By Birth or By Choice

Anna B. Mudd Warren
Photo Credit:
Nevada Historical Society

Letters from Nevada’s Daughters is an exciting project for Nevada women to preserve and share their family and life histories. The project was inspired by former Congresswoman Barbara Vucanovich’s plan to write her memoirs in the form of letters to grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The book is entitled Letters from the House: Reflections of a Tough Grandmother.

The Letters from Nevada’s Daughters Project is sponsored by the Nevada Women’s History Project (NWHP). Now is the time to compile the facts about Nevada women in the Twentieth Century and their thoughts about their lives and times.

NWHP will post on their web page the topic of the letter with some general questions to be answered. You are not limited to the one page of each form and may attach as many additional pages as you need. There is no word limit. You decide what information you wish to preserve. All answers and information are optional. After collecting basic information on each letter writer, the tentative topics of discussion are: family genealogy, residences, life work/career/s, daily life activities, foods, religion, fashions, significant medical history, recreation and travel, important issues or causes, impact of technology, “Famous” people known, music and arts, retirement, holiday celebrations and customs, and your treatment by others because you were a woman. Any women who has lived in Nevada is a “Nevada Daughter”; some are here by choice, some are here by chance of birth.

Letters from Barbara Vucanovich

Letter to Janet Farrell Cafferata
Letter to Janet Farrell Cafferata from Barbara Vucanovich
Former Member, U.S. House of Representatives

To: Janet Farrell Cafferata
Portland, Oregon

2 Newlands Circle
Reno, Nevada
Wednesday night

Dear Farrell:

My great-grandfather, Michael Farrell, immigrated to America from Ireland around 1848 as an itinerant teacher. My great-grandmother was Catherine Danahy. (Catherine with a “C” is the Catholic spelling.) They had only one child: my grandfather, John J. Farrell. He married Margaret Connally Farrell, who died before I was born, and they had nine children.

My father, Thomas Francis Farrell, was the fourth child in his Irish Catholic family of five boys and four girls. He was born on December 3, 1891 in Brunswick, New York. The family was close-knit. My aunts and uncles always kept in touch with each other. I knew all my Farrell cousins because we spent so much time together growing up. I don’t recall that any of my aunts worked outside the home, except for Aunt Anna who never married.

Dad was 5’10” or 6′ tall with wonderful military posture, always straight and strong. Physically fit, he took a walk every night after dinner. His complexion was ruddy, with freckles all over his arms and legs. He had a square Irish face with twinkling blue eyes and sandy colored hair. His hands and feet were long and slender. At work he either wore an Army uniform appropriate to his rank, or a suit with a white shirt and bow tie when he was not in the Army.

Dad spent most of his professional life working either for the U. S. Army or for the State of New York in positions appointed by the governor. Dad’s first engineering job was on the New York State Barge Canal, now known as the Erie Canal. It was on t hat job that Dad became a firm believer in labor unions. He witnessed first-hand, and often talked about, the beating of Irish immigrant workers by their bosses.

In 1926 Dad resigned from the Army and joined the Reserves. He was appointed Commissioner of Canals and Waterway for the State of New York by Governor Alfred E. Smith. Dad took me to New York City where I danced with Governor Smith at the Waldorf Astoria in 1928 during his campaign for president against Herbert Hoover. The first President I remember is Hoover. Since my Dad worked for Al Smith, my parents were against Hoover so when the newspaper printed an insert about Hoover with his picture on the front, I took a pencil and poked holes in the paper, then gleefully showed it to my parents.

In January 1945, Dad was recalled from his wartime post in the China-Burma-India theater for his biggest job in World War II. He became Major General Leslie Groves’ deputy on the atomic bomb project, code-named “The Manhattan Project.” The Army Engineer Corps was in charge of the Manhattan Project, with scientific direction provided by Dr. Robert Oppenheimer and his team. Work had been going on in secret for several years, but soon after my father joined the project there was a big discussion as to whether it would go forward because President Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945. Vice President Harry Truman knew nothing about the bomb.

Dad was ultimately present with Oppenheimer in the control shelter at Alamogordo, New Mexico when the first experimental explosion took place on July 16, 1945. (Groves was in a separate area, as per their arrangement never to be in the same place at dangerous times.) It is pretty clear from my father’s notes that they really had little idea what to expect in Alamogordo. Dad’s report reads: “Everyone in that room knew the awful potentialities of the thing that they thought was about to happen. The scientists felt that their figuring must be right and that the bomb had to go off but there was in everyone’s mind a strong measure of doubt. The feeling of many could be expressed by ‘Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief.’ We were reaching into the unknown and did not know what might come of it.”

None of the witnesses, including Dad, could quite grasp the magnitude of the explosion. His notes tell the story: “In that brief instant in the remote New Mexico desert the tremendous effort of the brains and brawn of all these people came suddenly and startlingly to the fullest fruition.” The world suddenly changed forever, and Dad witnessed it.

Dad traveled to the Marianas Islands to supervise field operations for assembling the atomic bombs for delivery against Japan. Here again, we can tell from his notes that they did not fully understand the magnitude of what they were doing. My father literally held the plutonium charge that provided the fissionable material for one of the bombs in his hands. He later talked about how hot the metal casing was to his bare skin!

Later, Dad often spoke to groups about the bomb and its aftermath. He described the tension of those developing the bomb, the dedication of the men involved, and the awesome responsibility of what he and others so quickly labeled “The Age of Atomic Science.” Dad fully understood atomic energy was a new force that could be used for good or evil. Dad described the effects as unprecedented, magnificent, beautiful, stupendous and terrifying.

