The Way We Were: Cyndy Ira Reynolds

The Way We Were: Cyndy Ira Reynolds
1999 Wedding: back row: John Dawson, Robert Utsey, Dylan Morgan, Bill Buckingham, Glenn Taylor, Mickey Freeman; front row: Jennifer Trout Porter, Tyler Pirrung Alden, Mary Ellen Hulsey Brown, Clicker Hamilton Morgan, the late Dr. Gordon Ira, Jr., Cyndy Ira Reynolds, Beth Ingham Smith, Christian Ferguson Pierre

A value system instilled by her family and the loyalty of lifelong friends are what have shaped and molded Cyndy Ira Reynolds of Avondale. “I feel like a mixture of so many bright and intuitive and lovely people,” she said.

Reynolds is the daughter of Dr. Gordon H. Ira, Jr., the Jacksonville native who had a cardiology practice with his father in the historic St. James Building that now houses City Hall. Her mother, Stephanie Diuguid Kuhling of Atlantic Beach, was raised in Rochester, N.Y., and is a retired psychotherapist from Oak Park, Ill..

Cyndy and Grandpa Diuguid 1968
Cyndy and Grandpa Diuguid 1968

Reynolds’s parents met in 1953 over Christmas break from Duke University and married the following July at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Ortega. Reynolds, their only daughter, was born in Durham, N.C. in 1960 while her dad was fulfilling cardiology fellowship training at Duke after having served two years in the Navy in Charleston, S.C. In 1962, the Iras moved to Algonquin Avenue in Ortega where Reynolds spent most of her youth.

“Life on Algonquin Avenue was idyllic,” Reynolds said. Even Hurricane Dora in 1964 didn’t taint her memories of her time there. Floating in a rowboat in the flood and eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches by candlelight after sunset quelled any fear.

Whether perched on the banana seat of her pink Schwinn with the flower basket, playing Kick the Can on the lawn, or climbing fruit trees in the backyard, Reynolds always knew when it was time for supper by the special tune whistled out the front door by her dad. Sometimes, she’d be at a neighbor’s house with friends putting on a circus for which they’d handwritten invitations and charged admission. 

In addition to her father’s whistle, “The sound of my youth is the pool in action at the Florida Yacht Club,” Reynolds said. Her summers were spent there swimming, sailing, and playing tennis. When not at the club, she could be found at the intersection of Edgewood Avenue and Roosevelt Boulevard in the Edgewood Theatre watching a movie or on Corinthian Avenue in Ortega at either Carter’s Pharmacy drinking an ice cream soda or across the street at Banner Grocery signing a tab for a Little Debbie snack cake. Begrudgingly, she took ballroom dance lessons at the studio of Thelma Johnston Baggs while most other girls were taking ballet. 

Stephen, Cyndy, Greg, Cliff 1965
Stephen, Cyndy, Greg, Cliff 1965

Reynolds said that as she was growing up, she felt fortunate to have grandparents nearby, only 10 minutes away in both directions—Dr. and Mrs. Gordon H. Ira, Sr. on Challen Avenue in Avondale and Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Diuguid on Pirates Cove Road in Ortega. That’s pronounced ‘do good,’ she instructed. “It’s a palindrome.”

The Iras had settled in Jacksonville in the 1930s when Reynolds’s grandfather began his medical practice. Grandpa Diuguid ended his career in quality control for Birds Eye®, a food processing company, and retired here in the 1950s. Reynolds remembers fondly many mornings that he would drive her to school when she’d miss the bus. “I was raised by my parents and their families, and I’m so grateful for that,” she said.

As a child and as an adult into her 40s, Reynolds spent a lot of time with her grandmothers, both of whom lived to be 99 years old. “If that is not the ultimate blessing, I don’t know what is,” Reynolds said. “I am such a conglomerate of those two women.” On one side, comes her lightheartedness, and on the other, her creativity.

