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Shirl Elliker: Nevada loses an honorable man
by Andrew Barbano
Feb 27, 2014 | 812 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
If you've ever wondered why you ended up here in the High Desert Outback of the American Dream, Shirl Elliker's life will prove instructive.

We need all the help we can get.

In 1974, Shirl and his wife, Gay, operated 'Jewelart' in Moana West Shopping Center. I owned an advertising agency and heard that the merchants association account was up for grabs.

I also learned the fight was fixed for the son of one of the board members. Not an unusual occurrence in Reno then, or now.

Before agency presentations, several new members were elected, including one Shirl Elliker.

So I rolled the dice, even flying to Seattle to record custom musical images at actor Danny Kaye's production studio. I won, dealing the good ole boys' network a rare defeat.

My producer was Greg Thompson, who later developed killer shows for Harrah's and a slew of Gomorrah South properties (Harrah's once used a quote from my review of a Thompson extravaganza on a radio spot voiced by God hisself masquerading as Wolfman Jack).

Shirl's leadership paid big dividends for the Moana merchants. Twice, I engineered visits from Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Pluto, Goofy, Snow White and Captain Hook, direct from Disneyland. The management of Park Lane, then the only major mall in the region, turned green with envy.

Disney did four stage shows a day at Moana. You had to walk six blocks to get near the place.

"There is no sight more fearsome than a determined mother with an armful of kids," observed Pauline's Sportswear owner John Hanks who operated shops at both Moana and Greenbrae Center in Sparks.

One shoe store proprietor actually complained about the Disney crowds, grousing that his key parking spaces were clogged by all those people. Half the mothers in Reno and Sparks came to his doorstep and still he crabbed. Go figger.

Merchants associations are testy beasts, which is why Shirl was the right leader. Park Lane is now a long-vacant lot. Moana West still prospers.

Shirl and Gay went on to acquire Tanner's merchandise shows and additionally operated a shop in Reno's Antique Mall. Shirl was also a photographer for the Reno-Sparks Association of Realtors. In his spare time, he restored a '59 Ford pick'emup.

I hope I learned a little from that good man's calm, gentle and productive manner of handling people.

True Nevadans like Shirl Elliker are sorely needed in state and local government but rarely run.

He died on Feb. 16 at age 78, survived by his wife of almost 50 years, children, grandchildren and many whose lives he enriched.

Count me among them.

REMINDERS: Keep sending endorsements supporting legendary photographer Don Dondero's election to the Nevada Press Association Hall of Fame...Stay tuned for lots of surprises at the March 31 César Chávez Day Celebration. Watch

Esté bien. Haga infierno. Be well. Raise hell. Andrew Barbano is a 45-year Nevadan and editor of E-mail: Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.

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