Like my mother, Dad believed in contributing to society. If there was a job to be done and you were asked you responded. As kids we volunteered to help other children, like in recreation programs. He expected us to be responsible citizens. He challenged all of us with quizzes on our multiplication tables and division and spelling.

(Barbara F. Vucanovich)

© 1999 Patty Cafferata

Letter to Elisa Piper Cafferata
Letter to Elisa Cafferata from Barbara Vucanovich
Former Member, U.S. House of Representatives

To: Elisa Piper Cafferata
Portland, Oregon

2 Newlands Circle
Reno, Nevada
Monday morning

Dear Elisa,

Becoming a grandmother caused me to reflect on the other grandmothers in our family, including my mother’s mother, Maria Ynez Shorb White Buck. Grandmother Ynez was descended from a very old Southern California family. The first of her ancestors arrived in California in 1769; the King of Spain ultimately awarded the family the only land grant in Orange County. The Shorb estate, where my grandmother grew up, was located in San Marino, California, and is currently the site of the Huntington Library. Ynez’s grandfather, Benjamin D. “Don Benito” Wilson was the first County Clerk of Los Angeles and the first Mayor of the City of Los Angeles, elected in 1851. Her father, James de Barth Shorb, was elected Los Angeles County Treasurer in 1892. My great-great-grandfather and great-grandfather are the earliest recorded politicians in our family.

My grandmother was a lovely woman. Taller and slightly heavier than my mother, she wore her dark hair in the style of the day. I enjoyed watching her comb her hair in a pompadour puffed up with a “rat.” Her eyebrows were thick and bushy. Perhaps that is why my mother plucked her own eyebrows down to a thin line.

My brother Tommy and I traveled by train from New York to spend a month each summer visiting our grandparents in Denver. Grandmother and Granddaddy Buck, the commanding officer at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital in Denver, lead a formal life. As the Commandant’s wife, Grandmother held regular visiting days on Wednesdays for the ladies to come calling; on the front hall table rested a tray for calling cards.

One summer in the 1930’s Granddaddy Buck, my father, Tommy and I toured the West. Granddaddy drove his dark, dull green Packard on the trip. Granddaddy attached a swamp cooler to the window. We carried water for the cooler in a canvas bag that hung on the front of the car. We visited Boulder Dam, Las Vegas, Yellowstone, and Yosemite, staying overnight in cabins along the way. We also stopped at military hospitals along the way, including at the Presidio in San Francisco where we stayed in visitor’ s quarters. Granddaddy was well known at Letterman Hospital there, so we were well received.

My mother was born in Southern California in 1896 to Stephen Stuart White and Maria Ynez Shorb. Like her mother, she was named Maria Ynez. They called her “Ynezita,” which means “Little Ynez.” For most of her life, her name was shortened to simply “Cita.”

Cita was 5 feet 4 inches, never overweight in my memory. She kept her naturally curly hair short but hated gray hair, so she dyed it almost black. Her eyes were like shoe buttons, so black that you could not see the edge of her pupils. An active per son, she was involved in many community organizations. In fact, on the day she had the stroke that ultimately killed her, she was dressed for volunteering.

Mother volunteered during her whole life for the Red Cross. Like many Red Cross volunteers, she performed the odd jobs that needed to be done, such as driving people to medical appointments, assisting in the office, working on the blood drives and help ing to raise money. She also volunteered for the Community Chest, helping to raise money, and knitted items for “Bundles for Britain” before America entered World War II.

My mother never discussed politics or public policy, but my parents were both Democrats. They were not active in the party per se, but rather socialized with the Albany politicians because my father was an appointed state employee, serving in a Democrat administration. Albany, the state capitol, was a Democrat stronghold. The O’Connell family controlled things from behind the scenes and were friends of my parents.

We frequented functions in the gubernatorial administrations of Alfred E. Smith (1923-1928), Franklin D. Roosevelt (1929-1932), and Herbert H. Lehman (1933-1942). We even attended parties, like the Easter Egg Hunt at the Governor’s Mansion during Franklin Roosevelt’s administration, and met FDR’s children who were older than I. I must have commented once on Eleanor Roosevelt’s high pitched, grating voice. I recall my mother saying, “Well dear, you know the reason her voice sounds like that is because she is hard of hearing.”

My mother’s family lead a formal, gracious life with household help and linen tablecloths and napkins on the table every night for dinner. My mother and grandmother were refined women who felt that they should contribute something back to society and their communities. They believed that you should contribute to society to justify your existence.

(Barbara F. Vucanovich)

Letter to Reynolds Treat Cafferata
Letter to Reynolds Treat Cafferata from Barbara Vucanovich
Former Member, U.S. House of Representatives

To: Reynolds Treat Cafferata
San Francisco, California

2 Newlands Circle
Reno, Nevada
Wednesday morning

Dear Reynolds,

You know my children are spread out in age. I know how they felt; my siblings were too. My oldest brother, Tommy, was 17 when my youngest brother, Steve, was born — just like your mother, Patty, was 18 when her sister, Suz, was born. Tommy and I were only fourteen months apart in age, so we had the closest relationship in those early years.

I celebrated my sixth birthday in June just before my brother, Peter Buck Farrell, was born in 1927. My sister, Patricia Anne “Patsy” Farrell was born in 1930 in March before my ninth birthday. When the baby of the family, Stephen Stuart Farrell, was born in 1937, I was 16 years old. Between Patsy’s and Steve’s births, brother Richard was born in December 1935 and died in March of the following year of an enlarged thymus gland. He is buried with our parents in Arlington National Cemetery.

