Gertrude Riordan Gottschalk
Feb 4, 1916 – March 15, 2019
Gertrude Riordan Gottschalk, one of Nevada’s foremost political activists, passed away on Friday, March 15, 2019, at her place of residence, Sierra Place, in Carson City. She had celebrated her 103rd birthday with a family dinner on February 2nd. Gertrude was born in Preston, Nevada, February 4, 1916. Her parents had planned to make it to Ely, Nevada from their ranch in the White River Valley in time for her birth. But a terrific snowstorm overtook them in Preston where baby was ready to be born. A Mormon midwife helped with her delivery. She was the youngest of six children with three brothers and two sisters. She was schooled by live-in teachers at their ranch until, age 13. Gertrude then traveled to Belmont, California to enroll in Notre Dame, a Catholic boarding school.
Upon graduation, she applied to attend Stanford University and was accepted. However, due to the Great Depression, it was decided that she enter training at a secretarial school in order that she could be prepared for office work. Her first job was with the Nevada State Highway Department in Ely. In 1936 she transferred to the central office in Carson City. In 1937 she met and married George Gottschalk, a University of Nevada graduate, Lovelock native, and Nevada State Highway Patrolman. After WWII they started a successful propane business, Carson New Gas. They sold the business in 1954. George continued to manage the gas business until he switched careers to work in real estate. Gertrude was involved with several groups, including Nevada Women’s History Project; Chapter X, PEO; Mark Twain Garden Club; and several bridge clubs.
In 1947 she was recruited by Mildred Bray, Superintendent of Public Instruction, to help in reorganizing the Democratic Women’s Club in Carson City which remains an active political organization. Her years-long contributions of time and leadership to the Democratic Party are notable. One of her first Democratic tasks was serving as secretary to the Young Turks, a new organization that worked to change the political scene at the time. During the Kennedy-Johnson era, she served as Democratic National Committeewoman. For many years she also served as secretary to the Eleven Western States Democratic Conference. In the 1960s she became heavily involved with the Democratic National Party, traveling around the state to organize the party. She met President John F. Kennedy, as well as Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. She ran for the Nevada State Assembly, the first year that Ormsby County was joined with Douglas County for that position. She won in Ormsby but lost the race in Douglas. She was active for several years in the County and State Central Committees. She worked on numerous Democratic campaigns for such notables as Senators Pat McCarran, Alan Bible, Howard Cannon, and Harry Reid, and Governors Grant Sawyer, Mike O’Callaghan and Richard Bryan.
Gertrude’s ancestors include several Nevada pioneers. Gertrude’s grandparents all immigrated from Ireland. Her maternal grandparents arrived in Carson City in the 1860s. Gertrude’s mother, graduated from Carson High School. She went to eastern Nevada to teach school where she met her husband-to-be James Riordan. They were married on September 5th, 1897 at St. Teresa’s Church Carson City.
Gertrude is survived by her son Mark, daughter -in-law Linda, granddaughters Kerrie, Suzette, Heather, and grandson Shayne, great-grandchildren Benjamin, Grace and Hannah, plus nieces, nephews, and cousins on both the Riordan and Gottschalk sides of the family. Her oldest son Kerry died at the age of 40, leaving his wife and four children. Her greatest joys were always her husband, her sons, and her grandchildren.
A Celebration of Life will be scheduled later.