Max Beverly of Hypoluxo Island had a career helping young people — as a counselor, detention service director and administrator of Palm Beach County’s Juvenile and Family Court. He also served as the county’s youth affairs director and became its first director of Justice Services. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star
A handwritten letter Max Beverly received recently came as a big surprise.
More than 50 years ago, Beverly was a probation officer in the Palm Beach County system when he came across one troubled teenager who piqued his interest.
“One of the reasons I had a special relationship with him was, unlike most of them, a lot of his issues were not of his own making,” said Beverly, a resident of Lantana’s Hypoluxo Island.
“He came from an incredibly dysfunctional family,” Beverly recalled. “He really didn’t have the chance to be a normal kid because of all the dysfunction in his family. Most of the families I dealt with were a little dysfunctional, but his was off the charts. And he went through a lot of emotional and physical abuse because of that.”
At one point, Beverly pulled the young man aside and asked him a question: Don’t you want to contribute something to society?
“And that stuck with him,” Beverly said. “He ended up with a master’s degree in math, then went into computer programming.”
In short, he turned his life around, and the letter the successful, now 72-year-old California man wrote made it clear to Beverly that he deserves at least part of the credit.
“I called him a couple days later and we talked for about two hours,” Beverly said. “So, it was good for both of us.”
Beverly, who spent his entire career in public service and much of it with people who have been on the wrong side of the law, said such gestures are not all that unusual.
“I’m proud of the fact I’ve had a number of kids — when they were adults — thank me for what I did for them, both when I was a probation officer and later when I developed treatment programs.”
Beverly is equally proud of the Highridge Family Center, a residential treatment program he designed and a program he created. The West Palm Beach center was dedicated to him in 2002, recognizing Beverly for his 40 years of service and his “commitment and significant contributions to the youth of Palm Beach County.”
Also of note is his achievement in making Palm Beach the first county in the state to offer professional counseling for patients who were in drug treatment programs.
“Before that it was ‘arrest them and hold them.’ They would get schooling, and have to follow certain rules, but there was no counseling. I brought that in when I started running the facilities. It made a huge difference.”
Beverly, 82, was born and raised in Pahokee in the 1940s and ’50s. He says the impoverished town that struggles so much today was nothing like the Pahokee he knew.
“When I was growing up it was a produce community,” he said. “My dad was a produce broker. We grew corn, cabbage, bell peppers, cucumbers. There were a lot of small farmers who did very, very well, and the town was very vibrant, with car dealerships, a theater, restaurants — we had everything.
“But when Castro took over, Big Sugar came in, took over the Glades and destroyed the economy, because that was the end of the small farmers who supported the community.
“The landowners became people who lived somewhere else and didn’t care about the community. And we didn’t have the pollution, because they weren’t burning the sugar cane.
“The lake was clear; the Corps of Engineers hadn’t destroyed it yet. You could look down from your boat in 6, 7 feet of water and see the bottom. It was a beautiful place to grow up.”
Now retired, Beverly still enjoys an active life with his wife, Media, including boating, fishing, scuba diving and gardening.
— Brian Biggane
Q: Where did you grow up and go to school? How do you think that has influenced you?
A: I grew up in Pahokee and graduated from Pahokee High School in 1957. My early life was a mixture of hard work (I was a Boy Scout and earned Eagle Scout status at age 13), football, hunting, fishing, scuba diving and travel.
In 1967, I obtained a B.A. degree in psychology and philosophy from Wake Forest University and then returned to Florida to obtain a M.Ed. in human behavior from FAU in 1967, while in night school. I was always influenced by a strong work ethic and an active healthy outdoor lifestyle. I was taught to study and question all sides of any issue before acting.
Q: What professions have you worked in? What professional accomplishments are you most proud of?
A: In 1962, I became a juveniles counselor for the Palm Beach County Juvenile and Family Court and later served as the director of detention service, administrator of the Juvenile and Family Court, and ultimately director of youth affairs for Palm Beach County for over 40 years.
After retiring, I was asked to return to become the first director of Justice Services for Palm Beach County and served in that capacity until 2010.
Q: What advice do you have for a young person seeking a career today?
A: Always keep up with the latest developments in your field, be innovative and invest at least 30% of your income for your future.
Q: How did you choose to make your home in Hypoluxo Island?
A: My wife, Media, and I grew up in Old Florida and were hoping to recapture that again when we discovered Hypoluxo Island more than 30 years ago. Its beauty and tranquility are second to none, with friends and neighbors who are the backbone of our beautiful “neighborhood” community.
Q: What is your favorite part about living in Hypoluxo Island?
A: The Old Florida ambience and beauty, the many trees and birds, the animals, the foliage, and the water are all a daily gift that bring peace and serenity to one’s soul.
Q: What book are you reading now?
A: Tales of Old Florida, by Frank Oppel & Tony Meisel. I love reading about what Florida was like in the frontier days and especially the untouched beauty of our state during those years.
Q: What kind of music do you listen to when you want to relax? When you want to be inspired?
A: I like to listen to soft rock to relax and Yanni to be inspired.
Q: Have you had mentors in your life? Individuals who have inspired your life decisions?
A: Dr. Warren Tatoul was my mentor until he passed away in 2017. We were the best of friends and he was like an older brother who always encouraged me to do more.
Q: If a movie were to be made about your life, who would play you?
A: James Arness, who played the sheriff on Gunsmoke. He came from a frontier area, like I did, and approached life like I did. Took everything with a grain of salt and saw which way everything was going before he acted. He was ahead of his time that way.
Q: Who/what makes you laugh?
A: I’m always amused by people’s behavior and, of course, the antics of my Maltese, Bentley, who always make me laugh.