My earliest memories of our homes are of the officers’ quarters at West Point. Our house had a stone wall in front where you could look down on the main road. It was from there that I saw my first military funeral. I was impressed with the caissons and the riderless horse with the empty boots facing backwards in the saddle (a cavalry tradition signifying a lost soldier).

Sometime around 1928, Mother and Dad built 10 Holmes Dale, in Albany. It was a comfortable, white, wooden two-story house with a shingle roof and a detached garage. The front door and shutters were dark green. The family lived there until the 1940’s.

The house had a beautiful entry hall with a living room to the left where the grand piano was located and a dining room to the right. There was a large kitchen in back with a breakfast nook, big pantry, back hall, and maids’ quarters; the house included a spacious enclosed porch off the living room with a door to the back yard. An invitation to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1933 inauguration was framed and prominently displayed in the house. The hardwood floors were covered with oriental carpets. We would roll up the carpet in the entry hall once a month when the barber arrived to cut all of our hair.

When we were very young, Henry, my father’s driver, chauffeured Tommy and me back and forth to school. I started grade school at Vincentian, a Catholic school run by the Sisters of Mercy. They were tough dames, and I hated them. I was a maverick — always fighting with them over religion. I lasted there two years. My mother, deciding that I was a nonconformist, moved me to Miss Quinn’s Academy, a small Catholic school. Classes consisted of six to eight students in each grade. The eight grades were taught in four classrooms. I skipped the Fifth Grade because I was the only student in it. From then on I was the youngest in all my classes. My favorite subjects were Math and Spelling. I won a lot of spelling bees in grade school.

After I graduated from Miss Quinn’s, I attended high school at the Episcopalian’s Albany Academy for Girls graduating at age 16. I was a “B” student, but hated Latin and Geometry. I flunked or barely passed both subjects and took them again in college. At the Albany Academy, I learned to ride horseback and spent most Saturdays competing in horse shows. During gym time, I was too short for basketball, hated baseball, but loved field hockey.

The one class I’ll never forget was Public Speaking. We were not allowed to prepare. The teacher just called on us in class. This first time that happened I was paralyzed; I couldn’t and didn’t say a word. After that I learned to speak extemporaneously, but it is still not my favorite way to give a speech. I prefer to prepare beforehand.

I had just turned 17 years old when Mother and Dad took me to Manhattanville College in New York City. The first night I was there, a hurricane hit the city and all the lights went out. There I was in this old, old building; my parents had just left me. I was in the shower when the lights went out, and I couldn’t find my way to my room. I was terrified. All I wanted was to go home. Ultimately, I survived the year and dealt with my homesickness. Wisely my parents did not let me come home every weekend. In the end, I actually liked the school.

I did make many long-time friends during those schools years, and if I have any regrets they would be that I didn’t work as hard as I could or apply myself better. Hindsight is clearer than foresight.

Perhaps because of this, when my own children were growing up, I spent hours reading to them. I provided my children the opportunity for a good education and encouraged them to read and excel in school. If one of them need help with Math or another subject, I spent time in the evening going over the materials they needed to learn. Placing this emphasis on education in the home has become a value all of us in the family seem to share.

(Barbara F. Vucanovich)

Letter to Michael Francis Dillon
Letter to Michael Francis Dillon, Jr., from Barbara Vucanovich
Former Member, U.S. House of Representatives

To: Michael Francis Dillon, Jr.
Fort Bragg, North Carolina

December 1999
2 Newlands Circle
Reno, Nevada

Dear Mike, Jr.,

Named after your Dad, you joined the group of important men in my life, from my grandfathers, father, uncles, brothers, husbands, sons, grandsons and great-grandsons. When you came along, George John Vucanovich and I had been married about four-and-a-half years. He was working for Bally Distributing, while I owned and operated the Welcome Aboard Travel Agency in Reno. Of all my grandchildren you had the closest relationship with George.

My first husband, James Henry Bugden, played a short and unhappy role in my life. I never dwelled upon this marriage after our divorce. I have no regrets about the marriage because he was the father of your Aunt Patty and your father, Mike. My second husband, Kenneth Dillon, was the father of Ken, Tom, and Suz. George Vucanovich was my last husband and the “father,” grandfather and great-grandfather to all the children in the family.

I came to Reno in 1949 for a divorce. I lived in a guest house at 427 Hill Street which had five or six bedrooms and three baths upstairs. It was a boarding house that served three meals a day, and everyone living there was in Reno for a divorce. The owner was a Polish or Czech woman, with a husband twenty years younger than she was. She employed a cook named Martha, who was also the maid. I had a room on the second floor and shared a bath. Behind the house was a lovely, old-fashioned backyard with lots of trees with places to sit and visit.

Ken Dillon rented a separate little one-story cottage in the backyard of the guest house. He had that all to himself. He took breakfast and dinner with us, so that is where we met — over the dining room table. An attorney, he was also in Reno for a divorce. Born in Topeka, Kansas, he settled in New York City after graduating from law school and joined the firm of Cravath, Swain and Moore.

When I came to Reno, I left Patty and Mike in New York with my parents. I got my divorce, went back to New York, where I planned to live. Later, I decided to come back to Nevada because of Ken. We talked about getting married and were married by “old” Judge Clark Guild in his chambers in Carson City, Nevada on an afternoon in March of 1950.

