Las Vegas Sun

November 16, 2018

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Columnist Elizabeth Foyt: Trailblazer Dondero honored for life’s work

Thalia Dondero, the first woman elected to the Clark County Commission and now a university regent serving her second term, was recognized on Saturday evening with the first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award by the Junior League of Las Vegas.

Dondero served as president during the early years of the Service League, which later became Junior League. Dondero was a working mother who combined life with her late husband, Harvey, and the raising of five successful children with volunteerism, a career with the Girl Scouts and, later, politics.

The Ritzy Dinner Gala at the MGM Grand Conference Center also marked the 58th anniversary of the Junior League of Las Vegas.

Members, both new and longstanding, responded to the gala invitations for the evening planned by Ritzy Dinner chair Nazy Habibian and chair-elect Monterey Brookman. Diana Wilson, Nancy Gasho, Jan Allen, Sharon Beatty, Brenda Dizon and Melinda McGeorge were among the past presidents of the organization seen giving their well-wishes to Dondero and her attending family members.

Mingling in the crowd were fellow university regents Stavros Anthony, Jack Scofield and Howard Rosenberg, joined by current Junior League president Kristina Swallow and sustainer president Mitzi Heigel.

Drawn to the silent auction with the treasures assembled by Nita Stern were Jo Boyd, Julie and Jack Doyle, Patricia and Richard Wright, Chuck Wood, Julie Stipe, Sherry Colquitt and Dr. Jeffrey Brookman, attending with Dr. Fred and Susan Tofigh.

The dinner program, led by Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt, included glowing commentary on Dondero's life and career by former Gov. Bob Miller, Rep. Shelley Berkley and Dondero's family members. Dondero's own remarks were a history of the Junior League's accomplishments in Southern Nevada, recounting the development of Fantasy Park and the Blind Center, the creation of community organizations including Super Summer Theatre and HELP of Southern Nevada, in addition to the restoration of the Morelli House in downtown Las Vegas, now the permanent home to the Junior League.

Enjoying the superb meal and dance music were state Sen. Bob Coffin and wife Mary Hausch, Mitch and Kitty Fox, Sandy Miller with son Ross and his fiancee, Leslie Baumann, Rex and Sandy Windom with daughter Lisa Windom, Maria Quirk, Cathy Bittinger, Tammy Peterson and Roger and Jenny Oakes.

Dining divas

The Divas of Nevada Opera Theatre hosted the annual Divas Luncheon at Mariposa, the lovely restaurant tucked into the upper level of Neiman Marcus at the Fashion Show, on Feb. 28.

Mary Ann Hantout, 2004 Divas chairwoman, coordinated the elegant afternoon, arranging for appearances by Lance Taubold and Shellie Martinson, both Nevada Opera Theatre artists. Accompanying the delightful singers was Russian accordionist Nicholai Olaf.

Arriving members and their guests enjoyed champagne cocktails and conversation as they looked out on the Strip from the restaurant's panoramic windows. Welcomed by Nevada Opera Theatre director Eileen Hayes were Doris Wartman, Dr. Dawn Green, Marion Kohler, Beverly and Mike Mykisen, School Board Trustee Shirley Barber and Carole Bellmyre.

Purchasing drawing tickets from Patricia Martinelli-Price were Ann Nichols, Joan Dimmett, Wynn Schottlekorb, Laurel Smith and Realtor Leslie Trayer, who served as photographer for the afternoon.

The Divas, as well as the Nevada Opera Theatre Guild led by current president Karen Scherer, assist with fund-raising and special events, lending their support and volunteer efforts to the opera company's "Hansel and Gretel" performances in local elementary schools as well as larger opera productions.

Honored at the luncheon as 2004 Diva of the Year was Nicole Hyson, wife of past Nevada Opera Theatre president Dr. Morton Hyson and a tireless worker on behalf of the arts organization. The couple, mainstays of Nevada Opera Theatre, were the co-chairs of the recent Masked Ball at the Four Seasons.

Included in the program was young Michelle Gott, daughter of well-known musician Karen Gott and a freshman at the Julliard School in New York. Chosing to major in harp and minor in voice, this recipient of the Tove Allen Memorial Opera Scholarship spoke with enthusiasm of her studies and the opportunity to play the musical score from the remake of "The Manchurian Candidate" film.

Adding a final note to the gracious affair were comments by Rep. Berkley, who is assisting with arrangements for the Nevada Opera Theatre's trip to Washington, D.C., next Fall.

Honor of note

Lt. Gov. Hunt was recognized as the first Citizen of Note at Friends of Opera Las Vegas, a Feb. 28 event presented by The Opus Society.

The luncheon program at Spanish Trail Country Club was led by Marilyn Moss, 2004 president, who told of Hunt's efforts to bring tourism and new businesses to Nevada and subsequently has led to an ever-richer climate for the fine arts.

Supporters included Opera Las Vegas President John Krieger with fellow members Joyce LaGrange, Gloria Allen, Allen Kimbrough, Maureen Hullin, Alvida Lane and Judy Moore. Electing to enjoy this special event were Ed and Penny Prud'homme, Diane and Patrick Clary, Sondra Lynch, Dennis Bono, Sandra and Jim Frank, Bernice Fischer, Jeanne Greenawalt, Caty Crockett, Phyllis Haley, Margie Conway and Doris Lee.

Listening attentively to the fine music performed by opera singers Marco Varela and Christine Seitz, as well as singer-guitarist Robert Clink, were Thomas and Terri Eden, Dorothy Kidd, Tommy and Mia Vig, Audrey Dempsey, George Goldson, Grace Robbins, Rose Dominguez with Isabel Pfiefer, Jo Bonin and Robert Toto joined by Claudine Williams, Gail Howard, Arlene Damele, Gisela Sowa, Persia Golden, Miche and Jim Doyle and Carmen Vasquez.

Gayle Anderson, who serves as chief of protocol for the state, introduced members of Las Vegas Consul Corps including Paula Sparkhul (Chile), Berenice Rendon (Mexico), Sigrid Sommer (Germany) and Lia Roberts (Romania), in addition to Las Vegas notables Judge Betsy Kolkowski, Gayle Rodgers of the Henderson Chamber of Commerce and Ana Orleans, representing the El Salvadoran Foundation.

Proceeds from the Citizen of Note luncheon will benefit Opera Las Vegas' Educational Outreach Program, which promotes training and performance opportunities through apprentice programs for the youth community. For membership and event information, please call 259-8620 or visit their website at