YERINGTON — More than 500 mourners assembled in the high school gym here on Tuesday to honor the life of “legislative giant” Joe Dini, who died April 10 at the age of 85.
In addition to his extended family and friends, notable elected officials, both current and former, paid tribute to Dini, who served 35 years in the Assembly and a record eight times as speaker.
The rural Nevada Democrat was lauded as a leader who knew how to work with his colleagues from both parties and how to get the state’s business accomplished through compromise. He served in the Assembly from 1967 to 2002, spanning five decades.
Former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Richard Bryan, U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, Rep. Steven Horsford and former Assembly Speakers Richard Perkins and John Oceguera attended the service, among many others. Other elected officials, including Gov. Brian Sandoval, attended a rosary on Monday evening.
Father Jorge Herrera, who officiated at the service, said he recalled Dini telling him when he first came to the community that the two of them “may be the only two Democrats in Yerington.”
Herrera said Dini was an inspiration to him and was “very humble.”
Bryan made some remarks at the service, calling Dini the “Sage from Pizen Switch,” an early name for the agricultural community on the Walker River 60 miles east of Carson City.
Bryan recalled being told upon meeting Dini for first time in 1969 as a freshman lawmaker that he had no more “juice” than a dried prune.
“I’d like to think that Joe is here in spirit,” he said.
Dini, who knew how to count votes as a consummate lawmaker, no doubt “knew who didn’t show up today and is taking notes,” Bryan joked.
Dini retained his authority in the Legislature even as demographics changed and lawmakers from the more populous Southern Nevada began to assert themselves, he said.
“It’s a tribute to his skill, and the respect, and the affection that his legislative colleagues had for him, that during all this period of time, Joe Dini was still their choice as speaker,” Bryan said.
Carson City may be the official state capital, but when the Legislature was not in session, Yerington and Dini’s Lucky Club became the de facto capital, he said.
Longtime friend Marty Bibb also spoke about Dini’s life, noting his many legislative accomplishments, from helping craft Nevada’s public education funding plan to representing Nevada during the creation of the bi-state compact with California to oversee development of the Lake Tahoe Basin.
Bibb concluded his remarks by saying it wasn’t “sine die” for Dini, but “merely another one-minute recess.”
“We will never forget you but we will always miss you,” he said.
Dini is survived by his wife, Mournye Landing Dini, who he married after his first wife Jeanne, died in 1994.
He is also survived by four sons, Jay, George, David and Mike, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. George Dini is the mayor of Yerington.
Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-687-3900. Find him on Twitter @seanw801.