Ken was 6-feet-2 inches tall; an imposing, big man, broad-shouldered. He was dignified in both his looks and demeanor, always proper and reserved. His hair was curly steel grey in color. Most people didn’t know that his hair was curly. His daily grooming ritual included slapping Vitalis on his hair to straighten it. He constantly wore glasses to correct the nearsightedness in his blue/grey eyes. Often he read without his glasses, and it always amused me to see him reading so.

He opened his first law practice in Reno on November 10, 1949 at 247 ½ N. Virginia Street over Southworth’s Tobacco Store. Ken was a graduate of Yale College, Yale School of Law, and obtained an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School. He was among the first legal tax experts in Reno.

Ken and I were involved in legal organizations and in political affairs during our marriage. I also was active at St. Mary’s Hospital Guild and Community Chest. Our social life revolved around those activities, the children’s sports and their schools. I was fairly busy raising kids and keeping up with him. I played a traditional, supportive role to help make his law practice and his community projects successful. Your grandfather, Ken, loved to spend time with the kids, especially playing sports. So he could spend more time with the kids, he learned to ski, to fish, and to camp. He had never done those things before we were married.

When your grandfather Ken died in 1964, I was 43 years old. Ken, Tom and Suz were 13, 10 and 3 ½ years old respectively. In July Paul Laxalt asked me to manage his Washoe campaign for the U.S. Senate. I’m not sure why he asked me. I certainly knew him and had helped on his campaign in 1962 for lieutenant governor. Managing campaigns was not something women did in those days. I needed something to keep me busy. Ken died in March; the election was in November. During the campaign, my emotions were still raw. At times I went in the back room at headquarters and cried, then would go back out to work. It was not easy.

During the campaign, Dick Horton and I were organizing the precincts in Washoe County. I did not know anyone in Sparks. Dick suggested we call George Vucanovich and George Tavernia. George Vucanovich was a Democrat, but a friend of Paul’s. We asked the two Georges to put together a precinct plan for Sparks, which they did. George and I spent a lot of time working on the campaign together. When the campaign was over, we talked and sent notes to each other and decided to date a little bit. At that time, George owned a hideous little car, a green Corvair. It stopped in the middle of the street every time I drove it.

On June 19, 1965 we were married in my home at 2 Newlands Circle by District Court Judge Grant Bowen. My children, grandchildren Elisa and Farrell, as well as George’s son, Craig, were present. George was a very loving guy, who would tear up at the least provocation. He loved my kids, their kids (our grandchildren), and being part of the family. George took his role of step-dad seriously and loved all the children.

He was crazy about animals, especially Charlie, the little white Maltese puppy, that we gave to each other in November 1998 — a month before George died. He loved to tell stories about Monique, Suz’s miniature black poodle. Monique stayed behind with us when Suz went off to college.

Popper George loved his career as an accountant. He was the controller at the Sparks Nugget. He actually went to work for Dick Graves in the original Nugget across the street from its current location. George and all his friends used to go over to the old place after work for a drink. After we got married I did not think much of that, so he quit doing it. I remember when John Ascuaga took over the Nugget. Before we were married, John expected George to work weekends and nights. He liked the job, but I complained about the hours. He didn’t work quite as many hours after we were married, but it was difficult at first.

Popper George enjoyed our life during our years in Congress because of the things we were able to do and all the travel. He never resented the sacrifices we made so I could serve for those 14 years in Congress. He was proud of me and the job I did for Nevada. He was supportive of me and always standing by me. He was especially fond of George and Barbara Bush. He attended all the political events with me, except when Bill Clinton was elected President. Popper George balked at attending White House functions, so I took another family member with me when I went to the White House during those years.

When George died on December 19, 1999 at St. Mary’s Hospital in Reno, Nevada, we had been married 33 years. I was 77 years old. During our marriage all but two of our grandchildren were born (your cousins Elisa and Farrell were born before we were married). All of our great-grand children (so far) were born then, too. Papa George delighted in each and every member of our family. But to tell you the truth, I think he loved the babies the best.

Ken Dillon and George Vucanovich provided stability and were a major part of my personal life, wonderful husbands and fathers. They supported me financially and made my life pleasant in other ways. Both approved of my community and political activities. We had nice lives together and contributed much volunteer time to make the Reno community a better place to live.

Ken and George’s encouragement made my successes possible. I couldn’t have done the things I’ve done without their support. And all of that is pretty amazing when you consider the times they lived in and the way they were raised. These were the days before there was really much notion of equal rights for women. After all, women only got the right to vote the year before I was born. So it’s pretty incredible that women have come from getting the vote all the way to serving in Congress for all practical purposes during my lifetime. It’s also a tribute to these two wonderful men in my life, that I was able to grow so much myself.

(Barbara F. Vucanovich)

© 1999 Patty Cafferata

Letter to Trevor Price Dillon
Letter to Trevor Price Dillon, from Barbara Vucanovich
Former Member, U. S. House of Representatives

The following is the fifth letter in a series of letters from former House of Representatives member Barbara Vucanovich to her grandchildren. The letters are addressed to her grandchildren in the order of their births. Trevor is her fifth grandchild, the oldest child of Kenny Dillon, Vucanovich’s third child.

To: Trevor Price Dillon
Reno, Nevada

September 2000
2 Newlands Circle
Reno, Nevada
Thursday morning

Dear Trevor:

When you were born, I was still busy with my travel agency, Welcome Aboard. No matter what I was doing, the family continued to grow. You were the first child of my second son, Ken.

