on leave following his diagnosis and was never able to return to work.

“Wayne always had a smile on his face,” said Commander Steve Neal. “He had a distinct ability to find the good in everything.”

Reynolds’ best friend, Robert Anderson, said he met Reynolds at the University of Portland in 1985. Reynolds, a graduate of David Douglas High School in Portland, was in the Air Force ROTC program because he wanted to be a pilot. But a shoulder injury rendered him ineligible, Anderson said. Disappointed, Reynolds decided if he couldn’t be in the armed forces, he would seek a career in law enforcement.

“He wanted to do something patriotic,” Anderson said. And while the career hadn’t been his first choice, he came to love the variety of assignments, Anderson said.

“Some of the guys, when they are done with a shift, they are done. He always had his gun. He always had his badge,” Anderson said.

Over the years, Reynolds talked of other ventures, such as real estate or stock investing, but never left the force.

He loved films and owned more than 1,000 DVDs which were readily loaned to friends, Anderson added. Free time was spent camping, playing golf, riding his motorcycle and bowling in a league. Reynolds also volunteered with the local chapter of the Boys & Girls Club of America. A photograph he took of Lost Lake and Mount Hood adorned the cover of his funeral program, along with a quote from Gandhi: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Following the Mass, there was a graveside service at Evergreen Memorial Gardens Cemetery and, as a nod to Reynolds’ love of bowling, a celebration of life gathering at Big Al’s.

During Mass, Lazzeroni quoted from a blog post Reynolds wrote in late February, when he said he was tired, worn out and hurting because his pain medication was wearing off.

“I still know God has a plan for me and my family,” Reynolds wrote, adding he accepted not knowing what that plan is.

“As long as I can still take a breath I will continue to be a source of inspiration for others,” Reynolds wrote.

Lazzeroni said he felt blessed to be able to spend time with Reynolds and his family over the past nine months.

“Wayne, you have blessed all of us. And you continue to do that, even after your last breath,” he said.

Following Lazzeroni’s homily, tenor Michael Kissinger sang”Precious Lord,” written by gospel great Thomas A. Dorsey. Kissinger later explained Dorsey wrote the song while grieving the death of his wife and their newborn baby, and said it’s one of his favorite gospel songs.

With his wife, Maria Manzo-Kissinger, accompanying him on the piano, Kissinger’s voice rang clear and loud in the church:

“Precious Lord, take my hand/Lead me on, let me stand/I am tired, I am weak, I am worn/Through the storm, through the night/Lead me on to the light/Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home.”