Two respected South Florida police veterans with much in common died early in 2013: Gary Minium, who retired as a major from the Miami-Dade Police Department in 1993, and Bill Davis, who spent 27 years with the Miami Beach department then retired in 2004 from a federal task force.
Both had been U.S. Marines guarding U.S. embassies abroad. Both came from police families: one the son of a cop, the other a cop’s dad.
Both died in their 70s during their birth month, of heart failure: Minium on Jan. 5 near his home in Dunellon, Davis at his home on Key Biscayne on Jan. 4.
Minium was born on Jan. 7, 1940, in Cambridge, Pa., and was two days from turning 73. His father was the late, much-admired Det. Robert L. “Pappy’’ Minium.
Gary Minium, who had a history of cardiac problems, apparently suffered a heart attack behind the wheel and died after his car hit a sign, said daughter Denise Bryant, of West Palm Beach.
William Davis was born Jan. 29, 1935 in New York City, was about to turn 78, and undergo heart surgery.
One of his sons is Surfside Sgt. John S. Davis.
Minium joined the Marines as a teenager in 1957, after attending North Miami Senior High, where he met his future wife, Sharon Wright.
He served until 1962, including gunnery duty in Lebanon and a stint guarding the U.S. embassy in Chile, his daughter said.
He went straight to the county police department, where his 31-year career included homicide and undercover narcotics.
His daughter remembers him looking like “a hippie’’ to blend in, and sometimes not coming home for days.
John Rivera, Miami-Dade Police Benevolent Association president, worked with Minium at the Intercostal station.
“As a major, what was unique about him was that at all times of the day and night, he’d come out and join the troops, even just on routine stuff. He’d go out at 3 a.m. and patrol the streets.’’
He kept his Marine bearing, said Rivera, “and if you were lazy or indecisive, you were not going to get along with him...You had to be squared away and willing to make a decision. He was very demanding of his troops, but led by example.’’
His dad, “Pappy’’ Minium, “was a legend. That man could have run for major and won, he was that popular. He had every connection in the world. The go-to guy. There wasn’t a thing that happened that he didn’t resolve.’’
He died in 2010.
Gary’s nickname was “Crazy Eyes,’’ said retired Sgt. David Rivers, now of Leesburg, who worked with Minium in the Warrants and Homicide bureaus, because of his intense, unnerving stare.
“He had a way of opening his eyes really wide when in jest or anger,’’ said Rivers. “At one point I had a plastic skull with red marbles for eyes’’ as a Crazy Eyes mascot.
“I got phenomenal butt chewings from that man. He had a crooked right index finger, and we used to joke that it had buckled from poking so many people in the chest. But he was a leader: gruff, with a heart of gold. And he put a lot of bad guys in jail.’’
At home, said daughter Denise, “he was our go-to guy for everything. Gentle, but he expected us to do the right thing. He didn’t tolerate disrespect.’’
Gary and Sharon Minium retired to Dunellon in 1996. Denise said that her father, who’d undergone open-heart surgery and survived lung cancer, wanted peace and quiet along the Withlacoochee River.
He spent his time with his grandkids, and fishing.
In addition to his wife and daughter Denise, Minium is survived by daughters Traci Minium of Phoenix and Lori Minium of Port St. Lucie. Son Scott died in 2007.
Loved ones planned to gather in Dunellon to remember Minium. The family suggests memorial donations to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and the Wounded Warrior Project.
Although he didn’t graduate from high school, William Watt Davis became a financial expert, tracking down all manner of economic criminals, from old-style check “kiters’’ to sophisticated Internet money launderers.
He professionalized the Miami Beach Police Department’s economic crimes unit, then — after a stint as Indian Creek Police chief, restructuring it to meet FDLE requirements — worked as a Florida Department of Revenue investigations supervisor, then as the Supervisory Criminal Investigator for the state Comptroller.
He wrapped up his career in international bank asset-tracing as a state liaison to the federal High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area of South Florida.
He especially disliked anyone who took advantage of the elderly, son John said, and “took down a lot of gypsy operations that targeted older people.’’
As president of the Miami Beach Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #8 in the late 1970s and early ’80s, Davis fought for salary and pension parity with Miami and Coral Gables, which made him unpopular at City Hall and probably hampered his career, his son said.
He also held leadership positions with the City of Miami Beach Fire and Police Pension Fund.
“He was honest and upright,’’ said Maj. Lou Reilly, a police contemporary and golfing buddy, now retired. “He was well liked. By the book.’’
He was tall and tough but quiet, Reilly said, and “once knocked somebody out with one punch.’’
John Davis, known as Scotty, recalls walking the Lincoln Road beat with his dad in the pre-gentrification days, when all the retirees in folding chairs knew Officer Davis by name.
Davis grew up in New England, working on fishing boats and at a Cape Cod cranberry bog as a teenager. He joined the Marines at 17, served — and froze — in the Korean Demilitarized Zone.
His next assignment was more to his liking: embassy security in Havana, Cuba. There Davis met Olga Morell, a local girl who was teaching Spanish to the security force. He became fluent — and married Olga in 1957.
“He was the only Spanish speaker in the Miami Beach Police Department for years,’’ son John said.
He became an accomplish Cuban cook, John said, specializing in picadillo.
The Davises settled in Miami-Dade to raise five children, including a set of twins. The family vacationed on Key Biscayne until they were able to move there.
Davis earned first a GED, then an associate of science degree in criminal justice from Miami Dade College, a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice from Florida International University, and a certificate from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School in Public Sector Money Management.
He also became a certified fraud examiner.
Of Scottish heritage, Davis was raised in the Anglican Episcopal Church, but became an observant Catholic 10 years ago through a grandson with whom he was particularly close.
John Davis said his father suffered a heart attack during the summer, and was scheduled for surgery in a few weeks.
In addition to his wife and son John, Davis is survived by daughters Olga Marie Berkowitz, Beatriz Barrios and Elizabeth Ann Davis, as well as son William, all of Miami-Dade County.
A funeral Mass will be sung at 7 p.m. Friday at St. Agnes Church, 100 Harbor Dr., Key Biscayne.
The family suggests memorial donations to the American Heart Association.