John J. Ascuaga
1925 - 2021
BORN
1925
DIED
2021
FUNERAL HOME
Walton's Funerals & Cremations - Chapel of the Valley
1281 North Roop Street
Carson City, NV
John J. Ascuaga

January 7, 1925 - June 28, 2021

Gaming pioneer, rancher, good friend, and beloved father and grandfather John J. Ascuaga passed away quietly at home on June 28, 2021 at the age of 96.

John and his twin sister, Rose, were born to Spanish Basque immigrants Jose and Marina Ascuaga on the family farm in Caldwell, Idaho on January 7, 1925. They were the youngest of the couple's four children. Jose and Marina raised their family during the Great Depression, and while times were difficult, they instilled in their children the importance of faith, family, and a work ethic.

John attended high school in Notus, Idaho, where his yearbook fortuitously predicted: "He would own the biggest gambling den in Reno." Following high school, he served a brief stint in the army and was stationed in Japan during the US Occupation.

A life-long believer and supporter of education, John received a bachelor's degree in accounting from University of Idaho in 1951 and a degree in hotel and restaurant management from Washington State in 1952.

During college summers, John met Dick Graves while working as a bellhop at the Shore Lodge in McCall, Idaho. Graves admired Ascuaga's energy and hired him as food manager for his Coeur d'Alene operations soon after he graduated. In 1954, when Idaho declared slot machines illegal statewide, Graves relocated his operations to Nevada, and Ascuaga followed. Graves named Ascuaga general manager of the Sparks location that opened with a 60-seat coffee shop and a few slot machines on March 17, 1955.

In the late 50's John met his future wife Rose Ardans, a French Basque from Eureka, Nevada, and he was smitten instantly. He proposed on their third date, and they married June 15, 1958. They formed a true partnership for 62 years and were only parted by her death on Nov. 28, 2020. They had four children: Camille, John L., Michonne and Stephen.

The family resided in Sparks until 1970, when they moved to Jack's Valley Ranch near Genoa. The 1,250-acre ranch was the perfect place for John to pursue his life-long passion of cattle ranching and the Hereford breed. John also ran cattle on property he owned in Smith, Nevada and Bridgeport, CA, and each November, he would lead a cattle drive from Bridgeport to Smith. Friends who joined him on these memorable treks said they never ate better and they enjoyed playing poker and No Peek'm long into the night.

By 1960, Graves wanted to retire, and he sold the Nugget to Ascuaga with a handshake. Ascuaga agreed to pay $3.75 million over twelve years, which he paid off in seven.

Ascuaga founded the Nugget's reputation on friendly, personal service; varied and excellent dining; headliner entertainment; special events and of course, gaming.

A constant presence at the Nugget, Ascuaga was the affable and accessible face of his business. He walked the casino and restaurants in his signature cowboy boots multiple times a day, greeting guests with a smile and a handshake. He had the gift of making everyone he met feel special. When he met a guest a second time, he would likely know and use their name. One of his most endearing qualities was his ability to not take himself too seriously and to have fun. This was demonstrated in one memorable television ad campaign, where he sat in the hotel's hot tub in his full business suit declaring it "perfect".

He was just as accessible to his employees, many of whom received a special nickname that he would use throughout their tenure. He had a way of making employees feel like part of his family, always asking after their family members and keeping track of their children's successes.

Ascuaga was also a visionary who helped pioneer special events as a drawing card for both local and regional patrons. Launched in 1989, The Best In The West Nugget Rib Cook-Off continues to be a hugely popular event every Labor Day.

Many long-time residents of Reno-Sparks remember with fondness the two performing elephants - Bertha and Tina (then later, Angel) - who were part of the Circus Room's (later the Celebrity Showroom) roster of talent. The elephants were a key element in the family atmosphere that Ascuaga actively promoted.

Ascuaga was most proud of the annual scholarship program, which helped over 700 students from around northern Nevada attend college. He hosted a celebratory luncheon for the scholarship winners and their parents and proudly displayed the recipients' photos at the casino. Ascuaga also supported Catholic Charities, providing holiday meals at St. Vincent's Dining Room for nearly 60 years.

John is predeceased by his beloved wife, Rose Ascuaga: his parents Jose and Marina Ascuaga: sisters, Rose and Carmen, and brother, Frank. He is survived by his children: Camille Bressler (Mark), John L. Ascuaga (Teri Hiratani), Michonne Ascuaga (Dr. Kevin Linkus), and Stephen Ascuaga (Priscilla), grandchildren Gabriel, Noah and Miriam Bressler, Sean Ascuaga and Kai Hiratani, Jonathan and Rosie Linkus, Malia and Marisol Ascuaga, and numerous nieces and nephews.

