Therése Alpetche Laxalt
At a glance:
Therése Alpetche was born in 1891 in the Germiette quarter of St. Etienne de Baigorry, in the Basque province of Basse Navarre in France. She spent her latter youth in Bordeaux, France, where her family operated the Hotel Amerika and one of the early travel agencies from Europe to the Americas.
She was a graduate of the Cordon Blue in Paris, and came to the United States after World War I to take home her brother, Michel, who was dying from the lingering effects of a poison gas attack as a soldier in the French army. He died in Reno in 1920, and Therese chose to remain in the United States.
In 1921, Therése was married in Reno to Dominique Laxalt, who was born in 1887 in Tardets, Soule province, France, and emigrated from the Basque country in 1906. At the time of their marriage, he was part owner of the Allied Land and Livestock Company, with sheep and cattle holdings in Nevada and California. The company raised crops on five ranches and farms with headquarters at the old Fallon ranch near Yerington.
After the livestock crash of 1922, Dominique trailed what was left of his herds of sheep to northern Washoe County hoping to make a new start, but a heavy winter and freeze decimated his remaining bands. In the following year, Therese accompanied her husband as he worked as sheepherder and ranch hand for various ranching outfits in California and Nevada. She also worked, cooking three meals a day for as many as thirty ranch hands.
and Dominique had six children. The picture below shows
five of them in 1967 with their mother. In upper right is
John, currently an attorney in Las Vegas; Suzanne, a retired
nun with the Holy Family Order, and Peter, an attorney in
left is Paul, former Nevada Governor and later to be U.S.
Senator; lower right is Robert, author and former director
of the University of Nevada Press. Not shown is Marie Bini,
a former school teacher in Santa Clara, CA.
Therése's dream was that, somehow, they could give to all their children a college education that they might earn their livelihoods with their minds rather than their hands, as had most of their Basque ancestors before them. They would grow to manhood and womanhood as fine examples of the opportunities for successful careers that America gives those who are willing to work and make the sacrifices necessary to that end.
In 1967, the Leisure Hour Club of Carson City nominated Therése Laxalt to be "Mother of the Year." In the nominating letter, Mrs. W. MacDonald Smith said:
This nomination led to her being called Mother of the State of Nevada for 1967 by the Nevada Committee of the American Mothers Committee, Inc., the official sponsor of National Mothers Day. Mrs. Clarence K. Bath of Reno chaired the Nevada Committee that year.
The Nevada Appeal of April 23, 1967 carried a large feature of Therése, including numerous testimonials from members of the community lauding her exemplary work. One of the letters, from Mrs. Milton Badt of Carson City, said:
In 1976 Therése Laxalt was again honored as one of twelve Nevada Mothers Of Achievement in a national publication issued by the American Mothers Committee, Inc. entitled Mothers of Achievement in American History, 1776-1976. Chairing the Nevada selection committee was Mrs. Mary B. Lowman of Las Vegas.
In later life, Therése lived in a private residence in Santa Clara, CA with her daughter, Sister Mary Robert (Suzanne), a nun with the Holy Family Order. She died in Santa Clara on May 11, 1978. A Requiem Mass was held at St. Theresa of Avilla Catholic Church in Carson City and burial was in the family plot in the Lone Mountain Cemetery, also in Carson City.
(Biographical sketch by Jean Ford)
At the time of Therése's death, the Nevada State Journal published the following excerpt from Robert Laxalt's book, Sweet Promised Land, which dealt with the life of his mother:
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