Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio announced the death of his wife over the weekend and thanked the many including former President Donald Trump who reached out to offer their support.
Ava was 89 years old when she died on Saturday afternoon at about 3:30 after being hospitalized for two weeks with complications from cancer, Arpaio told The Arizona Republic.
“My beloved wife Ava passed away over the weekend with my family and I at her side,” Arpaio said in a statement.
“During my 63 years of marriage to Ava, the love of my life, she always supported and defended me during my 57 years in law enforcement. She also made sure that our two children and I were always happy,” he added.
“I want to thank everyone around the country who loved and stood by my wife over the years. Also, President Trump, who called Ava several times when she was fighting cancer, called me [Sunday] extending his condolences.”
My wife Ava passed of cancer over weekend w/family at her side. Married 63 years, she supported my 57 yrs in Law Enf. Thanks to everyone who loved & stood by my wife. Pres Trump called Ava several times when she was fighting cancer & called me yesterday extending his condolences.
— Sheriff Joe Arpaio (@RealSheriffJoe) March 22, 2021
Arpaio noted that Ava, a devout Catholic, had received last rites.
“I’m blessed to know that she’s now in heaven,” he said.
In an interview with The Western Journal last week, the former lawman praised Trump, including how he was so faithful to check in with Ava during her cancer fight.
He recalled waking up one morning a few years ago and telling his wife, “I finally found my hero. Took over 80 years, and that’s Donald Trump.”
Arpaio recounted how Trump called Ava after she had been diagnosed with cancer in 2016 and continued to follow up with her.
“And he didn’t have to call my wife several times, including when he was president, to see how she’s doing,” the former lawman said.
“I was with him to begin with. And so I don’t forget those things,” he continued.
Arpaio, known for his tough stance on illegal immigration, was among the first major officeholders in Arizona to officially endorse Trump during the Republican primary in January 2016.
Media outlets reported that same month Ava was battling cancer.
In May 2018, Arpaio wrote in a Facebook post that the doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix found Ava was in “complete remission,” according to The Arizona Republic.
Later that year, Arpaio published a piece with The Western Journal honoring his wife on the occasion of their 61st wedding anniversary.
“As the old song goes, she has been the ‘wind beneath my wings’ through it all,” he wrote.
They met in the 1950s in Washington, D.C., where he was serving on the police force and she was a bookkeeper.
“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,” he explained.
“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,” Arpaio wrote.
They hit it off on the call after they discovered how much they both loved dogs, which became a topic of conversation when he heard hers barking in the background.
Ava Lam hailed from Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, and Arpaio was from Massachusetts.
They stayed in touch when Arpaio moved from D.C. to take a job first with the Las Vegas Police Department and later when he was hired by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics in Chicago.
Ava joined him in the Windy City and they tied the knot in a civil ceremony on Dec. 22, 1957.
A year later, they were married in a formal ceremony at a Catholic cathedral in Mexico City, where they had been transferred.
Ava jumped right into Arpaio’s undercover law enforcement work, at times play-acting the wife of a drug dealer on the phone.
On another occasion when they were stationed in Turkey, she danced with a film actor who was also a suspected drug runner, Arpaio recalled.
Ava’s skills in the kitchen proved helpful on the diplomatic front when the couple was sent to Mexico City for another stint in the early ’70s with the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The agency was seeking to stem the flow of drugs into the U.S. from Mexico, and the DEA 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,” wrote Arpaio, explaining that Pedro Ojeda Paullada, the attorney general of Mexico at the time, loved it.
“Pretty much every time he came to my home thereafter, my wife made him pie,” Arpaio related. “It was good old-fashioned American homemade pie diplomacy!”
Arpaio also lauded his wife for how she stood by him during his 24 years as Maricopa County sheriff, from 1993 to 2017.
“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,” he wrote.
The couple had two children — a son named Rocco and a daughter named Sherry — and four grandchildren.
“I have to give credit to Ava for my success. She’s been a great wife, mother, grandmother and partner in fighting crime,” Arpaio concluded in his 2018 piece.
“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.’”
Arpaio’s friend Lori Klein, an Arizona Republican national committeewoman and former state senator, told The Western Journal, “Ava was the most kind, gracious Southern gentlelady.”
“She was an inspiration to all of us, and we truly will miss her and her presence with our sheriff,” she added. “Our prayers are with Sheriff Joe and his family.”
Very saddened to hear of the loss of Ava Arpaio, Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s wife of more than 60 years. Our prayers and our hearts are with Sheriff Joe and his entire family during this time. #RIP https://t.co/xNyIixjXL1
— Doug Ducey (@DougDucey) March 22, 2021
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey tweeted, “Very saddened to hear of the loss of Ava Arpaio, Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s wife of more than 60 years. Our prayers and our hearts are with Sheriff Joe and his entire family during this time.”