Donald LaVone Cavin, 89, lifelong resident and Distinguished Nevadan, passed away peacefully on September 10, 2013, with Peggy, his devoted wife of 68 years, and family by his side. Don and Peggy moved to Reno in 2005 after spending 57 years in Hawthorne raising family and supporting the community.
Don was born on a farm near Kramer, N.D. in 1924 to Barney and Inez Cavin. After his father’s death during the great depression, Inez, Don and Dorothy came to Nevada where Inez married Bill Brevoort, the man he called “Dad”. Don grew up in numerous Nevada mining camps, including Rosebud, Leonard Creek, Rose Creek, Gold Point, Goldfield and Tonopah. A decorated World War II veteran, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in October, 1942 and served with VMF 322 in the western Pacific, including the amphibious landing on Okinawa in April, 1945, as an aviation ordnance specialist servicing F4U Corsair aircraft. Don and Peggy were married in October, 1945 in Boston. Upon his honorable discharge in November, 1945 at the rank of technical sergeant, he and Peggy, fellow Marine, moved to Babbitt (Hawthorne). As a civilian, Don also served two tours in Japan and Korea during the early 1950’s supporting the Korean conflict.
Don had a long and distinguished civil service career at the Hawthorne Naval Ammunition Depot starting as a journeyman in 1945, and retiring in 1979 as Chief of Production and Civilian Manager for the entire installation. Don was a leader and mentor respected for his integrity, straightforward manner and dedication to mission. He was instrumental in preserving and adding to the production capability of the depot, expanding its demilitarization capability, and preserving its workforce. He received numerous achievement awards and led the enhanced production effort at the depot during the Vietnam conflict.
Former employees and coworkers often remark that they are better for having known the tough-minded but always fair leader and friend they affectionately called “Iron-Jaw”.
In 2000, the University of Nevada recognized Don’s contributions to Nevada wildlife conservation with the Distinguished Nevadan award, their highest honor for service to the State. An accomplished hunter, sportsman and wildlife enthusiast, Don served nearly 40 years in both elected and appointed positions on the Nevada Wildlife Commission. He was a pioneer in the reintroduction of desert bighorn sheep within the state in the late 1960’s. Today, Nevada’s trap and transplant program has become one of the greatest wildlife success stories in North America. The introduction of Himalayan snow partridge to Mount Grant in Mineral County and the Ruby Mountains in the 1960’s was a nation-wide first, with military transport of the birds from Nepal conceived and arranged by Don. Nevada’s wildlife continues to benefit from his life-long dedication. In his younger years, he could often be found conducting sage grouse surveys, planting fish, building guzzlers and helping transplant bighorn sheep.
Don was an exceptional patriarch who leaves the lasting legacy of a grateful and loving family. A man of few words, one always knew what he meant. He took great pleasure in playing with his many grandchildren, and was always a friend to the young children in the neighborhood. He held associates degrees from Placer College and Indiana University. He was a proud member of the Marine Corps League, a 54-year member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks Lodge 1704 in Hawthorne, and a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association.
Don is survived by his loving and devoted wife of over 67 years, Marguerite (Peggy), sons William and wife Patti of Albuquerque, N.M., Kenneth and wife Rose of Carson City, James and wife Debbie of Las Vegas, Thomas and wife Marie of Carson City, Donald R. and wife Barbara of Reno, and daughter Margaret Cate and husband Mike of Reno. Grandchildren include Dan Cavin and Cristina Johnson (Joshua), Paul Cavin (Heather), Kate Cardinalli (Tony), James Cavin (Kaylene), Jeremy Cavin (Erin), Ciara Pegoda (Josh), Cody Cavin (Lisa), Riley Cate and Emilee Cate (Chris). Don also leaves eight great-grandchildren and numerous extended family members, most in northern Nevada. He also leaves his devoted sister Dorothy Webb.
Don was a privately-devout Catholic active for many years at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Hawthorne. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated at Saint Rose of Lima Catholic Church, Reno on Sept. 16. Burial followed at the Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Fernley.
The family wishes to thank the doctors and staff of the cardiac intensive care unit of St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center for the exceptional care and support they provided during Don’s last days. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in Don’s name to the Hawthorne Ordnance Museum, P.O. Box 2008, Hawthorne, NV 89415 or at hawthorneordnancemuseum.com.
The family invites you to share a condolence message in the Book of Memories at the website www.waltonsfuneralhomes.com.