800 gather to mourn Douglas senator

More than 800 people gathered at Minden Park on Friday to say their good-byes to State Sen. Lawrence Jacobsen in a ceremony that was more like a joyous family reunion.

"We in the Carson Valley are all Jacobsens today," said Pastor Pete Nelson of the Carson Valley United Methodist Church. "We are all privileged to be part of the family."

The 21Ú2-hour ceremony, under a bright blue Nevada sky, included tributes from Jacobsen's colleagues during his 40-year tenure in the Nevada Legislature and reminiscences from his children and grandchildren.

Jacobsen died July 26 at his Minden residence. He was 85.

Fire trucks from departments across the state formed a ring around Minden Park. The Douglas County Engine Company's vintage LaFrance and Seagrave engines were parked inside the perimeter reflecting Jacobsen's devotion to the volunteer fire department which he served for more than 50 years.

"Jake was Mr. Douglas County," said retired U.S. Sen. Richard Bryan, whose working relationship with Jacobsen dated to Bryan's first days in the Legislature in 1969.

Jacobsen, first elected to the Legislature in 1963, took the young Bryan, a Democrat, under his wing.

"I didn't know Jake extended the hand of friendship to everyone," Bryan said. "He was the product of the old school before the corrosive influence of partisanship injected itself into all aspects of politics at the state and national level.

"He was extra kind and generous to us and we learned the legislative process at the foot of the master," Bryan said. "He personified what Nevada is all about."

Sen. William Raggio, R-Reno, commented that Jacobsen probably rode on each fire apparatus that surrounded the park.

"He was one of the most important persons in the history of the state of Nevada," Raggio said.

Sen. Bernice Mathews, D-Washoe County, drew a big laugh when she described herself and Jacobsen as "different as day and night."

"Here he was this white guy from Douglas County and I am just this poor black child from Mississippi," Mathews said.

"We were as different in political views as you can be, but we were as close as sisters and brothers," she said.

Mathews said she and Sen. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, took turns calling Jacobsen after he lost his seat to redistricting in 2002 and didn't return for the 2003 session.

"If he wasn't home, I would just leave a message that 'we were thinking about you,'" Mathews said, fighting back tears. "I am so happy I did that. It was so important that he knew we had not forgotten him."

Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, regaled the crowd with tales about trips he took with the Jacobsens to Las Vegas and San Francisco.

The upshot in anecdote after anecdote was that Jacobsen never forgot who he was and would do anything for a friend.

"He taught me when you take on a job, you finish it. You're first there, last to leave and the most productive," Townsend said.

Townsend said one of the most memorable trips he took was to Pearl Harbor with Jacobsen to present a survivor's license plate at the memorial.

"I asked him about his (military) service and he spoke so matter-of-factly about being in the armed services. He saw it as something he should do," Townsend said. "We'd gone on the shuttle to the Arizona memorial and there were tears running down his face," Townsend said.

"If I can be half the legislator and one-tenth of the man Jake was, I will have done something worthwhile."

Jacobsen's grandsons spoke of family meals and traditions, including chopping and stacking firewood.

Brian Jacobsen recited the prayer his grandfather said before every meal.

"It ended with, 'Dear Lord, keep us strong, keep us safe, keep us free,'" he said.

Eric Erardy talked about how his grandfather always showed respect "to the most rude and evil person."

"I used to be able to tell my grandpa I love him. Now, I look to the sky to tell him and I know he hears me," he said.

Matt Jacobsen paid tribute to his grandfather by demonstrating a goose call.

Jacobsen's children paid tribute to their mother Betty as well as their father.

"Dad couldn't get dressed without Mother," Bruce Jacobsen said. "He called her 'Mother' and referred to himself as 'Pa.' If he were here today he would be asking her, 'Mother, what did Pa do to deserve this?'"

Special honors at the service included a Navy flyover of F/A-18 Hornets in the "missing man formation," and presentations by other military groups including a group of Pearl Harbor survivors who were given a standing ovation.

Other attendees included Jacobsen constituents like 88-year-old Howard Boyle of Gardnerville who traveled to Minden Park from his residence a mile away via his motorized scooter.

Boyle said he met the Jacobsens in the early 1980s when he worked at Lampe Park.

"I met the boys and the senator at the ball games," he said. "He knew everybody and everybody knew him."

Suzi Townsell of Gardnerville and her sister Patti Speer of Lovelock recalled playing with the Jacobsens when the Graham girls lived across the alley.

"We have lots and lots of wonderful memories," Speer said. "Susie (Jacobsen) was my first friend. We used to play Michael Jackson records and I remember the one and only night we tried to sneak out of Susie's bedroom. Mom (Josie Graham) and Betty (Jacobsen) caught us."

When Speer got married, she held her reception in the Jacobsen's yard.

Following the service, guests were invited to a reception at the CVIC Hall that featured tri-tip, cakes from the Minden Rotary Club and assorted side dishes donated by service clubs.

Chris Peters who with his brothers and friends helped barbecue the 300 pounds of beef said his family would do anything for the Jacobsens. His sister Debbie is married to Bruce Jacobsen.

"That doesn't even matter," he said. "The senator cooked for us when we played baseball for the Outlaws back in the 80s. We'd do anything for the family."

Following the service, Bruce Jacobsen said he thought his father would be pleased.

"I told somebody Dad is smiling from ear-to-ear and it's not a smile that's going to come off for awhile," he said.


In lieu of flowers, the Jacobsen family asks that donations be made to: Douglas County Fire Museum, in care of East Fork Fire & Paramedic Districts, PO 218, Minden NV 89423.


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