Cyndy Ira, age 2
Cyndy Ira, age 2

Reynolds’s schooling began at Harriet Ross’s Ortega Kindergarten and proceeded to St. Johns Country Day School for elementary. After a move to Arden Street in Avondale as a pre-teen, Reynolds went to junior high at the Bolles School and graduated from the Episcopal School of Jacksonville in 1978. She remains friends today with many of her former classmates, including the twins Marianne Montgomery Hofheimer and Alison Montgomery Bartz. There’s also Frances “Clicker” Hamilton Morgan, whom Reynolds refers to as her “best gal.” They met on Algonquin Avenue when they were three years old. Both had brothers as siblings, and there were so many boys in the neighborhood, that the two girls “stuck together like glue,” Reynolds said. When she got married in her dad’s backyard on the St. Johns River, Clicker and many other of her classmates-turned-friends were there. 

Reynolds’s business degree in hotel management from the University of Denver led to a 35-year career with Marriott International, managing eight different hotels, moving her throughout the country—Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Long Island, Atlanta, Chicago, and Milwaukee. She’d come back home to visit family and friends multiple times per year, but she missed being with them regularly. So, she and her husband, H. Perry Reynolds III, made a two-year retirement plan. In October 2015, they bought an Avondale house on Challen Avenue, just one block away from where she used to spend time as a child with her Ira grandparents. In April 2017, they returned for good. “I love being back in Jacksonville,” she said.

Cyndy with Grandma “Boppie” Anis Ira
Cyndy with Grandma “Boppie” Anis Ira

Although officially retired, Reynolds runs a small pottery business, using the name Cirama Pottery and More. She sells her wares on weekends at Riverside Arts Market under the Fuller Warren Bridge and at Master Gardener Plant Sales. She learned to throw pottery on a wheel and became fairly proficient at it while taking classes in an old barn when she lived in Milwaukee. When she returned to Jacksonville, she and her dad took a class together at Murray Hill Arts Center, where she now belongs to a weekly group, playing in the clay with Cookie Davis and friends. 

One of the delights about being back home is the quality time spent with her parents. Before her dad passed away in 2019, she had helped him set up a pottery studio in his garage, complete with wheel and kiln, where they created ceramic pieces together. Recently, wearing face masks, she and her mom rummaged through a box of Reynolds’s baby clothes. She also visits friends with whom she went to school. “Life is all about precious moments, even in times of COVID,” she said.

Back row - Anis Ira, Stephanie Diuguid Kuhling, Ginny Diuguid; center row – Gordon Ira Sr., Gordon Ira Jr., Stephen Duiguid; front row – Anis Ira Daley, Phil Diuguid
Back row – Anis Ira, Stephanie Diuguid Kuhling, Ginny Diuguid; center row – Gordon Ira Sr., Gordon Ira Jr., Stephen Duiguid; front row – Anis Ira Daley, Phil Diuguid

After a nearly 40-year absence, Reynolds notices many changes around Jacksonville. Using her GPS is always a surprise, as the infrastructure makes it easier than she had remembered to get around town. “I no longer assume I know the fastest way to get from point A to point B,” she said. And when she left for college, the fanciest mall had been Regency Square, which she recalled as special because that’s where her Grandma Ira, whom she called Boppie, would take her for birthday lunches at Lums. There was no St. Johns Town Center. She misses Embers, the rotating restaurant that used to top the JEA building. Today, she spends time in multiple shops and restaurants in Avondale and 5 Points. She is grateful to see that Edge City, a women’s clothing boutique, and Dreamette, an ice cream shop, still stand. 

Reynolds has also been impressed with the cultural offerings now available in Jacksonville, like the FSCJ Broadway Artist Series at the Florida Theatre and the Florida Forum Speaker Series hosted by Wolfson Children’s Hospital. She holds multiple local memberships—Cummer Museum, National Society of the Colonial Dames of America, Artist Guild, and The Art Center Cooperative (TAC). As a master gardener, it’s no surprise that she works within the community alongside the Garden Club.

She engages in local affairs, retains friendships that span five decades, and has family ties that go back nearly a century. “It is a wonderful feeling to be home again,” Reynolds said of Jacksonville.

By Mary Wanser
Resident Community News

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