RENO, Nev. (KRNV & MyNews4.com) - Barbara Vucanovich, the first woman to serve Nevada in Congress has passed away.
Nevada NewsMakers host Sam Shad has learned the "The Fighting Grandmother" passed away Monday morning after a brief illness.
Vucanovich a Representative from Nevada was born Barbara Farrell in Camp Dix, New Jersey, June 22, 1921. Vucanovich was the daughter of Major General Thomas Farrell, a noted U.S. Army figure during World War II, and Ynez White Farrell, a member of one of Southern California’s founding families. Raised in New York State, Vucanovich graduated from the Albany Academy for Girls and attended Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart in New York.
In the late 1940s, Vucanovich moved to Reno, where she met attorney Ken Dillon, Sr. and they were married in 1950. The couple quickly became involved in Republican politics. Following Dillon’s death in 1964, Vucanovich later married George Vucanovich, a native of Tonopah, who died in 1998.
Vucanovich’s early political career is most closely associated with U.S. Senator Paul Laxalt. She worked on several of Laxalt’s campaigns and, when he was elected to the Senate in 1974, she became his Northern Nevada district representative and served in that capacity until 1981.
She was elected as a Republican in 1982 and served in office from January 3, 1983 to January 3, 1997.
Vucanovich first served on the House Interior Committee, an important assignment for rural constituents concerned with mining, grazing, and water issues. Among the bills she authored and saw enacted into law were the Source Tax – to prevent other states from collecting taxes on the pension and retirement benefits of retirees, many of whom had moved to Nevada – and the repeal of the 55-mile-per-hour speed limit.
As she gained seniority, Vucanovich served on the House Appropriations Committee and later chaired the Subcommittee on Military Construction. She supported equal treatment and pay for women and funding for early screening, detection, and treatment of breast cancer. She was elected Republican Conference Secretary (one of the four leadership positions) in the 104th Congress, making her the first Nevadan to serve in a leadership position in House of Representatives.
Vucanovich served on the Presidential Debate Commission, the Commission to Select White House Fellows, and the Fund Board of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Justices. She was a trustee on the Board of Saint Mary’s Health Network and the Board of Casa de Vida, a home for unwed mothers, and was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The University of Nevada, Reno awarded her an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities in 2004. The main post office in Reno was named the Barbara F. Vucanovich Post Office in her honor.
Shad described Vucanovich as "believing in every issue with her heart". When it came to compromise, Shad said she "always did what was best for Nevada."
Vucanovich is survived by her daughter Patricia Dillon Cafferata and son-in-law Dr. H. Treat Cafferata of Reno; son Kenneth P. Dillon, Jr. and daughter-in-law Sandra Dillon of Reno; son Tom Dillon and daughter-in-law Catherine deTar Dillon of Statesville, North Carolina; daughter Susan Dillon Anderson and son-in-law Grant “Butch” Anderson III of Reno; brother Stephen Farrell of Reno; 13 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by a son, Michael F. Dillon, Sr.; a grandson, Trevor P. Dillon; and a great-grandson, Thomas Daniel Golden.
Her family issued the following statement:
“Barbara Vucanovich enjoyed her years of service to the people of Nevada, and like other Nevadans we are immensely proud of all she accomplished. We also know that while Barbara was deeply honored to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, her family always came first. Perhaps that is why she was so admired as a politician. We will miss her and we wish to extend our thanks to everyone for their support during this time of loss.”
Vucanovich was a Roman Catholic. A viewing and recitation of the rosary will be held Thursday, June 13 at Our Lady of the Snows Church in Reno; viewing begins at 5:00 p.m. followed by the rosary at 7:00 p.m. A funeral Mass of Resurrection will be held at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Reno at 1:00 p.m. on Friday, June 14. A reception celebrating Vucanovich’s life will follow at John Ascuaga’s Nugget in Sparks, beginning at 4:00 p.m. Burial services are private.
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations to Casa de Vida, 1290 Mill Street, Reno, NV 89502 or the Nevada Women’s History Project, 770 Smithridge Drive #300, Reno, NV 89502. The family invites condolence messages in the “family guestbook” at the website www.waltonsfuneralhomes.com
Funeral arrangements are under the direction of Walton Funeral Home in Reno.