Obituary: Bruce Laxalt
Bruce Laxalt passed away March 19, 2010 in Reno, after a lengthy battle with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was born March 26, 1951, in Reno, the grandson of Basque immigrants and of a four-generation Nevada family. He spent his growing up years here with the exception of two years when his family lived in a small Basque village in southern France. Among his most cherished childhood memories were the times he spent with his grandfather in the sheep camps of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
After graduating from Reno High School in 1969, Bruce went on to earn an undergraduate degree in philosophy at Stanford University, where he played bass in many rock ‘n’ roll bands to help fund his tuition. After graduating from Stanford Law School in 1976 he worked as a lawyer at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC before returning to Nevada to clerk for Nevada Supreme Court Justice Gordon Thompson. Bruce then joined the Washoe County District Attorney’s Office, where he eventually became chief criminal deputy under D.A. Cal Dunlap. Bruce moved to the private sector in 1982, and in 1985, along with his partner Don Nomura, established the statewide law firm of Laxalt & Nomura. He went on to develop a national reputation as a civil litigator. He is listed in Best Lawyers in America and Chambers Leading Business Lawyers, and is a member of the prestigious American Board of Trial Attorneys.
In addition to his dedication and passion for the law, Bruce was an enthusiastic soaring pilot, where he competed in many regional and national competitions. He made many lasting friendships in the soaring community, and met fellow pilot Pam Sutton in 1989, who became his wife and best friend. Bruce thrived on the challenge and risk of soaring and also found peace and solitude flying at high speed over the Nevada desert.
Bruce was diagnosed with ALS in 2001. The diagnosis was questioned for several years, but ultimately confirmed. Despite his growing weakness, he continued to practice law for many years. At the same time he returned to his early love of writing, ultimately publishing a book of poems, “Songs of Mourning and Worship,” which was partially translated and published in Basque and was also featured in several anthologies and law journals. At the time of his passing Bruce had completed the first draft of his second book, “Tenets of Survival.” Much of his writing was done at his home on Little Cayman Island in the Caribbean where the warm and nurturing sands of his home by the sea gave him his peace and solitude to write.
In the words of a friend and fellow soaring pilot, “Bruce was truly one of a kind: a lawyer of national reputation, an author, poet, former rock ‘n’ roller and an enthusiastic soaring pilot. Bruce was a generous supporter of soaring in Northern Nevada, even after his illness kept him out of the cockpit. Those of us lucky enough to have flown with Bruce at sites all over California and Nevada found his pure enjoyment infectious, his irreverence refreshing and his friendship enduring.
“Bruce, together with Pam, fought a terrible disease with unimaginable courage, grace and good humor. Bruce seemed determined to enjoy as much of life as he possibly could, for as long as he possibly could … a philosophy that could be a lesson for all of us. For her part, Pam ensured that Bruce could live life to the fullest possible extent, in itself a lesson in love and devotion.”
Bruce is survived by his wife, Pamela Sutton, mother Joyce Laxalt, sisters Monique Laxalt and Kristin Laxalt, brothers-in-law Don Nomura and Carmelo Urza, nieces Amy Nomura, Alexandra Urza and Katherine Sutton Reynolds, nephews Gabriel Urza, Kevin Nomura and Robert Hanley, numerous aunts, uncles and cousins. Bruce is also survived by his three devoted dogs, Skeeter, Blaze and Kaya, and China Cat Sunflower.
Bruce could not have lived as full a life in the last few years without the help of an incredible support team including Dr. Robert Fliegler, Dr. Sherwood Dixon and Dr. Ann Owen, the physicians of Pulmonary Medicine Associates, caregivers Kingsley Anoshiri and Mayo Gbenjo, and the many friends who shared their time with Bruce.
A funeral Mass will take place at 1 p.m. Saturday at the St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, 100 Bishop Manogue Drive, Reno.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to ALS of Nevada, 888 West Bonneville, Las Vegas, NV 89106 or to Air Sailing Gliderport c/o David Volkmann, 640 Meadowgate Court, Reno, NV 89519.
Arrangements are under the direction of Walton Funeral Home in Reno.