MERT: He had a special love for Fallon | NevadaAppeal.com

MERT: He had a special love for Fallon

Steve Ranson
sranson@lahontanvalleynews.com
Former Mayor Mert Domonoske died during the summer.
COURTESY OF DOMONOSKE FAMILY |

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For an obituary on the former mayor, go to https://www.nevadaappeal.com/news/obituaries/17464790-113/merton-e-domonoske

Merton Domonoske was remembered as a former councilman and mayor who loved Fallon, and even after leaving office, he still had the best interests of the city at heart.

The 92-year-old Domonoske died July 16 after a lengthy illness at Reno’s Renown Regional Medical Center. A memorial service will be held at Smith Family Funeral Home on Thursday at 2 p.m. with inurnment to follow at the Churchill County Cemetery.

Domonoske served on the Fallon City Council from 1960-66 representing Ward 2. He then represented Ward 1 from 1967-71 before he was elected mayor, a post he held until 1987. He was also involved with other organizations and boards ranging from the Churchill County Central Republican Committee to the Nevada League of Cities.

ICONIC COMMUNITY LEADER

Mayor Ken Tedford said Monday that as a young boy growing up in Fallon he knew and admired Domonoske.

“When he was first elected mayor, he gave me a tour of the city and its operations,” Tedford said, adding the visit with Domonoske left an impression on him.

From that day as a teenager, Tedford studied Domonoske’s approach to government and leadership and how well the city operated. Consequently, Tedford said he tries to use the same style in governing the city and being open to the public.

“A lot of what Mert did has been handed down,” Tedford added.

In the years Tedford knew Domonoske, he said the former councilman and mayor had a great love for the city, and for many years when they sat together at Rotary Club meetings, Tedford said he gained additional respect for him.

“He had high ethics, very good values,” Tedford said. “It’s a shame to lose a pioneer who had a lot of history (of the Fallon area),” Tedford said. “He is truly a great man, it’s a sad day for the city, and it won’t be the same place to live without Mert.”

After he was first elected mayor in the mid-1990s, Tedford said Domonoske was a good mentor, offering what he called “pieces of advice.”

“I used to go over his house, and we would always have a chat about the city,” Tedford said. “He knew a lot about the city’s infrastructure.”

Earlier this year in February at the annual Lincoln Day Dinner, Tedford and the Churchill County Central Republican Committee recognized Domonoske during a tribute.

Tedford read prepared comments about Domonoske’s early life in California before relocating to Nevada.

“I remember Mert riding a bike in the Labor Day parade with his derby hat and smoking a cigar,” Tedford said at the Feb. 15 event. “Mert is a fun-loving and carefree man and is adored by all who know him.”

Tedford pointed out Domonoske’s contributions in city government and the many organizations to which he served.

To honor Domonoske, the Fallon City Council had a moment of silence to begin last night’s meeting.

Councilman Robert “Bob” Erickson succeeded Domonoske as mayor in 1987, but their friendship went father than that.

“Mert introduced me to city government,” Erickson said. ”I worked with him in the business community and by that, I knew him well.”

Erickson said Domonoske was very inspirational, both as a city leader and mentor, and his love for the city and Churchill County was very intense.

“He had a deep love for the city, its culture and people. He left an indelible mark, not only as a mayor or leader but also in the social and military community.”

During the years Erickson knew Domonoske, he said the longtime Fallon resident always enjoyed sharing his thoughts. According to Erickson, Domonoske was an advocate for Fallon and the county and also showed a great interest in Nevada. That desire and interest, said Erickson, allowed Domonoske to work with Nevada’s leaders whether they were Republican or Democrat.

“Mert was one of the best people I encountered,” Erickson said. “He made in-depth studies and was very well read. I found him to be very perceptive.”

WORKING WITH GOVERNORS

Richard Bryan, former U.S. senator and governor from Nevada, said during his years in office beginning first when he was the state’s attorney general, he frequently visited Fallon and would meet with Domonoske to talk politics.

“I remember him well,” said Bryan, a Democrat, speaking from his law office in Las Vegas on Monday. “I would meet with him at the pancake breakfast before the Labor Day parade. He was a very personable guy.”

What Bryan remembers most about Domonoske wasn’t his career as an insurance man or local politician but his personality and the way he connected with others.

“He had a little grin, and something about him was personable … down to earth and no pretension about him,” Bryan recollected. “He had a glean in his eye and projected a warmth, friendliness. Mert was a perfect fit for the community.”

Bryan said he would hold town hall meetings as governor, and Domonoske would be there to listen to what he had to say. After Bryan was elected senator in 1988, he still visited Fallon and Domonoske whenever he came to the area whether to attend an event at Naval Air Station Fallon or deliver a commencement address at Churchill County High School.

“He was a wonderful guy,” Bryan said.

