Longtime Nevada Lawmaker Freeman Dead at 86

By: Staff/News Release Email
By: Staff/News Release Email

Statement from NV Governor Brian Sandoval:

“I served with Vivian in the Legislature and was saddened to hear of her passing. Vivian was a friend, a fierce advocate for her constituents and was always fighting to protect natural resources and the environment. I had great respect for her and she will be missed. Kathleen and I extend our deepest condolences to Vivian’s family and friends.”

RENO, NV - Former Nevada Assemblymember and hospital trustee Vivian Freeman died Thursday morning at her home in Reno, according to Nevada labor leader Andrew Barbano. She was 86 years old.

Barbano says she successfully underwent kidney transplant surgery in 2011 and passed away due to complications from a stroke she suffered November 20.

She was a 53-year resident of Reno, having moved here with her husband, Richard O. Freeman, in 1960. They were married in 1951. Dick Freeman was also her campaign manager. He died on the eve of election day 2002.

A Democrat, Vivian Freeman served in the Nevada State Assembly representing northwest Reno from 1986 to 2002. A registered nurse, she was elected to the Washoe Medical Center (now called Renown) board of trustees, serving from 1982 to 1986.

She was co-founder of the hospital's pregnancy center.

In the Legislature, she championed womens' rights, mining reclamation and family resource centers in public schools, according to Barbano. She served on the Glenn Duncan Elementary School Family Focus Center. During her tenure, she chaired the Health and Human Services Committee and the Natural Resources, Agriculture & Mining Committee.

Barbano says she was instrumental in placing Question 7 on the general election ballot. On Nov. 6, 1990, Nevada voters overwhelmingly approved placing a woman's right to choose in Nevada law (Nevada Revised Statutes 442.250).

She chaired the Anne Martin Women's Political Caucus and was appointed to the Reno Commission on the Status of Women and served on the Washoe County Parks Foundation. She was a member of the Reno-Sparks NAACP and the Northern Nevada Black Cultural Awareness Society.

Longtime activist and Freeman associate Mylan Hawkins noted Freeman's push for recycling.

"Vivian was always a champion and fighter for all the causes from kids and women, to education, healthcare and the environment. Vivian is the recycle lady and stood with us on the frontlines of the Equal Rights Amendment and Question 7. She was modest. She worked alone. She moved mountains and hardly anyone ever even really paid notice. In her quiet way she changed our state. Despite ourselves and because of her we moved from the Mississippi of the West to becoming a better place," Hawkins said.

The American Association of Retired Persons named her woman of the year in 1990. Environmental Leadership honored her with its Environmentalist of the Year Pine Cone Award in 1989. The Truckee Meadows Human Services Consortium named her "Politician of the Year" in 1991. She was named Woman of Distinction for Environment by the Soroptimists in 1991 and the Nevada Wildlife Federation honored her as Legislative Conservationist of the Year in 1993.

She was born Vivian Lois Ruff on August 18, 1927, in Ashton Idaho, daughter of Raymond A. and Julia G. Ruff. She was raised on a farm in Springfield, Idaho, and graduated from high school in Aberdeen. Idaho.

She began training as a nurse at St. Marks Hospital in Salt Lake City in 1945 and completed her education in the U.S. Army Cadet Nurse Corps in the spring of 1948, all before she turned 21. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from University of Utah and worked as a registered nurse in several states.

She is survived by a daughter, Mitzi Watters (Tom) of Sparks, brother Raymond of Aloha, Ore., sister Grace of Medford, Ore., a son, Paul, of Reno and one grandchild.

A memorial service will be announced at a later date. Her family has asked that in lieu of flowers. donations be made to Planned Parenthood.


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