Former Nevada Gov. Mike O'Callaghan was remembered Tuesday as a tireless advocate of the "little guy" who, when he died March 5, left a legacy of accomplishments that won't be forgotten in this state.
The Rev. Jerry Hanley, pastor of St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church - O'Callaghan's parish during his 1971-78 stint as governor - said O'Callaghan demonstrated in both big and small ways the integrity and character that made him one of the most popular governors in state history.
At a service attended by about 300 people, Hanley told how O'Callaghan initiated major government changes but still took time to monitor things like the food served at prisons and mental institutions - sometimes showing up unannounced.
Tears flowed as Hanley described O'Callaghan as "the soul of Nevada" and, paraphrasing the song "Danny Boy," said, "Oh, Michael boy, oh, Michael boy, we loved you so."
O'Callaghan's daughter, Colleen O'Callaghan-Miele, said her father "showed me how to love, how to fight and, more significantly, how to forgive."
His son, Michael, said people who sent condolences ranged from Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon, to Nicaraguans who remembered his help in the late 1980s and 1990s overseeing elections in that country.
Michael O'Callaghan also told how his father endured severe pain throughout his life as a result of battle injuries in Korea, where a mortar blast cost him his lower left leg. He also told how O'Callaghan grabbed a battlefield medic who figured he was dying, and wouldn't let him go until he got the help that kept him alive.
Other family members at the Carson City service, which followed a huge funeral attended by more than 2,500 people last Thursday in Las Vegas, included O'Callaghan's widow, Carolyn, son Brian and one of his 15 grandchildren, Carolyn Jean O'Callaghan.
After leaving office, O'Callaghan joined the Las Vegas Sun in 1979 and served as the newspaper's executive editor until his death. The deeply religious O'Callaghan suffered a heart attack and collapsed during a morning mass at St. Viator Catholic Church in Las Vegas, and later died at Desert Springs Hospital.
In the years after his military service - in the Marines, Air Force and Army - O'Callaghan moved to Henderson where he worked as a teacher. He later became the state's first health and welfare director and a regional director in the federal Office of Emergency Preparedness before turning to politics.
While governor, O'Callaghan pushed for an equal rights bill on housing, preservation of Lake Tahoe and racial integration of some previously segregated Las Vegas areas. He advocated improvements in education, programs for children and seniors, labor laws, consumer protections and prisoners' rights.