Virginia City says farewell to Lorraine Du Fresne |

Virginia City says farewell to Lorraine Du Fresne

Karen Woodmansee
Appeal Staff Writer

Lorraine Smith Du Fresne organized parades for years in Virginia City, so it was a fitting sendoff when a parade of cars formed from her funeral Mass at St. Mary in the Mountains Catholic Church to the reception at the Historic Fourth Ward School Museum.

Du Fresne, 68, the Storey County Clerk-Treasurer, died on Dec. 14 at her daughter Kelli’s home in Minden. Kelli Du Fresne is the city editor at the Nevada Appeal.

Virgil Bucchianeri, the former Storey County District Attorney, for whom Lorraine worked for many years, announced at the end of the Mass that mourners were asked to join the parade to the Fourth Ward School.

“Because she handled the parades for so many years, the family would like to parade down C Street in honor of Lorraine,” he said.

At least 50 cars made their way from the church to the museum, carrying a veritable Who’s Who of Storey County. Along with the Du Fresne family there were Hesses, McBrides, Flanagans, Petrinis, Nevins, Del Carlos and more. There were county workers, elected officials, folks Lorraine Du Fresne had helped over the years and patrons of the Silver Dollar Pub, which she owned in the 1980s.

Her favorite causes were on display as well, with the county Sheriff’s Office and Fire Department providing the honor guard and parade escort, and with many members of the Virginia City Motorcycle Marathon in attendance.

At the Mass, Father Don Don of St. Teresa’s Catholic Church in Carson City officiated, calling Lorraine Du Fresne a “truthful public servant” who always stood up for what was right. The St. Mary choir sang “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” as the church bell rang along with the singing.

At the reception, the Du Fresne family had a slide show projected onto a screen of their mother’s life, and many friends brought food items. Members of the Storey County Jeep Posse served as bartenders.

Christine Prater, a local teacher, said Du Fresne was one of the first women to welcome here to town.

“We met through Little League,” she said, which Du Fresne had begun in Virginia City. “She was the team mother. She sat down next to me and introduced herself and was a friend ever since. She was a very special person.”

Prater’s husband, Larry, a Storey County Planning Commissioner, called Du Fresne “one of the most honest, straightforward women I have ever met.”

Tough was what Rollie Hess called her.

“She’s probably the toughest woman I ever came across, and she had to be to put up with Bob all those years,” he said, referring to her former husband, Bob Du Fresne, who remained a friend even after their marriage ended.

Bucchianeri, who was close to former Mustang Ranch owner Joe Conforte, said Du Fresne hated Conforte and would always campaign for Bucchianeri’s opponent when election time came around.

“She was the child support collector,” he said. “She was good, too, we got prizes for that, best in the rural counties. But she couldn’t stand Joe.”

While Du Fresne was battling cancer, Bucchianeri said he took a photo of Conforte off the Internet and signed it “To Lorraine. I hear you are ill. I’m in great shape even though I’m 82. Hope you recover, Joe.” Bucchianeri said Du Fresne took the joke well and hung the photo in the Clerk-Treasurer’s office.

He also said that when Du Fresne was in charge of the Bicentennial celebration in 1976, some saloon owners managed to snag Amanda Blake, formerly Miss Kitty on the old TV show “Gunsmoke” for grand marshal. Out of loyalty to Bucchianeri, Du Fresne rejected the plan.

“I was always grand marshal then, and Lorraine wouldn’t let her (Blake) do it,” he said. “So they named her co-grand marshal with me, but then Miss Kitty didn’t show up.”

Vanessa Dixon, who was appointed interim Clerk-Treasurer, called Du Fresne an incredible teacher.

“She told me when she hired me she would not put up with any B.S.,” Dixon said. “She made sure we knew what we were doing and to do it right. We were there for the people.”

Sarah Jensen, Storey County Recorder of Deeds, said Du Fresne was “A woman who was passionate about life and believed in everything she did.”

• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at or by calling 881-7351.

Penny Kiechler said Du Fresne was tough enough to keep the late tramp miner Billy Varga in line.

“We were all involved in Little League and Boy Scouts together, and Billy was such a distraction at Little League when he would start yelling at the umpire,” she said. “Lorraine was always able to put him in his place.”

Cathylee James, a former school board member who once sat on the Cemetery Board with Lorraine Du Fresne, said Du Fresne respected those who came to the Comstock with the right attitude.

“I learned that even if you were new, if you worked hard and kept the interests of the county at heart, you earned Lorraine’s respect,” she said. “And that was an honor.”

Bob Du Fresne said his former wife would complain he didn’t get dressed up.

“She always asked me ‘How come you never like to get dressed up?'” he said. “I said, ‘I smell like shoe polish and hair oil’ and she would give me that awful look and I’d say, ‘What do you think’ and she’d say, ‘You smell like shoe polish and hair oil.'”

• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at or by calling 881-7351.