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Bette Drakulich: Beautiful mother to us all
by Andrew Barbano
Apr 10, 2010 | 957 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dear Bette Drakulich passed away in New York last year.

One word describes her: beautiful. She was the wife and mother everyone should have, the strength everyone envies.

She married Steve Drakulich knowing full well he was afflicted with this strange disease very few knew much about.

About 40 years ago, Steve and Bette took over what was then called the Nevada Central Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. It had all of five bucks in the bank.

They knew how to organize. By the end of the 1970’s, the organization run out of Steve’s living room was the highest per-capita producer in the country.

I served on that board with a who’s who of Democratic and Republican politicians. Nobody could say no to Steve and Bette.

“Going to monthly meetings at Steve’s was the most fun a political junky could ever wish for — an hour of charity business followed by heavy politics,” I wrote in Steve’s Barbwire obituary. The former golden gloves boxer died in 2002.

I spoke with someone in the Nevada governor’s office a few days ago. Turned out she was a Drakulich who informed me that dear Bette was afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. Almost like magic came an e-mail from Peggy Drakulich Leon about the publication of her second novel. I asked about her mom.

“My second book, ‘A Theory of All Things,’ is now out. It’s getting great reviews. This one is not about Nevada, but the character of the father was written almost entirely from my experiences with my mom’s Alzheimer’s disease. She died a year ago January, here in Cooperstown. I still talk to her every day in my heart,” Peggy wrote.

UNR basketball junkies regularly saw Steve and Betty on the Lawlor sidelines at every home game.

“Steve made that wheelchair look like a throne and Aunt Bette always seemed honored to do the pushing,” says Julie Drakulich Roberts. “I feel sorry for anyone who didn’t know him.”

“Mom and Dad were an inseparable unit and always their happiest when together,” Peggy remembers. “I think often about how my mom would sit in that uncomfortable wheelchair at home so that she and dad were next to each other, and how he would reach out and grab her hand and hold it.

“Whenever I see Harry Reid quoted or hear him, I think about how you all worked to get him elected (first to the House, then the Senate) and I know my dad would be so proud of Nevada’s senator!”

Family photos of Steve and Bette will be uploaded with the Web edition of this column at NevadaLabor.com. If you’d like to send remembrances, I’ll permanently post them and see that the family gets copies.

Bette Drakulich was born Aug. 17, 1925, in Ft. Laramie, Wyo., to Ruth and Lyle Lower. She died on Jan. 9, 2009 in Cooperstown, NY.  She attended Albion Teachers College in Idaho and met Steve Drakulich during her first teaching job in McGill, Nev.  She is survived by her sisters Helen and Treva; her brothers Bud, William and Robert; her children Steve and Peggy; her grandchildren Kevin, Anna, Jackie, Christopher and Kimberly, and a host of Drakulich clansmen whom she loved dearly.

All Nevada loved her. All Nevada mourns.

I are a conservative

U.S. Supreme Court religionauts recently reinforced the twisted dogma of the Robber Baron Era when their late 19th century predecessors granted personhood to corporations. If so, they should be fully subject to all laws governing people. Like the death penalty.

When a company is proven to have intentionally caused the death of a worker through willful negligence, it deserves extermination. Advocates of capital punishment say that execution is a deterrent to crime so let’s see if it works on Wall Street.

The time is now right to enact a tough new death penalty law for renegade employers. The recent West Virginia killer mine explosion underscores the fact that workers are disposable and that wet noodle penalties in U.S. labor law deter no one.

If a company like murderous Massey Energy kills its workers, it gets liquidated. The shareholders get nothing. The injured and the families of the dead receive handsome settlements and the rest of the money goes into the public treasury to fund safety programs.

If the death penalty is a deterrent, then I call upon all them there conservatives to belly up to the bar and introduce legislation to make it happen.

Call me for the tea party.

The word from Sir Charles

Former Harper’s Magazine editor Lewis Lapham, the best political commentator in the country, now publishes Lapham’s Quarterly. Each issue covers about 5,000 years’ worth of a single subject. This spring, it’s arts and letters, followed in summer by sports and games.

Here’s a preview of the next edition: “Curling is not a sport. I called my grandmother and told her she could win a gold medal because they have dusting in the Olympics now.”  – Charles Barkley.

Lapham’s Web site currently carries an awesome new poem by the legendary Lawrence Ferlinghetti who just turned 91. “At Sea” will be linked to the Web edition of this column at NevadaLabor.com. It does not mention Sir Charles.

Be well. Raise hell.

Andrew Barbano is a 41-year Nevadan and editor of NevadaLabor.com. E-mail barbano@frontpage.reno.nv.us. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.
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