That old gang of mine is disappearing at an ever-increasing rate.
Case in point was last Thursday’s retirement Roast and Toast to Ty Cobb. The event marked the end of Ty’s tenure as Director of Northern Nevada Network. That position kept a long career in both military and public service.
Ty is best known for the time he spent as Special Aid to President Ronald Reagan. With his encyclopedic knowledge of world affairs, particularly of Russia’s inclinations, Ty was a valuable asset during his time in the White House.
For me, I became acquainted with the Cobb family during my first trip to the University of Nevada. The elder Cobb was a gifted sports writer who regularly showed up at our basketball and football practices.
Many years later I became aware of Cobb the younger when we were co-workers at the Mapes Hotel. While I had the rather dull job of taking care of celebrities and show girls in the Sky Room, young Ty had the fun job of breaking dishes, spilling coffee on customers and in general causing havoc in the Coffee Shop. Despite the number of dishes he broke, he was never in danger of being fired because he had excellent job insurance—his father was editor of the paper who oversaw the publicity releases we took there.
Like his dad, Ty is an excellent writer, gifted speaker and knowledgeable political pundit.
Two other events that occurred back-to-back last week marked the passing of two special acquaintances. Although they were separated by gender and a half-century in age, they were individuals who possessed a great deal of what JFK used to call “vigah”. The first was a young female in the prime of life. When a young woman passes, like a magnificent rose in full bloom that is snipped from its vine and spirited away, it leaves an unfillable void for those who knew and loved her.
Such was the case with Marisa Francovich who slipped away recently.
Marisa’s vine were her two bereaved and loving parents, Diane and Sam.
Like most Renoites, I often saw Marisa at the maître d’ podium in the family restaurant. Her winning smile and gracious manner, a trademark of the Francovich clan, gave you the indication that you were in for a very pleasurable experience.
The lissome lass, fair of face and form, performed her multifarious tasks with ease and equanimity.
When you were ready to leave The Grill, Marisa would give you a fond adieu and an invite for a speedy return.
Alas and alack, those friendly words will never be heard again.
The second was a gifted athlete named Leo Hartmann, whom I knew for several decades as a stalwart tennis player. There used to be an old saying in Nevada that went, “Give me men to match my mountains”. In every respect, Leo was one of those men.
A veteran of the Casino Industry from his early days as a busboy, he rose quickly through the managerial ranks. Like many of his friends, I first met him on the Lake Tahoe tennis courts when he was a pupil of Pro George Galante. At one point in time when George was busy with other duties, he asked me to give Leo some playing tips. I did so and to my dismay, Leo used those against me on many occasions.
Although quiet and friendly, Leo had a strong competitive nature and a fierce side which he took out on numerous broken racquets. A gifted athlete, who once had a tryout with the Lakers Basketball team when it was based in Minnesota, he had little trouble adapting to the racquet sport.
When he and his significant other, Nikki, joined forces as a doubles team, they were one of the finest in the area. Although Galante the Pro was fond of saying, “Playing mixed doubles with your wife should be called ‘mixed troubles’”, that was never the case with Leo and Nikki.
Along with the many local tennis players including George Galante, Tilly Botti, Al Vincelette, Chris Kuraisa, Bob McCulloch and Dave Zenoff who have gone on to that great tennis court in the sky, Leo will have no trouble finding a friendly foursome.