Barbara Vucanovich 1921-2013
Barbara Vucanovich died last Monday in Reno after a brief illness. She was 91.
Born in Camp Dix, N.J., Ms. Vucanovich was raised in New York State and moved to Reno in the late 1940s.
The first woman member of Congress from Nevada, and the first female to represent the Second Congressional District. When she was elected Republican Conference Secretary, she became the first Nevadan to serve in a leadership position in the House. Barbara Vucanovich served on the defunct Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, important to Nevada because it decided public policy on resource issues, such as mining.
She also served on the Appropriations Committee and chaired its Subcommittee on Military Construction. The future of the Fallon Naval Air Station and Nellis Air Force Base was one of her many particular interests. She served on the staff of US Senator Paul Laxalt before assuming a newly created congressional post that encompassed 16 of Nevada’s 17 counties — practically the whole state, except for Las Vegas and Henderson. Barbara Vucanovich served seven terms from 1983 to 1997, the second longest of any Nevada member of the House.
Ms. Vucanovich campaigned for her seventh term in Congress by attacking the Clinton administration, saying she wanted to fight its tax proposals, including levies on gambling. It was during her final term that she was elected as Republican conference secretary, one of four party leadership positions.
Clark County District Court Judge Jessie Walsh, who before entering the political arena herself worked for Barbara Vucanovich, expressed her sadness saying, “Our state and country have lost a true statesman and patriot in Barbara Vucanovich. We’ll mourn her passing, but take comfort in knowing that she is with her beloved George.”
“Nevada has not just lost a good and honest politician, but a really great lady,” said Las Vegas Tribune Editor, Rolando Larraz.
The title Lady of Firsts apparently runs in the family of Barbara Vucanovich, and is a legacy she leaves to her survivors. Her daughter Patricia (Patty) Cafferata was the first woman elected to constitutional office in Nevada when she was elected state treasurer in 1982. When she was appointed district attorney of Esmeralda County to fill a vacancy, she became the only woman and one of only three people to serve as district attorney of three Nevada counties — Lincoln, Lander and Esmeralda.
Barbara Vucanovich is survived by daughter Patricia Dillon Cafferata and son-in-law Dr. Treat Cafferata of Reno; son Kenneth Dillon, Jr. and daughter-in-law Sandra Dillon of Reno; son Tom Dillon and daughter-in-law Catherine deTar Dillon of Statesville, N.C.; 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.