Losing a generation of leaders

Margaret and Cecil Quinley

Margaret and Cecil Quinley

Never in my 30 years in Fallon has one year seen the passing of so many figures who shaped our community.

Each one of these individuals served Fallon in one way or another and left a legacy for future generations to remember. For the editor of a small community newspaper, I found it very difficult to write about people I knew — some better than others — who died in 2016. Judging by the impact these individuals had on the community at the time of their passing, the feedback we received at the newspaper and the immeasurable loss of colleagues and friends who possessed so much institutional knowledge of the area, the LVN’s top story of 2016 remembers the passing of a generation — the Greatest Generation.

Ed “Señor” Arciniega’s passing in April affected thousands of people, many of whom he had coached and taught during a 37-year career. When I first arrived in Fallon as a teacher in 1986, he was one of the first educators who befriended me, yet we already shared some common interests such as coming from small communities and sharing a love for the Spanish language, since I had just spent two years in Panama.

A popular educator, Señor, 92, came to Fallon more than 60 years ago after receiving his degree from the University of Nevada, Reno. As a coach, he was a major reason for guiding two state champions in baseball and basketball in 1957 and runner-up in football. Fallon, not Reno or Las Vegas, was the powerhouse of boys’ sports in the Silver State.

The school district named the athletic complex in his honor more than 20 years ago.

I will never forget receiving a text message on an early Saturday morning in May about my former boss and LVN Editor Anne Pershing. Anne, who recently penned her final column, unexpectedly passed away on the previous day in Reno at the age of 71. She was one of the last community journalists in Nevada, and trust me, not too many of us remain.

Anne knew the community well but knew the people better. It was her mentorship that made me a better person, editor and eyes and ears of Churchill County.

In 1987, Anne became one of the very few female editors of a daily newspaper in Nevada and until she passed away, she continued to be a journalist, writing a senior column for the Reno Gazette-Journal, “Grandma with an Attitude.”

You can either thank her or scold her, but she insisted I become the LVN editor in 2008 so the passion of reporting on this community still continued.

Businessman Robert “Bob” Kent was a longtime Fallon icon who was known for having the only grocery store in town until Raley’s opened in the 1970s.

For many generations, generations remember his grocery store at the corner of Center and Maine streets and how he carried everything under the sun. The 90-year-old businessman passed away at the end of May.

Bob was a longtime member of several community organizations and carried on the longtime family tradition of civic service. His father was a founding member of the Fallon Rotary Club.

Like Señor, Bob served in World War II in the Pacific Theater. Coincidentally, each man served aboard a separate aircraft carrier from 1943-45.

Education was Lou Buckmaster’s middle name. For years the Montana native taught history and other subjects in Churchill County, and he also served as vice principal at the high school.

After he retired as an educator, the popular teacher successfully ran for the school board and served multiple terms. Those who knew the 82-year-old Lou said he had a vested interest in the school district and community and always wanted the best education system for the children.

Lou was a colleague, friend and a neighbor, and for many years we lived on “teacher row” near Laura Mills Park.

A U.S. Marine veteran, “Bucky” left us in July.

Retired Churchill County Commissioner Gwen Washburn, 72, was a friend of agriculture and also a community leader who made our county a better place to live.

Gwen was born in Fallon and spent her entire life here. She lost her battle against cancer in early July, but she was known as everyone’s friend and grandma. Gwen had a strong love for her family but especially for her husband Bill, a high-school sweetheart.

Washburn brought a wealth of experience to organizations such as 4-H. In 1994, retiring Commissioner Cyril Schank met with Gwen and decided she should run because of her background in business, ranching and politics. Gwen won and then served for 16 years, ending her political career, which at the time was chairwoman, on the board in 2010 because of term limits. The Fallon native maintained a strong desire to improve county services including the roads.

Two people who defined the definition of true love passed away in 2016. Cecil Quinley and his wife, Margaret, came to Fallon in 2007, but they made a lasting impact to those they met. Cecil passed away in March at the age of 100.

Cecil was Fallon’s war hero from World War II. A co-pilot on a B-17 bomber, Quinley and his crew were shot down over Germany in 1943, and for those who survived, they spent the rest of the war in a German prisoner-of-war camp.

I first met Cecil nine years ago when I wrote several stories on a B-17 flying in the Reno Air Show. Cecil spent hours telling me of his military service and the POW camp. When an event arose to honor veterans,Cecil was there to lend his expertise or bring memorabilia from World War II.

His son Dan Quinley took this parent’s letters to each other from the war and wrote a book that came out in 2014 — “Forever: A true story of love and war” — which revealed a love affair that began with a blind date in 1936, continued through World War II and into their later years to Fallon.

Sadly, Margaret left us in November at the age of 99 to be with her beloved Cecil. In one of the last times I saw them together, he was recollecting about V-J (Victory Japan) day. As he told me about the war-ending event, Margaret’s eyes were focused on her husband, still sparkling with decades of love for him.

Margaret had her own role in WWII, tirelessly working to help collect money for the war effort, as well as with the American Red Cross volunteering in Sacramento area hospitals.


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