Vivian Freeman Passes Away
Former Nevada Assembly member and hospital trustee Vivian Freeman died December 5, 2013, at her home in Reno. She was 86 years old.
She was a 53‐year resident of Reno, having moved here with her husband, Richard O. Freeman, in 1960. They were married in 1951. The popular Dick Freeman was both her lifelong partner and campaign manager. He died on the eve of election day, 2002.
She served in the Nevada State Assembly representing northwest Reno from 1986 to 2002. A registered nurse, she was elected to the Washoe Medical Center (now called Renown) Board of Trustees, serving from 1982 to 1986.
She was co‐founder of the hospital's pregnancy center.
In the Legislature, she championed women’s rights, mining reclamation and family resource centers in public schools. She served on the Glenn Duncan Elementary School Family Focus Center. During her tenure, she chaired both the Health and Human Services Committee and the Natural Resources, Agriculture & Mining Committee.
She was instrumental in placing Question 7 on the general election ballot. On Nov. 6, 1990, Nevada voters overwhelmingly approved placing a woman's right to choose in Nevada law. (Nevada Revised Statutes 442.250)
She chaired the Anne Martin Women's Political Caucus and was appointed to the Reno Commission on the Status of Women and served on the Washoe County Parks Foundation. She was a member of the Reno‐Sparks NAACP and the Northern Nevada Black Cultural Awareness Society.
Longtime activist and Freeman associate Mylan Hawkins noted Freeman's push for recycling.
"Vivian was always a champion and fighter for all the causes from kids and women, to education, healthcare and the environment. Vivian is the recycle lady and stood with us on the frontlines of the Equal Rights Amendment.
She worked alone. She moved mountains and hardly anyone ever even really paid notice. In her quiet way she changed our state. Despite ourselves and because of her we moved from the Mississippi of the West to becoming a better place," Hawkins said.
The American Association of Retired Persons named her Woman of the Year in 1990. Environmental Leadership honored her with its Environmentalist of the Year Pine Cone Award in 1989. The Truckee Meadows Human Services Consortium named her Politician of the Year in 1991. She was named Woman of Distinction for Environment by the Soroptimist in 1991 and the Nevada Wildlife Federation honored her as Legislative Conservationist of the Year in 1993.
She was born Vivian Lois Ruff on August 18, 1927, in Ashton Idaho, daughter of Raymond A. and Julia G. Ruff. She was raised on a farm in Springfield, Idaho, and graduated from high school in Aberdeen, Idaho.
She began training as a nurse at St. Marks Hospital in Salt Lake City in 1945 and completed her education in the U.S. Army Cadet Nurse Corps in the spring of 1948, all before she turned 21. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from University of Utah and worked as a registered nurse in several states.
She is survived by a daughter, Mitzi Watters (Tom) of Sparks, brother Raymond of Aloha, Ore., sister Grace of Medford, Ore., a son, Paul, of Reno and one grandchild.
Her family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Planned Parenthood.
NWHP member Martha Gould took Vivian Freeman’s oral history in October 2013 and had the first draft typed for her to check. Patti Bernard picked up the draft from Martha, took it to Vivian for her corrections, and is now in the process of making the final copy.