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Roger Bissett

1928 - 2016
Roger Bissett Obituary
Roger Bissett

A gentleman. Honest, generous, humble, admirable and a class act. That was Roger Bissett. He was a devoted family man, an advocate, philanthropist, athlete, mentor, attorney, friend and a most loving and caring father. His mind, memory and heart remained strong throughout his life. Roger's remarkable ability to recall names, events and details of friends and family members lives amazed his family and friends. If you needed information you didn't Google it, you Roger'd it. Planning was a trait Roger excelled at. While he was practicing law many in the legal community came to him as the "go to guy" for his expertise in estate planning. Never wanting to burden his kids he even meticulously planned the details for his own estate and passing.

Roger loved the social opportunity from walking his dogs in the neighborhood. Wearing his favorite cargo pants he'd stow dog treats to give all the dogs he'd encounter as he chatted with their owners. The biggest smile on his face his last days came thanks to the lick of his hand from man's best friend.

He also had an adventurous and spontaneous side that his kids loved. When visiting amusement parks, Roger enjoyed the rides so much he didn't want to wait long to get back on, so he'd find a back route to get himself (and the kids of course) on again quickly. He'd take them out in the hills above Rancho San Rafael to catch lizards or chase rabbits. Rainstorms were an opportunity for the kids to get dressed in their rain gear and go splash around in the puddles with dad.

All 4 of his children, and 3 grandchildren were a special joy and reward. Roger and his oldest son Roger Jr. shared a competitive spirit, which was highly evident to the rest of the family when they played chess. They took many road trips together and traveled to Hawaii frequently with Roger's brother Don and wife Mary Lou. They shared a love of art, movies and books and both could recite details about actors, producers and authors.

Son, Jeff shared a love of dogs, sports, especially any UCLA sporting event and playing tennis with Roger. Both had a penchant for sharing goofy puns. A highlight for both sons was the annual trip to Disneyland during their childhood. Jeff and wife Brenda brought Roger his two grandsons, Brett and John, both of whom are in the field of law and shared memorable camping experiences in Yosemite with their beloved "Papa Roger."

Daughter Linda shared the love of the outdoors with her father. As a young girl she accompanied him on bird hunting trips around Nevada. Having no bird dog, he instead sent Linda to run up and down the hillsides to flush out chukar which Roger never seemed to hit. Six years ago Linda and Don Evans introduced Roger to a favorite card game called golf. They played weekly at family dinners and soon realized with Roger's competitive nature they had to keep an eye on the number of cards he'd draw.

Daughter Laurie's Reno high school sports activities gave Roger many opportunities to head back to his alma mater to watch her compete. After college they took a road trip across the country for Laurie to attend graduate school in Boston. She eventually moved to New Hampshire and with Joe Trainor they brought Roger his granddaughter Emma. Remaining back east provided opportunity for Roger to visit and explore historical New England. He especially enjoyed fall leaf peeping , the Tall Ships and participating in the classic fall sport of punkin chunkin' with his family and friends there.

Many people touched Roger's life as he did theirs. The Carlsons, Butlers, and Cavallos, who met Roger through working with him at his law practice, became his extended family. Roger enjoyed social events with them and cherished attending their children's school activities and sports. Caring and helpful neighbors, including the Jagours, Granatas, and Tors were always available to help out when needed for which Roger's family is very grateful.

Roger was friendly and social with everyone, and with his long history in Reno many people knew him. Venturing out with him required patience and extra time as it was a given he'd stop to chat with someone about their kids, current events or a law case.

Roger's friendships from high school and college remained strong through his life. He played football, basketball, and boxed at the University of Nevada. The late Harry Spencer described Roger as "tall, solidly built and quick for a big man with a long wing span that was a competitive advantage in boxing and especially squash." While he was rarely known to lose his temper, occasionally Roger's calm demeanor went by the wayside in a competitive match. Spencer recalled a missed key shot for winning a tough squash match that resulted in Roger's racquet meeting its demise over his knee.

Roger joined brother Richard and wife Elizabeth on many cherished travel adventures outside the U.S. They visited China, England, and Scotland, the latter from which Roger developed an affinity for the argyle patterned sweaters he frequently wore.

J. Roger Bissett was born March 23, 1928 in Los Angeles, California, to parents John R. and Myldred I. Bissett. The family returned to Myldred's home town of Fallon, Nevada where Roger attended grade school. The family then moved to Reno where Roger graduated from the old Reno High at 5th and West St. Roger completed his freshman year at the University of Nevada, where he played several sports. He enlisted in the U. S. Navy, June 1946. He was selected to attend the Navy electronics school, graduating and receiving 3rd class petty officer rating, electronics technician. Upon separation, after active duty on USS McCook, DMS-36, in 1948, he returned home to Reno, where he resumed studies at the University of Nevada, and played basketball for Coach Jake Lawlor. As a naval reservist, he was recalled to active duty in the fall of 1950, but deferred, so he could graduate from the University of Nevada in June 1951.

He was assigned to the Navy's Bureau of ships, electronics logistics at Main Navy Bldg., 17th and Constitution Ave., Washington D.C. He graduated from Georgetown Law in October 1954, receiving Honorable Discharge from the Naval Reserve that same year. He returned to Reno to practice Law, until his retirement in 2002. Roger started his law practice with fellow Georgetown graduate and co-worker at the Navy Dept., the Honorable Michael J. Wendell. Later he partnered with Bill Gardner, who became Reno Municipal Court Judge.

Roger served as Assemblyman and then Senator in the Nevada Legislature from 1959 to 1966. He was the last solo State Senator from Washoe County as the reapportionment mandate created multiple district State Senate representation in Nevada after his term. He was President of the Washoe County Bar Association in 1963, and remained a member of the Washoe County and Nevada State Bar. He was admitted to practice in all Nevada State and Local courts, the Federal District Court for Nevada, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th circuit, and the U.S. Supreme Court. His last partnership with his daughter Linda was especially rewarding, leading to his planned gradual retirement as they phased out their law practice, with Linda entering the private business sector.

He is survived by his children, Robert Roger Bissett, Jeffrey D. Bissett (wife Brenda), Linda M. Bissett (Don Evans), Laurie G. Bissett (Joe Trainor); grandchildren, Brett Bissett (wife K.C.), John Bissett, and Emma Trainor; and brother, Richard Bissett (wife Elizabeth). He is preceded in death by his wife, Evelyn and brother, Donald Bissett.

Associations and memberships included Prospector's club, 1st United Methodist Church, Reno YMCA, Elks Club, and American Legion. Roger was past legal counsel to Nevada Humane Society, Washoe County Division, for which he received their 10th annual community animal protection award in 1998.

Roger passed on January 5, 2016 with his family beside him. At Roger's request no funeral service will be held. Burial will be at Mountain View Cemetery beside his wife Evelyn.

Anyone wishing to honor Roger through a contribution can contact one of his two favorite organizations, the International Myeloma Foundation or the Nevada Humane Society.


Published in Reno Gazette-Journal on Jan. 17, 2016
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