The Rev. Caesar Caviglia was one of those people who changed the world he lived in, not just because he could, but because it was the right thing to do, the people who knew him said.
Caviglia, who served as a priest for more than 50 years, much of it in Henderson, died Friday. He was 84.
“He really was one of the city fathers,” Henderson Mayor Andy Hafen said. “It seems like he was here forever. He knew everyone, and everyone knew him.”
Caviglia was born to Italian immigrants in Ely in 1928 and raised in a two-room shack south of town.
After high school, he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, Calif., then attended seminary in upstate New York.
He was ordained a priest in 1955, earning degrees in philosophy, theology and education as his career blossomed. But he came back to Nevada.
He served in Northern Nevada parishes, and he taught school for a while at Bishop Manogue Catholic High School in Reno and the University of Nevada, Reno.
From 1962 to 1968, he served as the superintendent of Nevada State Catholic Schools while an assistant pastor of St. Anne’s in Las Vegas.
He served in several other capacities within the church, and eventually, in 1972, he took over as director of social services in Las Vegas and was named the parish priest at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Henderson.
He would spend much of the rest of his career at St. Peter’s, changing the city from within as the population nearly quadrupled during his tenure, which officially ended in 1994, though he served at the church until 2003.
“He was so thoughtful and so committed to this city,” Hafen said. “Not only to the church, but to the community. He brought all congregations together.”
Gov. Brian Sandoval, who served on the state Transportation Board with Caviglia, called Caviglia “a symbol of strength and faith for generations of Nevadans.”
Hafen said Caviglia was instrumental in getting the U.S. Highway 95 extension that now runs through Henderson built in the first place.
Caviglia’s name graces one of three buildings on the College of Southern Nevada’s Henderson campus, a campus that might not exist without his work. He was also a faculty member there, teaching sociology, anthropology and philosophy.
“He was absolutely instrumental in getting that CSN Henderson campus built,” said Dan Klaich, chancellor of the state’s higher education system.
Klaich said he considered Caviglia a friend and said it was clear that the man loved the communities he served.
Both Klaich and Hafen said they believe Caviglia did what he did because he equated serving the community with serving the God he believed in.
“He really felt like he was giving service to his God,” Hafen said. “He just wanted to do good.”
Caviglia retired to Ely in 2003 but was soon called back to serve as the administrator at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Ely from 2004 to 2008, where he oversaw reconstruction of his childhood church.
He is survived by many nieces and nephews.
A rosary is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Ely.
A funeral is scheduled for noon Friday at the same location, with graveside services to follow.
Contact reporter Richard Lake at email@example.com or 702-383-0307.