Touching tribute to Nevada archivist Guy Rocha
February 22, 2009
When retiring state archivist Guy Rocha
was studying for his master’s degree at San Diego State, he stated that he wanted to go back to Nevada to become this state’s best public historian.
And if the more than 250 guests who showed up at the Carson Nugget on Saturday night to honor Rocha’s 32 years of service to the state have anything to say about it, he achieved that goal ” and then some.
Rocha’s achievements in documenting and communicating the history of Nevada are legendary. His quest to find the absolute truth about every historical Nevada event has led to two books, hundreds of columns, a host of documentaries and countless references in news media during the years.
“There’s an old saying among reporters that you are no better than your sources. And there is no better source than Guy Rocha,” said Martin Griffith, Associated Press reporter, to the assembled crowd.
“Reporters love Guy Rocha because he’s extreme quotable, colorful, accurate, quick and resourceful,” Griffith continued. “But if, as a reporter, you are going to say an issue you are writing about is a first, or the biggest, or the worst, or the most significant in state history, you better get your facts right. Because if you didn’t, guess who you would hear from. As Brendan Riley calls Guy, he’s Nevada journalists’ anti-hyperbole editor-in-chief.”
Griffith recounted the time when he was working on a story of Mark Twain’s involvement in the building of the First Presbyterian Church in Carson City, when Guy left five voice mail messages in a row detailing a new discovery he had made about Twain’s time in Nevada. “He just kept calling back until he finished the message, and each message was two-and-a-half minutes long,” Griffith said.
Many friends and colleagues spoke of Rocha’s passion for history, his giving nature and kind heart, and his dedication to his friends, family and craft. Some learned little known facts about the well-known Rocha, such as the two Nevada state wrestling titles he won in high school, or that on the softball diamond, he was a fierce competitor known as Rocco. Proclamations were read aloud from Gov. Jim Gibbons, Sens. Harry Reid and John Ensign and others.
McAvoy Layne, appearing in the character of legendary tall tale teller Mark Twain, made fun of Rocha’s obsession with myth busting.
“The good news is after tonight, we can get back to business,” Layne said. “Call me tomorrow and I’ll tell you a lie for a dollar when I could have got a dollar and a half for the truth.”
Reading the inscription of a card he made for Rocha, Layne said, “George Washington could not tell a lie. I can, but choose not to, for chances are that Guy Rocha would find me out!”
Union organizer and newspaper columnist Andrew Barbano used an historical event from the Bible to describe Rocha’s passion for history.
“If Charlton Heston, in full Moses drag, walked into this room right now with two tablets still smoking from Mount Sinai, you would tell Moses, ‘Leave them with me so I can call CSI and have them dust it for God’s DNA.'”
Rocha thanked his many friends, and recalled how a mentor from his college days set him on the course that led him here.
“He saw something in this bushy eyed, wild, VW-bus-driving, long-haired hippie son-of-a-gun, he saw some talent in me and mentored me and shepherded me through that masters program,” Rocha said.
Rocha left everyone with his motto: “We are entitled to our own opinions, but not our own facts. In turn, we are entitled to our own opinion of the facts, but not entitled to our own facts based on our opinions.”
And on a personal note, Guy, if any facts in this article are incorrect, please forgive me. I was unable to check them out with you first.
– Contact reporter Kirk Caraway at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1261.