LAS VEGAS (AP) — Barbara Vucanovich, who was the first woman to represent Nevada in Congress and went on to serve the sprawling, rural 2nd Congressional District for 14 years, died Monday after a short illness, family members said. She was 91.
Vucanovich died at an assisted living complex in Reno after breaking her pelvis in February and never fully recovering, said her daughter Patty Cafferata.
“We also know that while Barbara was deeply honored to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, her family always came first,” family members said in a statement. “Perhaps that is why she was so admired as a politician.”
Vucanovich, a conservative Republican, was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1982 and served from 1983 to 1997. Her tenure included stints on the House Interior and Appropriations committees, and the Subcommittee on Military Construction.
Among the bills she authored was the repeal of the 55 mph speed limit, and the source tax, which prevented more than one state from collecting taxes on pension and retirement benefits of retirees — many of whom moved to Nevada.
Vucanovich campaigned for her seventh term in Congress by attacking the Clinton administration, saying she wanted to fight its tax proposals, including levies on gambling.
During her final term, she was elected as Republican conference secretary, one of four party leadership positions. She became the first Nevadan to serve in a leadership role in the House.
Born in Camp Dix, N.J., to Army Major General Thomas Farrell and Ynez White Farrell, Vucanovich was raised in New York state and moved to Reno in the late 1940s.
It was there that she met her first husband, attorney Ken Dillon Sr., and became active in Republican politics. After Dillon’s death in 1964, she married George Vucanovich, a native of Tonopah.
She worked on campaigns and served as a staffer for Republican U.S. Sen. Paul Laxalt before assuming a newly created congressional post that encompassed 16 of Nevada’s 17 counties — virtually the entire state except for Las Vegas and Henderson.
Her second husband died in 1998. She also outlived one of her five children.
A funeral for Vucanovich is set for Friday at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Reno.
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