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The simple song of greatness
by Andrew Barbano
Jul 17, 2010 | 754 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
He was a mensch, a whole man, a good person of high integrity and good character.

Union man Danny Coyle passed away in Carson City about 2 a.m. Saturday. I was looking forward to seeing him at the communications workers picket of AT&T in Reno that night. You could always count on Danny to support his union brothers and sisters. I like to think that he made it anyway.

Danny retired from the Nevada Department of Transportation but never stopped working. He was a fixture at the Nevada Legislature, lobbying on behalf of those without much juice, while training the next generation of labor activists. He was a founder of the state employees retiree organization and served as its first president.

A few years back when I was fighting the depredations of Charter Communications, Danny called and asked me to present the issues to Carson City’s mayor and board of supervisors. Danny recognized the value of having a diversity of voices available to the viewing public. It is both instructive and ironic that Sparks, Reno and Washoe County no longer have a community television station but Carson City still does. 

When union organizer Annie Alfano called to inform me of Danny’s death from cancer, I started thinking of the few people I have known who lived on Danny Coyle’s level. You have known them, too. They loomed larger in your mind when you found out all the things they had done that you never knew about.

When my good friend Gail Bishop died back in the early 1990s I, of course, attended his memorial service. He was a longtime member of Operating Engineers Local 3 and served as Gov. Mike O’Callaghan’s labor liaison. I was dumbfounded by the steady stream of people who told stories about how this bright and funny man had enriched their lives — stuff that I never knew and that he would never brag about. That’s how Mr. Bishop lived.

Afterward, people asked me why I had been uncharacteristically silent. It was because I couldn’t think of anything to add. His quiet good works were so expansive that it turned out I barely knew him.

Fortunately for all of us, such large, generous, nurturing souls are all around. They teach us and help us along and we are so very lucky that they have acted like yeast, leavening our lives.

Such a mensch was Danny Coyle.

Watch the web edition of this column at NevadaLabor.com for memorial service arrangements. Alfano will probably miss it, as she just lost her mom in Minnesota.

Transition bemuses and beguiles.

Adios, Part Deux

I was contacted last week by southern Nevada attorney Dina Neal, daughter of retired state Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas. She just won the Democratic primary to represent Assembly District 7 and in her spare time is working on a 75th birthday bash for dear old dad.

My good friend Sen. Neal was born on July 28, 1935, in Mounds, La. After service in the U.S. Air Force, he graduated from Southern University and by rare good fortune for this unfortunate state, ended up in southern Nevada. He won election to the state Senate in 1972, defeating a much better known candidate who made the mistake of overconfidence.

When he left the Senate in 2004, Neal was tied with Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, for longevity in the upper house. He was inducted into the Nevada labor hall of fame in 1997 and the state Senate hall of fame in 2005.

If you’d like to join Joe and a few hundred of his closest friends, e-mail Dina Neal at dinalex@yahoo.com. The event takes place from 6 to 9 p.m. on Friday, July 30, at the Dr. William U. Pearson Community Center, 1625 West Carey Ave., North Las Vegas. They promise lots of good eats.

Ms. Neal asked me for invitation suggestions. I went to JoeNeal.org and found a photo I shot of Sen. Neal’s filing for governor in 1998. I made it my business to invite everyone therein. Local civil rights legend Bertha Woodard is no longer with us. As part of my search, I was notified that longtime Carson City Democratic stalwart Lewis Rosenberg has likewise gone on to greater things.

Then I called Pat Potter’s house. The retired Carson High School teacher was involved in politics all her life. If Potter supported your candidacy, you had a powerful friend and a very credible endorsement.

Pat’s daughter informed me last Wednesday that Pat on that day was being brought home from the hospital to die. She has little time left.

Anyone who knows her may send an adios to 1555 W. Kings Canyon Road, Carson City, NV 89702, or call her daughter at 882-2657. I also have an e-mail address which I will give to anyone who contacts me. I’ve sent a note to my No. 1 son down in Arizona asking him to drop a short e-memo to his high school teacher just to say thanks.

If you want to say adios to sweet Pat, please do it now.

Like Danny Coyle, we are richer for her having passed this way. Rejoice in that.

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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