Even amid a chaotic election that seemed like it would never end and watching the horrifying and tragic flames in California, there is still plenty to celebrate this Thanksgiving. We’re another year closer to throwing Trump and his embarrassing acolytes out of office and restoring the promise of America to a world weary of hatred and lies. We now know that Nevada’s urban voters are capable of showing up at the polls and moving the state forward. And while we grieve the good and decent people who left our little corner of the world this year, we can be thankful for having shared even a small part of their lives.
In 2018, Nevada lost former state senator Dean Rhoads, a rural Republican who had the courage to override Governor Gibbons’ veto in 2009 and permit LGBTQ Nevadans to form domestic partnerships. When extremist Sharron Angle became the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate in 2010, Rhoads endorsed Harry Reid, stoically enduring the outrage of many party members, providing an example to today’s elected Republicans of someone unafraid to say no to intolerance and zealotry.
Democrats lost a talented, ethical and honest caucus director in Lindsey Jydstrup who mentored dozens of Assembly members with a respectful guiding hand, lifting up the ideals of public education every day of her life.
Mel Shields, a much beloved English teacher at Reno and McQueen High Schools encouraged legions of young Nevadans to believe in their unique talents and become comfortable in their own adolescent skins while somehow also motivating them to delve deeply into literature and film. His wit and charm were legendary, but his true legacy lies in those he mentored and inspired.
Susan Orr will be long-remembered for her insistence that Nevada’s rural lands not become a playground for the military, leading the resistance to the poorly conceived MX missiles and joining the fight against the nuclear waste dump.
Steve Charter was a substance abuse counselor who worked in drug court and supervised addiction programs at the local Salvation Army, providing a second or third chance to those struggling with their personal demons. Many overcame those demons with his help.
Too many of Reno’s revered elders died in 2018, people we can’t imagine living without—Helen Collier, Mary Walker, Max Jones, Delores Feemster. Without a lot of fanfare, they led scout troops, mentored youth, advised students, and listened to all our troubles without judgment.
I already miss my neighbor, David Saltenberger, who died unexpectedly earlier this year. He was an expert machinist, dedicated husband and father, and a faithful reader of this column. I enjoyed our political discussions, often in the middle of the street when we would both arrive home from work, wrestling groceries and dogs after a long day.
On Nov. 3, Reno’s health care warrior, Emily Reese, succumbed to colon cancer, eight years after learning of her diagnosis. In her social media posts, she was heartbreakingly honest about the physical and metaphysical challenges of the disease and its effects on her family, particularly her three children, especially after learning her cancer was terminal. Her motto was “Live Life, Love Life, Impact Others,” and she put those words into action every day, comforting those who attempted to comfort her and fiercely advocating for increased access to health care for all, including traveling to Washington D.C. to lobby for Medicaid funding.
Emily died just a few days before the election but had the satisfaction of voting early, expressing her preference for Democrats, whom she believed would protect pre-existing conditions and do more to make health care available to all Americans. She didn’t live to see the blue wave sweep over the Nevada mid-terms on Nov. 6 but her electrifying smile surely lit up the evening stars in celebration.