Storey Countyofficial loses cancer battle |

Storey Countyofficial loses cancer battle

by F.T. Norton
Appeal Staff Writer

It’s an indisputable fact that Lorraine DuFresne was a fighter.

The little girl who grew up in a small Oregon town, and then at the age of 24 picked Virginia City as her home, never backed down, said her daughter, Kelli.

She battled with the best of them, always trying to do what was right while raising three children in a historic mining town as famous for its colorful characters as its Comstock Lode.

But the one fight that DuFresne didn’t ask for, she lost Friday four years after being diagnosed with cancer.

“It’s the passing of an average superhero,” DuFresne’s son Johnny said from his sister’s Minden home.

On Thursday, after discharging their mother from a Reno rehabilitation center, and with the inevitable obvious, Kelli, Johnny and their brother Rob brought their mother to Kelli’s home.

On Friday morning, DuFresne, 68, told her 20-year-old granddaughter, Josie, she loved her. Just after lunchtime, with her daughter and Johnny nearby, she died.

“She’s been sick for a very long time. It’s just startling. I guess to us she was larger than life,” said Kelli, who is city editor at the Nevada Appeal.

Elected to public office in 2006, DuFresne took to her position as Storey County clerk-treasurer like she did with most of her causes, with a passion.

When her children were little, she worked to build a park. A veteran of the Womens Army Corps, DuFresne formed the Veteran’s Day Parade that is now in its 28th year. She was part founder of the Virginia City Motorcycle Marathon, which raises money for people who have medical bills they can’t pay. She lead the Fourth of July parades forever.

“She was just a neat lady,” said former Storey County Sheriff Bob Del Carlo. “She ran for office and she ran for office and the timing was always wrong. She never did get elected – until this last election. Everyone was so happy for her. She’s been a public servant for most of her life.”

Del Carlo said DuFresne was a force to be reckoned with.

“She was honest to the core, and whenever something wasn’t just right, she was not afraid to speak up and talk about it, whether it be in a county commission meeting or wherever. She was perfectly honest.”

DuFresne was Virginia City’s unappointed watchdog, said Kelli.

“She was always there for everybody in town, making sure people were treated right,” she said.

Kelli said her mother never judged her children for their choices and she was hard pressed to offer advice. But she was “always there to support you when you fell on your ass and help pick you back up.”

Her only daughter said she will grieve for the loss of more than just a mother.

“I’m going to miss my friend,” she said.

DuFresne is survived locally by her three children; her granddaughter Josie, grandsons Christopher and Joshua; and ex-husband Bob DuFresne.

• Contact reporter F.T. Norton at or 881-1213.