I am sure you don’t see your Aunts and Uncles as I do. Let me tell you a little about each one of my children. They were born in the following order: Patricia “Patty” Anne Dillon, (Nov. 24, 1940); Michael “Mike” Francis Dillon, (Jan. 20, 1942); your Dad, Kenneth “Ken” Price Dillon, Jr., (July 29, 1951): Thomas “Tom” Brown Dillon, (March 10, 1953); and Susan “Susie” Brown Dillon, (Sep. 9, 1959). I often use their childhood nicknames of Patty, Mike, Kenny, Tommy, and Susie in my letters.


Your Aunt Patty, a blue-eyed blond, is self motivated, and outspoken. She is shorter than my 5 feet 3 ½ inches. She and your Uncle Mike were inseparable growing up. She was only 14 months old when he was born.

She, Popper George (my husband), and I traveled the state often together campaigning, riding in parades, and attending political and community events. She was elected to the Nevada Assembly in 1980, Nevada State Treasurer in 1982, and District Attorney of Lander County in 1994. As you know she is now the District Attorney of Esmeralda County.

She has created a beautiful home for her husband, children and grand-children. She is a good mother, tolerant. She and her husband, Treat, were married in June 1961 at Trinity Episcopal Church in Reno, Nevada. They are the parents of your cousins, Elisa, Farrell, and Reynolds and grandparents of Brendan, Kelley, Morgan, Kenton, and Taylor and Henry.

Mike, Sr.

Although he was fairly short, he became “Big Mike” after your cousin, Mike, Jr., was born. Your Uncle Mike was compact and small in stature, but strong and wiry. Of all my children, he looked the most like me with medium brown hair, and hazel eyes. He loved sports, especially baseball, golf and wrestling. He was athletic until he had his first heart attack when he was about 50 years old.

Mike strongly identified with my father, Tom, and my brothers, Tommy and Peter Farrell and their associations with the military. When he joined the Army, he became a member of the Green Berets. Mike served two tours in Vietnam. During his Vietnam duties, Mike and Mickey Arrington were married in Reno. They had one son, “Little” Mike, Jr., your cousin. “Big” Mike, Mickey and Mike, Jr., moved to Reno, when Mike retired from the Army. He opened a janitorial service business.

Later, Mike obtained his real estate license. Then, Mike worked for his brother, Kenny – your Dad – in his roofing business in Reno and in Las Vegas. Mike was self-employed in the roofing business for the rest of his life.

In October 1996 just before the general election, Mike had a heart attack and collapsed on a golf course and died before he reached the hospital in Sacramento, California. His death was a real blow to me; I never expected to bury one of my children.


I stopped working when your dad, Kenny, was born. I had morning sickness and was throwing up all the time. Nonetheless, I enjoyed having a new baby when he arrived. Kenny, was not as tall or as broad as his dad, Ken Dillon. When he was little he was a tow-head, very blond with greenish/blue eyes. A confident guy, very self sufficient and highly competitive. He made and kept friends. Some of the friends he still has today, he met at Helen Goodnight’s “Child Garden” Pre-School.

His father adored him – Kenny could get away with a lot of things, and did. Kenny strongly identified with his father and loved to do things with him like camping. Kenny was twelve when his father died.

Your father is a good communicator. I remember once when we were driving to Carson City together, he kept up a steady stream of conversation. Finally, he said, “I’m certainly awfully tired of talking.” He was about ten at the time.

Of course you know, today, he owns D & D Roofing in Reno with Mike Dermody. He manages his money well and has provided nicely for his family. With his first wife, Judy Moffat, he had you and your sister Jennifer. Later, he and his wife Sandra Ward, had twin girls, Casey and Heather.


“Tommy,” as your Uncle was called as a child, is over 6 feet tall with an average build. He has sandy brown hair and blue eyes. He and Susie look a lot alike and are buddies. To stay fit, he exercises regularly. He is generous, kind, tolerant, and a peace maker. As a kid, Tommy’s favorite activity was to fish on the Truckee by himself all summer long.

Tommy loves to travel. While in high school, he and his friend, Rich Hill, went to Europe one summer. Tommy, unfortunately, had his passport and his money stolen when he was in Paris. The U.S. Embassy assisted him in getting home. When he arrived in Reno, he didn’t even have the dime to call me to let me know he was at the airport. He was walking home with his knapsack and duffle bag, looking rather disheveled with unkempt long hair. The police stopped him. After they called me to verify who he was, I picked him up and drove him home.

He is an executive in the lumber business with Wickes Lumber in Chicago. For most of his married life he has lived in the Mid-West, returning to Reno with his family for holidays and special occasions. Tommy and his wife, Cathy DeTar, are the parents of Nora, Maggie, Patrick, and Katie and grandparents of Philomena, Nora’s daughter.


Susie has the same coloring as Tommy. She is pretty with big blue eyes, and is taller than I am. She is athletic and stays in good health. In school she did gymnastics and was a drill team member of the Reno High School’s Huskiettes.

Since she was the baby of the family, born six years after Tommy, she spent a lot of time with Papa George and me. Her friend was Monique, a black miniature French Poodle. They went together everywhere, including to bed. Monique was finally left behind with us when Susie went off to college.

Susie traveled to Europe, too. Twelve years old traveling with a teacher from Merry Berry Pre-School, they stayed in youth hostels in England and Scotland. They also took a Rhine River cruise and a horse drawn caravan tour of Ireland.

