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Mashelle Begovich
Shannon Litz/R-C File Photo

It wasn’t that long ago that the first week of January would see Sharkey’s put on a big feast for Serbian Christmas, featuring its key organizer, Mashelle Begovich.

On Monday, the businesswoman, humanitarian and fight promoter died at age 60, following her father, whose nickname continues to grace the Gardnerville landmark their family established a half century ago.

A memorial service is noon Feb. 1 at St. Gall Catholic Church in Gardnerville.

Born March 7, 1959, Begovich was 11 when her father purchased the old Golden Bubble in 1970. Sharkey was a part owner of the South Tahoe Nugget and sank $250,000 into the building to create the Sharkey’s we know today.

Begovich first set foot in the brand new Sharkey’s when she was 12 years old, growing up in the family business.

She was 14 when Sharkey started the Cow Pasture Boxing Festival in 1973. But the event’s success may have been its downfall. ESPN and Top Rank provided television backing in 1989, but in 1992, they announced they weren’t returning.

“Economically, we can’t do it without TV anymore,” Begovich told R-C Sports Editor Dave Price.

While Cow Pasture Boxing was her signature event, she also promoted fight cards for Reno and Carson City casinos.

The 30th and last Serbian Christmas was Jan. 7, 2001, just before Sharkey sold the casino.

A fire that occurred Oct. 28, 1995, closed the casino for one of only two times in its history resulted in the cancellation of the 1996 Serbian Christmas. The Begovich’s made up for that by holding a big celebration Jan. 27, 1996, in honor of its reopening.

Ever the competitor, Begovich won her class with a 1994 Chevy 4×4 named Sharkey’s at the 1997 Carson Valley Sertoma Truck Pull.

In 1998, she organized the first Christmas Toy Run where 103 motorcyclists donated 300 new toys to Project Santa Claus

On Dec. 31, 2001, Sharkey’s was sold not long before Milos “Sharkey” Begovich himself would cash in his chips for good on Aug. 9, 2002.

“It’s a good thing my Dad taught me to have broad shoulders and a big smile,” Begovich told Sheila Gardner on her last day managing the casino.

After her father’s death, Begovich remembered him with a Swing for the Cure fundraiser at Carson Valley Golf Course for several years.

On Aug. 15, 2003, she took one more swing at Cow Pasture Boxing, which drew a crowd of nearly 2,000 fight fans.

Begovich was one of the founders of the Jethro’s Crab & Steak Feed to raise money for a variety of Carson Valley youth groups. When Golden Nugget owner Mike Schiller was injured in a collision in 2010, she was one of the organizers of a fund-raiser that brought Cap’n Monte Colburn of the television show “Deadliest Catch” to Carson Valley.

In 2014, it was Begovich’s turn to be helped when her home burned down while she was hospitalized with pneumonia. That same year longtime boyfriend Gordon Campbell succumbed to cancer on April 23, 2014.

The following year, the Carson Valley Active 20-30 Club named her Citizen of the Year. She was grand marshal of the annual parade in 2016.

A horsewoman, she participated in the Nevada Day Parade on a regular basis. She is survived by daughter Mary Smith, grandchildren her brother Butch and mother Connie.