Jackalyn Ross Laxalt, former Nevada first lady, dies
CARSON CITY – Jackalyn Ross Laxalt, longtime substance abuse counselor and former wife of Paul Laxalt, who served as a Nevada U.S. senator, governor and lieutenant governor, died Saturday. She was 77.
Laxalt died in a Reno hospital where she had been undergoing treatment for respiratory problems.
Laxalt was born in Yerington and raised in Carson City, where her father, John R. Ross, was a prominent lawyer and later a federal judge, and attended the University of Nevada, Reno.
After Paul Laxalt married Jackalyn, he practiced law with her father and began his storied political career as one of the state’s most popular elective officials by winning his first statewide race, for lieutenant governor, in 1962.
As the state’s first lady from 1966 to 1970, Laxalt oversaw the refurbishing and remodeling of the governor’s mansion. With their six children, the Laxalts were the largest family to occupy the mansion.
After her marriage of 25 years ended in divorce in 1972, Laxalt moved to Scottsdale, Ariz., where she overcame her alcoholism, and then spent many years in Arizona and Nevada counseling others with substance abuse problems, her family said.
“Mom loved her children, grandchildren and Nevada, and she was proud of having been Nevada’s favorite first lady,” said daughter Michelle Laxalt, of Washington, D.C.
“My mother taught all of her children to be independent, to not roll over and lose if we thought we were right. She taught us to be warm and loving, and gave us our sense of humor,” said daughter Neena Laxalt of Reno.
And while Paul Laxalt has often pointed to his Basque heritage, Neena Laxalt added her Irish-descent mother encouraged her children “to be proud that we were Irish.”
Besides Michelle and Neena, other survivors include daughters Gail Johnson of Denver, Colo., Sheila Lokan of Portland, Ore., and Kevin Laxalt of Greeley, Colo.; son John Laxalt of Carson City, a dozen grandchildren and one great-granddaughter, and brother John Tom Ross of Carson City.
Funeral arrangements are pending.