Republican Gov. Bob List knew Domonoske for almost 40 years. List served as governor from 1979-1983.

“He was a wonderful human being … he loved life, loved Nevada, loved Fallon and Churchill County,” List said. “He served the people there so well.”

List said he and Domonoske worked well together on several projects including the problem with arsenic in the water and assisting the Navy.

“Mert was always very supportive of the Navy,” List said. “We worked close with the base and the men and women out there. He was on the point with the city and maintained good relations with the base.”

List said Domonoske was a spark plug, always moving forward with one project or another. He said the former mayor was a believer in every project, not just one.

“I thought the world of him: He was Mr. Fallon,” List added.

DUTY TO COUNTRY

Although both men served in the Army, Bryan said he was impressed with what he heard about Domonoske’s service, especially during World War II when he enlisted in 1942. Domonokse entered as a private but attended the U.S. Army Infantry School at Fort Benning, Ga., where he was commissioned a second lieutenant.

His first duty assignment was in the Pacific theater where he served as a combat platoon leader in the 165th Infantry Regiment known as the “Fighting Irish.” His regiment was preparing to invade Japan from Okinawa when atomic bombs were dropped on two Japanese cities in August 1945. After Japan surrendered on Sept. 2, 1945, Domonoske was part of the military occupation for the next 11 months.

Domonokse remembered his service in Japan with an account he wrote in the Lahontan Valley News for Veterans Day:

“My old buddies and I from the 165th Infantry Regiment (Fighting Irish) were on leave in Tokyo. Our regiment went home in December 1945 leaving us behind. An infantry officer in those days was considered to be so well trained that he could serve in any branch of the army, so I was transferred to the Signal Corps, and ended up as commanding officer of the Central Film and Equipment exchange, and my buddies were assigned to the Quartermaster Corps, Cavalry and Military Police.

“Mac, short for McFerren, was in the rickshaw and I was between the shafts. Mac stayed in the Army another year to save enough money to go to law school and later became a judge in Ohio. I went home and graduated from the University of Nevada.”

Domonoske entered his senior year when he returned to the university. He later obtained a master’s degree in agriculture from Washington State University, and one of his first jobs was in charge of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Fallon office in 1948.

When the Korean War began in 1950, the first lieutenant commanded the Nevada Army National Guard armory in Fallon. In 1952, he received an honorable discharge from the National Guard, signed by Lt. Col. J.V. Sheldon.

FAMILY REMEMBERS

Merton Domonoske married Nadine Hursh, whom he met shortly after arriving in Fallon, in 1950, and he joined her father’s insurance firm in 1952 when Ernest H. Hursh’s health began to deteriorate. Ernest Hursh and Domonoske then ventured into real estate developments in Hawthorne and Fallon.

Nadine Domonoske died in the mid-1990s, and Mert Domonoske married Paula Coverston later that year. That summer, he sold the insurance business to his niece and her husband, Licia and Fred Rogne.

Paulaa Domonoske said her husband was a man who loved the community immensely.

“He used to call the mayor once in a while to tell him his ideas,” she remembers. “Even before he passed, he was thinking of ways to help the community.”

Furthermore, Paula Domonoske said they enjoyed sharing coffee and the newspaper to catch up on the day’s events.

While Mert Domonokse was involved with the city and different boards for most of his adult life, she said he enjoyed his family. Although he did not have any children with Nadine Domonokse, he treated Paula’s children and grandchildren as his own.

“He was excited to be with my children, grandchildren and then great-grandchildren,” Paula Domonokse said. “He attended all their parties, he would sing to the kids and play the piano.”

“He was quite a man,” Licia Rogne said. “He was my uncle, that uncle who was Santa Claus. I used to pretend to sleep in the car so he would carry me (into the house).”

Rogne said she and her sister grew up with him and Nadine, but she remembers how jovial he was and laughing.

“He always had a big grin on his face,” she said.

Rogne echoed what many have said about Domonoske. She said he had an incredible memory and could recite dates and specific information about events. Most of all, he was a hardworking, ethical businessman who served the community well.

“He treated all the clients the same,” she said. “As a boss, he was tough. He always said the harder you work for something, the more you appreciate it. He believed in hard work.”

Rogne said Domonoske taught the family wonderful business practices when they worked for him.

Rogne also remembers a time when he became a caretaker for her aunt for five years. She said Domonoske would curl her hair or paint her toenails or fingernails.

“He was amazing. He took that extra touch to take care of her in a loving way,” he said.

Two years ago, Licia Rogne sent a Father’s Day card to Domonoske. Looking back, the words mean more to her than ever before.

“I wrote him a letter telling him how much I appreciated him and what a great uncle he was,” she said.

She paused.

“He was an extremely interesting man. He will be missed in our lives.”