She is serious, hard-working. She spent several years working while studying for her CPA credentials. Susie currently works for Sierra Pacific Power in Reno using her CPA degree. She believes in women’s equality. She is an organized cook, a meticulous housekeeper, a typical woman of the 90’s. She has time for her husband, Butch Anderson, and their sons, Scott and David, for her house, and for her business and personal activities.


All my children have turned out to be bright, capable, hardworking and successful, but there were many trying moments, too. None of them are saints. They are regular people each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Since my children were born over an 18-year time span, I spent more than forty years of my life raising children. I grew up with my kids. When Patty was born I was 19 years old and frankly did not know a lot. I was 38 years old when Susie was born. As the years went by I learned to be more flexible and understanding.

My children shape my life by exposing me to challenges, thanks to their activities. We spend most holidays together and skied, golfed, camped, traveled and did other things together. Some of our most memorable and laughable times were camping. I believe that I am closer to my children as they and I grow older. Next to my husbands, Ken and George, they have been my greatest cheerleaders and supporters.

(Barbara F. Vucanovich)

© 1999 Patty Cafferata

Letter from Karen Y. Foissotte – November 1999

Letter from Karen Y. Foissotte
Letter from Karen Y. Foissotte – November 1999

I guess the sixties was my decade! After moving a lot thru my school years due to my father’s Air Force career, we stayed at one base, Mather Air Force Base near Sacramento for my entire high school career.

I attended Folsom High School, military kids and civilian kids side by side. I had a great time in high school – top grades, lots of activities, lots of acquaintances, a few close friends some interesting boy friends.

My senior year, 1963-64: WOW! As I look back on it, I see whiffs of change that became significant in retrospect. 90% of us still had our carefully-tended bouffant flips but a few girls sported absolutely sleek and straight dos.

Rock & roll still ruled but the Beatles were causing a stir. WE seniors, in our great maturity, weren’t crazily enthusiastic, leaving that to the lowly underclassmen,. What music could ever topple “The Kings”. Prior to each football game, we had a widely enthusiastic pep rally – the whole show of cheers, bands and skits. When the Pep Squad portrayed the Mopheads singing the school fight song, the reception was just mediocre!

Letters from Patricia D. Cafferata

Letters from Patricia D. Cafferata - Important issues/events/causes
Letter from Patricia D. Cafferata – November 1999

Dear Family:

This is my letter about some of the important issues/events/causes in my lifetime. The reason I hesitated to write this letter is because I’m not sure which of the many causes or issues I’ve been involved with to describe. The following cover a few of my efforts from 1980 to 1999.

My most recent cause was as the lead lawyer on the “Saving the Mapes Hotel” case. The Reno City Council and Redevelopment Agency bought the hotel a couple of years ago after it had been closed for 18 years. In September, the council voted to demolish the hotel, decorated in Art Deco style, built in 1947 by Charles Mapes. It was the first hotel/casino built in Nevada. The Sky Room on the top floor overlooked the town to the East and to the West. On the north side of the room was the stage where famous entertainers performed nightly. On the south side was a long wooden bar.

The plan is to implode the building on Super Bowl Sunday, January 30, 2000. The Mapes is listed on the National Register of Most Endangered Buildings. This will be the first building on the list to be destroyed since 1949.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation retained me to join the Truckee Meadows Heritage Trust and four Reno citizens (Jon Dewey, Rosemary DiGrazia, Antoinette Mollett Harsh, and Nanna R. Rassu) in a lawsuit to prevent the implosion. The other attorneys on the case were Sue Trimmer and Jeff Dickerson.

We filed the case in the Second Judicial District Court, and it was assigned to Judge James Hardesty. We alleged the City Council violated the Open Meeting Law when they discussed the Mapes in a secret meeting prior to the public meeting and vote. The judge agreed that the officials violated the law, but ruled they “cured” the violation when they met openly and discussed the Mapes’ future. Therefore, he said the building could be demolished.

We appealed the case to the Nevada Supreme Court where the matter is still pending. (It will be decided long after the Mapes is gone.) There were two other cases filed after that, one in district court and one in federal court. I was not involved in either case because I took my mother, Barbara Vucanovich, to England and Ireland for the Christmas holidays.

For me it is sad to see part of Reno’s history destroyed. I attended Bishop Manogue High School during the 1950’s. I remember my Senior Prom in the Sky Room of the hotel, and a St. Mary’s Hospital Guild fashion show luncheon where my brothers Mike and Ken and I modeled on the stage of the Sky Room. I also recall the Coach Room on the main floor with windows that overlooked the Truckee River. I always felt terribly grown up when I ate lunch in the Coach Room. There was a piano bar and long bar down the steps from the main eating area. Because of my age I didn’t spent any time in either the Sky Room or Coach Room bars. Both rooms were decorated predominately in red and black.

Besides running for and being elected to public office, I have been involved in other elective matters, primarily the initiative petition, the referendum, and the recall petition process. In the 1980 election I vigorously campaigned for a property tax limitation initiative that the voters rejected, when the school teachers’ lobby group spent over $100,000 to defeat the proposal. They ran a clever ad campaign likening property tax limitation to a chocolate covered lemon.

In the early 1990’s I provided legal services to the Douglas County voters’ group named “RAMP” on five initiative petitions and to a citizen group in White Pine County on a referendum. The former group’s initiatives were on land fill disposal issues, and the latter group’s referendum was to repeal the county commissioners’ newly imposed land fill fee. Both efforts were successful qualified for the ballot, and the voters voted overwhelmingly in support of the petitions.

