Friends bid goodbye to Louis Bergevin
The people who knew Lou Bergevin best – from boyhood pals to legislative colleagues – remembered the former assemblyman and lifetime Valley rancher Thursday as a true Nevadan who always kept his constituents’ best interests at heart.
More than 450 friends, family members and public officials paid their final respects to Bergevin at services at Carson Valley United Methodist Church.
Bergevin died Feb. 19 as a result of an accident in his Minden residence. He was 75.
The Revs. Pete Nelson and Michael Benke presided at the funeral which filled the church to capacity. The service was under the auspices of the Carson Valley Masonic Lodge No. 33 F&AM with Gene Osborne officiating.
Bergevin was a 50-year member of the Masonic Lodge.
Don Hellwinkel, who grew up with Bergevin in Minden and was a fellow Mason, recalled his friend with humor and affection.
As young boys in the 1930s, they organized the “Back Alley Bunch.”
“We always called him Luke,” said Hellwinkel. “Our goal was to have fun.”
Their solid friendship was strengthened by schoolyard memories, military service during World War II, and a lifetime of mutual respect.
“Luke gave me a lot of confidence,” Hellwinkel said. “He was a dear friend, a good pal and a hell of a good buddy.”
Hellwinkel recalled a boyhood boxing match between the two. An enterprising friend sold ringside tickets for a nickel each.
“I thought I could beat him because I was faster, but I forgot about his long arms. All I could do was keep swatting away,” Hellwinkel said. “Finally, I wrestled him to the ground.”
Hellwinkel reminisced about the pair sneaking cigarettes in a shed behind the old Douglas County High School and going to great lengths to avoid the wrath of their parents when they got in trouble.
“So long, Luke,” Hellwinkel said. “I tip my hat to you as you ride into the sunset.”
Nevada Assembly Speaker Joe Dini, a Democrat, told the audience that despite their party differences, he regarded the Republican Bergevin as a “genuine Nevadan.”
“He gave his talent and time for years to better our government,” said Dini.
Bergevin’s specialities included education, taxes and water rights, Dini said.
“If you wanted a good argument with Lou, talk about taking water from the Carson River. That was good for about a three-hour dissertation.”
He said Bergevin crafted tax legislation which remains on the books.
“He did two things,” Dini said. “He knew his information and he was able to convince the legislators to do the right thing. He always had the strength of character to do the right thing. That earned him the title ‘independent thinker.'”
Dini said while he was assembly speaker and Bergevin served as minority leader, “all we had to do was walk by each other and say we had to talk” to work out their differences.
Dini said Bergevin played no political games.
“He was straightforward, not sneaky or sly. North or south, Democratic or Republican, it never made any difference. He did what he thought was right.”
Rep. John Marvel, R-Battle Mountain, joined the Assembly in 1979 along with Bergevin. Both were ranchers and shared many common interests and concerns.
“He was the premier expert on taxation,” said Marvel. “Some of the laws he helped architect are still on the books. We were both in the minority, but everybody looked up to Lou for his advice and professionalism.”
Marvel said one of Bergevin’s pet peeves was the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.
“If you wanted to see an explosion, mention TRPA to Lou. You could see the red in his face rise, his hair bristle, and his temper explode.”
Yet, he said, Bergevin declined to serve on any committees which regulated TRPA because he felt he couldn’t be impartial.
“If there was anyone I could call my brother, it would be Lou. This is only a temporary goodbye. Some day, you and I will be working on a cattle rodeer in the sky.”
Bergevin was buried at the Fredericksburg Cemetery.
He is survived by his wife Luetta, whom he married in 1946, son Lee Bergevin of Sparks, daughter Jeanne Russell of Carson City, sister Lillian Bergevin of Minden, five grandchildren, three step-grandchildren and several nieces and nephews.
Memorials are being established with the Carson Valley United Methodist Church Building Fund, PO Box 278, Gardnerville 89410 and the Carson Valley Historical Society, 1477 HIghway 395 No., Gardnerville 89410.
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