Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013 | 2 a.m.
Native Nevadan Terry Gialketsis celebrated the excitement and history of her state, but seemed always to take the greatest joy in helping those in need in her longtime hometown of Las Vegas.
She performed in Las Vegas High School’s Rhythmettes — a dance squad of such precision that it appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show." And as an adult, she commemorated the struggles of 19th century pioneer women such as American Indian activist Sarah Winnemucca and the journalistic accomplishments of Gialketsis’ late mother, longtime Las Vegas Sun Assistant to the Publisher Ruthe Deskin.
But time after time, Gialketsis focused on what she could do to help future generations.
Terry Lee Gialketsis, who supported Nevada charities that, among other things, fed the impoverished and comforted seriously ill children, died suddenly Saturday from natural causes at Summerlin Hospital. She was 74.
A celebration of Gialketsis’ life will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday at Canyon Gate Country Club, 2001 Canyon Gate Drive. Interment will be private.
“As a fourth-generation Nevadan, the state’s history was rooted in my mother’s life,” said Ron Woodbury of Riverside, Calif. “She took great pride in preserving it.
“As for her work with nonprofits, my mom gave not only monetary donations but also volunteered many hours for charitable groups. She had a passion to help people in need, and what she did, she did from the heart.”
Gialketsis’ statewide philanthropic beneficiaries include Three Square Food Bank, the Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation of Nevada and the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation Nevada Chapter.
Her mother, Deskin, died in 2004 at age 87. Deskin was the Sun’s assistant to the publisher for nearly 50 years and an award-winning columnist who crusaded against child abuse and neglect and was a proponent of many causes, including education and the arts.
To honor her late mother, Gialketsis and her sister, Nancy Cummings of Reno, established the Ruthe Deskin Memorial Scholarship Endowment Fund at UNLV’s Hank Greenspun School of Journalism and Media Studies.
At the time, Gialketsis said the fund was intended to continue her mother's legacy as a hall-of-fame newspaperwoman and memorialize Deskin’s commitment to young reporters and to their education. Within weeks, her scholarship fundraising goal was met.
Born Terry Jeffers in Reno on Aug. 13, 1939, she was a 1957 graduate of Las Vegas High. At 19, she won the 1958 Miss Nevada USA beauty pageant and in the 1960s she was a showgirl at the Sahara and the Desert Inn.
She married William “Babe” Gialketsis, owner of Bonanza Beverage Company, in 1972. Terry Gialketsis for many years operated an interior design business in Las Vegas. But she never lost her passion for Nevada history.
For example, she was inspired by how Nevada pioneer Sarah Winnemucca fought for civil rights for Paiute women. So much so, Gialketsis and Cummings – in their mother’s memory – made donations to the Washoe County Library System to commission a bust of the Indian author that now is displayed in Northern Nevada.
Upon making the donations in 2004, the sisters said Winnemucca, like their mother, symbolized the best in Nevada womanhood, striving to attain and preserve education, equality and peace.
“My sister took a hands-on approach to enhance education about Las Vegas and the state,” said Cummings, the retired longtime director of the Washoe County Library System.
“That included participating in the oral history project for the Huntridge neighborhood and by often speaking to students at the Ruthe Deskin Elementary School.”
Gialketsis, who participated in the Rhythmettes from 1954-1957, helped keep alive the group’s memory for more than half a century.
The Rhythmettes, formed in 1950 by late LVHS physical education teacher Evelyn Stuckey, appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in 1955 and was featured in films and on stages nationwide for two decades, serving as Las Vegas’ fresh-faced, toe-tapping goodwill ambassadors.
Gialketsis spent much of her adult life singing the praises of the legendary dance troupe and, together with former team member Nancy Craft, erected a tribute display of Rhythmette memorabilia at the 2011 Las Vegas High School reunion.
In addition to her husband, son and sister, Gialketsis is survived by three other sons, David Woodbury, Bill Gialketsis and Steve Gialketsis; and a daughter, Julie Gialketsis, all of Las Vegas; 10 grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.
The family said donations can be made in Terry Gialketsis’ memory to the Ruthe Deskin Memorial Scholarship Endowment Fund, care of the UNLV Foundation, P.O. Box 451006, 4505 S. Maryland Parkway, Las Vegas, NV 89154-1006.
Ed Koch is a former longtime Las Vegas Sun reporter.