I have been legal counsel to several citizens groups in recall election efforts. My successful efforts include recalling Floyd Lamb, Lincoln County Commissioner, Tom Dill, Lincoln County District Attorney, and Bill Lee, Mayor of Mesquite. The unsuccessful efforts included Heather Estes, Lander County Commissioner, Will Mattley, Lander County District Attorney, and Dorothy Phillips, Georgianne Timko, and Charlie Basso, all Ely City Council members.

I assisted other groups in this types of efforts, but did not go to court to present any arguments in support or opposition to a petition.

All these legal matters have one thing in common. They are more political in nature than legal, although the applicable law is complicated and not well defined. Many of these cases are lost because the activist group did not know the law or misunderstood it when collecting signatures on the petitions. These failings make the petitions difficult to defend in court.

In all the cases, I’ve enjoyed the challenge of putting together what I’d hoped were winning arguments. Additionally, I always met many interesting Nevadans, most of whom were frustrated by the lack of response from their elected officials.
Until the next letter…

Patty Cafferata

Letters from Patricia D. Cafferata - Homes
Letter from Patricia D. Cafferata – December 1999

Dear Family:

This letter describes some of the homes I’ve lived in during my life. All the places that I remember were white single family, two-story homes, except when my father was in the Army during World War II. My family lived in a couple of apartments during that time. During the war, my mother grew a victory garden with other women who lived in the same apartment complex as we did. At ages 3 to 5, my brother, Mike, and I “helped” to plant the vegetables. I remember the garden was a long walk from the apartment. It was sunny and hot there.

Most of my homes were heated with oil, had electricity, and used city water. I now live in a white two-story colonial style house with blue shutters in Reno, Nevada. This house is quite similar to my grandmother and grandfather Farrell’s house in Albany, New York. My mother, my brother and I lived there with my grandparents in the early 1940’s.

My grandmother maintained a wonderful flower garden with such flowers as, peonies, lilies of the valley, and roses. We don’t have lilies of the valley in our garden, but we have peonies and roses. When I smell them, I am reminded of her. Our garden is my husband, Treat’s, domain. He spends many hours planning for the seasons in the garden. He considers the colors and size of the flowers and the blossoms on the trees. Some type of flower is in bloom in the garden from February to the first freeze in the Fall.

The first home my husband and I purchased was in Northwest Reno. It was a brand new ranch style home with about 1400 square feet, with 4 bedrooms, and 2 bathrooms. The house had a fireplace in the family room. It cost about $29,000. We bought the house just before my husband left for Vietnam. We lived there for the year he was overseas, and sold it when he returned home. That house wasn’t one of my favorite houses, but it was a beginning for us to get some equity in a home, so we could buy a better house when we sold it.

The house I live in currently is the most favorite of all the houses I’ve lived in. There are 5 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms, a living room, a dining room, a kitchen, and a full basement. The interior of the house is decorated in blue and bright yellow. The walls are off white and the carpet is slate blue. We have a few antique pieces of furniture that we “inherited” from my husband’s family and from my mother when she sold her big house and move into a smaller place. The yard and garden are lovely, thanks to my husband. We also have a patio with a fire pit in back of the house.

I’ve lived in several towns or cities over my lifetime. I was born in Albany, New York and live there until the Second Grade. Then, I lived in New York City(Queens) until the Fifth Grade, when I moved to Reno, Nevada. I have lived in Reno most of my life with sojourns to other places for a year or two, mostly for education or employment. I attended college first in Oakland at Mills College, and then, in Portland at Lewis and Clark College. I married Treat after my Junior year in college. Although he is a Reno native, at that time he was a student at the University of Oregon Medical School in Portland. We lived in Portland for his last three years in medical school. Our daughters, Elisa and Farrell were born there.

We lived the next 6 years in San Francisco, while my husband completed his internship and surgical residency at the University of California. Our son, Reynolds, was born when we lived there. The first place we lived in San Francisco was a flat close to Golden Gate Park. We lived there less than a year. We moved because we had our car stolen twice within a two-month period. Moreover, I was glad to move away from the many cockroaches in the building.

I came home to Reno in 1970 when my husband went to Vietnam. We bought the house I mentioned above. When he returned home we were stationed in Anniston, Alabama. We couldn’t get quarters on the post, so we rented a house in Jacksonville, Alabama, a few miles from the post.

We returned to Reno in 1972, bought a house on Lakeside Drive, and 7 years later bought our current home. I temporarily lived in Los Angeles when I attended law school from 1987 to 1989 where I lived in an Oakwook Apartment complex. My apartment was fully furnished. The complex had two swimming pools, laundry facilities, and underground parking. I didn’t spend much time at the pool though; I was busy studying.

I also temporarily lived in Eureka, Pioche, and Battle Mountain, Nevada. I was the Deputy District Attorney in Eureka in 1991. Eureka is a small mining town with about 700 residents. I rented a prefabricated house, the kind that is brought in on a flat bed truck and assembled and attached to a concrete slab. The house was fully furnished including kitchen utensils and bedding. The house was tiny with 2 bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen and a bathroom. The yard was fenced with chain link. I hired a gardener, the landlord insisted, who I paid $25/month to mow the lawn weekly and water more frequently. Late at night deer would jump my fence passing through town.

In 1992 when I was District Attorney of Lincoln County, I lived in Pioche in two places, both were old. At first I lived in the daylight basement of an old house. There were windows on only two sides of my place. I had a living room with a kitchen area, a bedroom, and a bath. I really camped out there from Sunday night until Friday evening.

