Bill Raggio: ‘A man of the people’
March 6, 2012
Mourners filled the 1,200 seat Rose of Lima Catholic Church Monday for the funeral of state Sen. Bill Raggio.
He was remembered for his intellect, devotion to his family, love of the state and his more than 50 years of public service.
But every speaker also spoke of Raggio’s quick wit and sense of humor. Raggio died while vacationing in Australia on Feb. 23 of respiratory failure.
Former Sen. and Gov. Richard Bryan told of a trip he, Raggio and several others made to China in the 1970s when Bryan was running for attorney general. As they toured the Great Wall, Bryan said he came through a passage to see one of his huge neon green campaign posters stuck to the wall.
Daughter Leslie Righetti told the audience even in his final days before leaving on vacation, “dad was at his finest.”
When Raggio and Reno Mayor Bob Cashell roasted longtime University of Nevada, Reno coach Dick Trachok just a day before leaving, “he hardly let mayor Cashell get in a word.”
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She read passages from several birthday letters he hand-wrote to her including one that said simply, “the Bible says honor thy father.”
“He showed me how to carry on despite it all,” she said. “I hope I’ve learned well.”
Bryan said the 1970s when Raggio arrived in the Nevada Senate were “a legislative golden age of collegiality.” He said there were no party caucuses and few party line votes.
“We tried the best we could to do what was best for the state,” said Bryan. He said Raggio’s talent was his ability to forge a consensus.
“He knew that legislation was the art of the possible,” Bryan said. “He understood that compromise is necessary.”
He said the title of Raggio’s biography released just last year “says it all – A Man of His Word.”
Gov. Brian Sandoval described Raggio as his mentor, a statesman, public servant and leader..
“He was the very essence of a man of the people who lived his life for the people,” he said.
But Sandoval said Raggio could be tough.
“Bill Raggio knew his own mind and he wasn’t shy about sharing a piece of it with you,” he said.
Longtime friend Ray Avansino said Raggio attended many funerals, including delivering eulogies at Avansino’s father’s and grandfather’s funerals. He said when he asked why so many funerals, “he said I always go to other people’s funerals because if I don’t, they won’t go to mine.
“Well Bill, we’ve got a full house.”
Avansino referred to Raggio’s exceptional intellect.
Former Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley of Las Vegas said Raggio was a brilliant political tactician and that one of his abilities was patience.
“He’d outwit you,” she said.
Security was heavy at the church simply because so many of Nevada’s political and business leaders were there.
Raggio served 38 years in the Nevada Senate including a record 10 times as majority leader. That is longer than anyone in Nevada history.
He was 85.