WASHINGTON — One month to the day after he died at age 96, former Sen. Paul Laxalt was remembered Thursday as Nevada’s champion in the Senate and the West’s anchor in President Ronald Reagan’s White House.
Laxalt’s family held a funeral Thursday at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, D.C., that was attended by former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, former Attorney General Ed Meese and a constellation of the Silver State’s Republican political stars.
Calling Laxalt his “guiding light,” Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval recalled his days as an intern for the late senator. Sandoval followed the trail of the son of a Basque sheepherder, who did not speak English when he first attended school, to his role as a mentor to Sandoval and many others.
Former Sen. George Allen, R-Va., recalled Reagan and Laxalt riding horseback with Reagan’s favorite horseman in the Secret Service. Agent John Barletta died in July, Allen said, as he imagined the “three amigos” united in the next world “riding side by side, smiling laughing and telling stories — free as the wide open spaces.”
Reagan and Laxalt bonded after both Republicans were elected governor, in California and Nevada respectively, in 1966. Laxalt went on to chair Reagan’s losing presidential effort in 1976 and Reagan’s winning campaigns in 1980 and 1984. In the Reagan White House, Laxalt enjoyed the unofficial title of “first friend.”
At the request of Laxalt’s widow, Carol, and the family, former Republican National Committee Chairman Frank Fahrenkopf, who delivered the third remembrance, thanked the nurses who helped care for Laxalt after his health declined. In a more personal note, the fellow Nevadan spoke of Laxalt’s “lack of egotism.” As an example, Fahrenkopf recalled Laxalt’s service in the South Pacific during World War II, which Laxalt “never talked about.”
Sens. Catherine Cortez-Masto, D-Nev., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., attended the event, as did Nevada’s lone GOP House member, Mark Amodei.
Longtime Nevada political strategist Sig Rogich and former Nevada Gaming Commissioner Joe Brown traveled from Las Vegas to attend the service. Former Reagan campaign director Ed Rollins came from New York.
Grandson Adam Laxalt, Nevada’s attorney general who is running for governor, sat among the large Laxalt clan.
A spokesman for the family said a Nevada memorial service will be held in Carson City some time around Thanksgiving. Laxalt will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Contact Debra J. Saunders at email@example.com or 202-662-7391. Follow @DebraJSaunders on Twitter.