When my mother told me she was coming to visit and wanted to stay with me, I realized I needed to find a more suitable place. I rented an old house that had been remodeled. The kitchen and bathroom were completed renovated. The house was mostly one large room with a living and dining area with a full kitchen off one end. There was one bedroom with bathroom and laundry room. The basement consisted of a large carpeted room that I didn’t use.

The house was heated by a Franklin stove in the great room. My secretary’s husband, John Etchart, chopped the wood I burned. The house was cold in the mornings when I got up, and it was cold in the evenings when I got home from work.

When I was District Attorney of Lander County, we bought a little white house in Battle Mountain. The house was old and had been added on to over the years. We had a living room, a dining area off the kitchen which was open to the family room. There were two bedrooms and two baths. We bought the house because it had a dishwasher and two bathrooms. The yard was completely fenced with a deck in back. We added another deck to the front of the house. It was a block from the courthouse, so I walked to work everyday and walked home for lunch.

I’ve lived in big cities and in small towns. There are advantages and disadvantages to each of them; I enjoyed them all.

Until the next letter…

Patty Cafferata

Letter from Kathryn Etcheverria – December 1999

Letter from Kathryn Etcheverria
Letter from Kathryn Etcheverria – December 1999

Dear Family,

This letter describes the homes I lived in during my life:

I. Childhood –
A. Spokane, Washington – moved at age one week. I don’t remember this one!

B. Bellingham, Washington a 2 story grey house with wooden siding, a big unfenced yard on the corner of a block that sat on a steep hill leading down the the bay. Apparently, so I heard, cars occasionally careened down that hill and into the yard. A dangerous location! I remember a large dining room, small kitchen and built-in hutch opening into both the dining room and kitchen. a steep squared off stair leading to bedroom upstairs. Anne Marie and I shared a room with beds under the sloping eves. (funny story about grandma). We moved away from that house when I was only three. Oddly enough, many years later, we were driving around in Bellingham (I had been there for a summer camp) – we pulled up by the house to look it over, for old times’ sake. The owner stuck her head out the window, and said hello, asked us what we were doing. My dad told her we had rented there years ago. She asked, “Are you the Johnsons? You were the best tenants I ever had!” She invited us in, to look the old place over. It seemed much smaller then than when I was a child.

C. Portland, Oregon – this home is really the first I remember very well. It sat at the edge of Portland then, our street paved and filled with tract homes, but to the east and south were farms, fields and remnants of forests. It was a fun place to live, perhaps dangerous, but always something to do. We’d pet the horses across the meadow, or wander into the woods, where my friend Linda and I were sure witches lived. We found one’s house! Right behind us was a farm with ducks and geese. Down the dirt road was more forest and field–we found a rope we could swing out into the air on. In the other direction was a field and decaying barn, where we sometimes climbed into the rafters. My sister often returned from these sallies with a garter snake or two, great for surprising mom. I was never surprised. I learned not to be, a skill that has stood me in good stead. I liked living there. That is the home we lived in when my brother Ward was born. Mother went to the hospital to have him, but did not return For the longest time! For one thing maternity stays were longer in those days; for another, we had all contracted mumps, so she went to stay next door until we were well.

D. Long Beach, California – 2908 San Francisco Ave. This is the home in which I spent most of my childhood, living there from age 5 to 17. At 17, I left home to go to University, and at the same time my parents sold this house and moved to Yakima, Washington. This was a middle-class home in an average neighborhood of the city. It was stucco, built in the 1940’s (I believe) in an area then called the Wrigley District. It was originally white, with white and green striped awnings. At some point my dad painted the house yellow, yet left the awning green and white, which always looked odd to me. The house had a smallish prim front yard, driveway lined with tree roses, leading to a separate garage in the back. The house had 3 bedrooms, 1 bath-quite common in those days-how did we survive with only one bath and 4 women in the house? I don’t really remember how we did it, but eventually my folks built an addition to this house which added a mudroom, family room/bedroom and bath. The back yard was huge and great for kids. Before the addition went on, the center of the yard was unbrella’ed with a huge Chinese elm. Great shade for summer. Even after the addition, we had plenty of space for a swing set, clothes line and fruit trees. The house was small by today’s standards, yet it had some nice features typical then but hard to find now: hardwood floors, multipaned windows and and ceramic tile in the kitchen and bath. We had lots of pets while living in that house–many cats, several dogs, mice, turtles, rabbits, guinea pigs, even a desert iguana, which would get up on its hind legs and run. Not one of those pets was mine, except a brown-and-white rabbit my neighbor Becky and I found when we were in high school. He was beautiful, and did just fine eating the grass in the back yard. One day, I came home to find Becky and my boyfriend Ron in the back; they had found our poor little rabbit strangled in the board fence. He had tried to push through to Becky’s house (behind) at a loose board, but when his head got stuck, he panicked and tried to pull back, strangling himself in the process. He was buried in the back, housed in a shoebox, company for a whole host of other family animals back there. The only other animal I remember with affection was Tiger, a striped male cat, who often slept at the foot of my bed. His demise was very strange-you won’t believe it, but I saw it with my own eyes. One summer evening, I came around the house to find a circle of cats watching something–it was Tiger and a wild jackrabbit fighting viciously. The rabbit didn’t surprise me–they often came up from the river, just one block over. But the way the spectators acted, as if they were watching a wrestling match. I found Tiger later with a serious bite through her tail. It became in infected, and finally killed her.


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