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Friends, family celebrate life of Nevada political guru Kent Oram

Updated April 7, 2018 - 11:49 pm

Kent Oram did things his own way and on his own time. And once he started something, he was all-in.

Like the time he decided to study martial arts, when he watched every video and read every book he could find on the subject. He tracked down the teacher of martial arts legend Bruce Lee, William Cheung, to give him and his son, Eric, private lessons, Eric Oram recalled during a celebration of his father’s life Saturday.

Oram was usually pretty darn good, if not the best, at whatever he chose to do, his loved ones said.

“He was King Midas,” his son said. “Everything he touched seemed to turn to gold.”

Oram, a longtime political adviser to future governors, judges, sheriffs and others, died March 9 at age 77. Politicians, former clients, friends and loved ones gathered at Palm Mortuary’s Cheyenne location Saturday afternoon to remember him.

“He had his own schedule, and the rest of us kind of lived on Kent’s schedule,” longtime friend Shauna Forsythe said.

He would wake up early, check the news, have his coffee, let the dogs out and then go back to bed, she said. By afternoon, he was working hard, before cooking dinner for his wife. And then it was back to work until 1 or 2 in the morning.

“That man just had stamina like nobody’s business,” she said.

Just ask Gov. Brian Sandoval, who, like many others, was used to getting calls from Oram at 11 p.m. The pair would talk politics, family, sports and life. It was pretty common for Sandoval to find emails in his inbox sent from Oram at 2 or 3 a.m.

Oram consulted on or ran campaigns for more than 100 candidates in his life, including Sandoval, former governors Kenny Guinn and Bob Miller and Las Vegas mayors Oscar and Carolyn Goodman and Ron Lurie. Oram, however, didn’t take on just anybody as a client, Sandoval said. He had to believe in the candidate and their values.

During his first meeting with Sandoval in 2001, Oram chatted with the future governor for a couple of hours but didn’t ask a single question about politics.

“He asked me how I was as a father and how I felt about the state, how I felt about people,” Sandoval said. “That was Kent’s essence.”

Former Clark County Sheriff Bill Young said Oram made him believe in himself and believe that he was capable of running for public office and winning. Without Oram as his campaign adviser, Young said, he never would’ve been elected.

Oram also helped lead the charge for Young’s effort to put more police officers on the streets, which Young called his greatest accomplishment as sheriff.

And when Young decided against running for a second term, Oram’s question to Young was who the next sheriff should be. Young said “Doug Gillespie,” who Oram went on to advise and help win the county’s top cop job.

“A lot of people that criticized me for dropping out, but Kent understood,” he said.

“Politics is brutal; it’s tough,” Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said. But Oram, who helped Lombardo run for office in 2014, was a steadying presence.

As person after person recalled Saturday, when Oram was on your side, you knew he had your back.

“There’s no better feeling,” Lombardo said.

Born Nov. 23, 1940, in Hammond, Indiana, to a family of local law enforcement leaders, Oram moved to Las Vegas in 1963 with his wife, Becky, his brother, Thomas Oram, told the crowd. He idolized baseball player Ted Williams and valued honesty and integrity in those he chose to assist.

Among his many other talents, the gruff but lovable man with a raspy voice was a champion shooter and an avid collector. Two trophies he had earned in his competitive shooting days were displayed on a table at the service next to two of his prized movie posters.

A video at the service took those in attendance on a ride through Oram’s masterpiece 30-by-40-foot model train display, which took him about two-and-a-half years to complete.

Longtime friend and R&R Partners CEO Billy Vassiliadis called Oram the most dedicated man he ever met. The adviser lived in the same house for about 40 years and drove an old car that his friends would tease him about.

He maintained his commitment to improving his communities through local elections, to which he paid special attention, Vassiliadis said. His family was involved in local government in Hammond, which influenced his desire to effect change on the community level.

But of all Oram’s accomplishments, Vassiliadis said, he was proudest of his three children.

“Zero question,” he said.

Oram did everything for them, his grandchildren and Becky, the love of his life, Vassiliadis said.

“Not all heroes wear capes,” daughter Lisa Hunt said on behalf of the family. “Not a day will go by that we don’t miss him.”

Contact Mike Shoro at mshoro@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5290. Follow @mike_shoro on Twitter.

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