Services will be held at St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church, 3000 N Lompa Ln, Carson City, NV at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, July 13, 2021. A reception celebrating John's life will take place at the Peppermill Resort Reno, from 5 to 7 pm that same day. We ask those who are not vaccinated to please wear a mask.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to one of John's favorite charities: Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada,500 E. 4th Street. Reno, NV 89512; Center for Basque Studies, UNR Foundation, University of Nevada Reno, Mail Stop 0162, Reno, NV 89557 or Bishop Manogue Catholic High School, John Ascuaga Memorial Scholarship Fund, 110 Bishop Manogue Drive, Reno, NV 89511.

Walton's Chapel of the Valley is trusted with arrangements.



Published by The Reno Gazette Journal and Lyon County News Leader from Jul. 8 to Jul. 11, 2021.
To plant trees in memory, please visit the Sympathy Store.
MEMORIAL EVENTS
Jul
13
Memorial Gathering
5:00p.m. - 7:00p.m.
Peppermill Resort Reno
Reno, NV
Jul
13
Service
10:00a.m.
St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church
3000 N Lompa Ln, Carson City, NV
Funeral services provided by:
Walton's Funerals & Cremations - Chapel of the Valley
MAKE A DONATION
MEMORIES & CONDOLENCES
Sponsored by Walton's Funerals & Cremations - Chapel of the Valley.
Add a Message


Not sure what to say?



36 Entries
We helped with one or two of his golf tournaments about ten or so years back. Once he new your name, he never forgot it. He treated every one like family. He was a good man.
Jim and Suzy Dale
Other
August 23, 2021
My deepest condolences to the family of John Ascuaga. My mother worked with him back in the 50´s. I remember her telling me that he always treated her like family...truly a decent and kind gentleman. I met him in the 70´s as we visited the Nugget regularly. I fondly remember him, Bertha and Tina, and the kindness he always showed to us. May the memories you all treasure bring you comfort. God bless.
Marcia Trujillo Penman
Other
July 25, 2021
My deep condolences at this sad time. Thinking of you all. Celebrate your dear parents with your many good memories! Thinking of you all, Mimi
Mimi Richards Melarkey
July 15, 2021
So sorry to read about the passing of John Ascuaga, my condolences to Michonne, John, Stephen and other family members. John Ascuaga was the epitome of gracious and caring hospitality. He connected on a deeply personal level with me and so many others. I will never forget our one on one outings to an old bar just to shoot the breeze. I cannot let a Christmas go by without singing "Feliz Navidad" remember his Christmas gatherings for staff at the Nugget. See you in the next life.
Jay Barter
Work
July 14, 2021
Our deepest condolences to the Ascuaga family!!! The Ascuaga Nugget days were the best!!! Thinking of you all at this time!!!!
Barrie & Gwen Hume
Other
July 13, 2021
Our sincere condolences to the Ascuaga family. We remember being at the Nugget and whenever we saw John he was always so friendly and down to earth, always saying hello and mingling with everyone!!!!! Also the fun birthday parties he had at the Nugget!!
Gary & Charlotte(Hume) De Los Santos
Other
July 13, 2021
I loved working at the Nugget for 44 years. Mr Ascuaga always asked about my family, Mrs Ascuaga too. They were both such wonderful people. They will both be missed by many who knew them. Thank you Mr Ascuaga for such a wonderfull place to work. My prayers for all the Ascuaga family
Sandra Archuleta
Work
July 12, 2021
I have many fond memories of John and the Nugget from the 18 years I worked there. He was a special man.
Kathleen Plambeck
Work
July 12, 2021
John was a terrific guy who will be sorely missed by countless numbers of friends, business associates and customers. His success story in Nevada is a classic. He came here penniless and through hard work, diligence and honesty, created a very large, successful business which supported -- and in turn was supported -- by his community. He will long be remembered, with respect.
Peter C Neumann
July 11, 2021
I met John and Rose during one of the Reno Diocesan conferences in January. I appreciated his support for the conference each year at the Nugget. I extend my condolences to his family and hope they know that he touched many peoples lives through his generosity to the Reno Diocese as well.
Teri Iaconis
Other
July 11, 2021
Sympathy and prayers for the family John was a great man
Michonne Pieksma
Other
July 10, 2021
I was an employee of JA Nugget in the 80's & 90's where I sincerely felt like family. He seemed to know everyone by name whether we were wearing a badge or not. I will never forget my time spent there, my co-workers & many guests returning year after year because John made sure his Nugget Family treated them as he always did with respect, compassion, smiles-basically, a Disney attitude! My family sends condolences to the Ascuaga Family & we sincerely pray that loving, happy memories will cover your grief. Never forget the difference he made in the lives of so many people. He will always be loved & remembered by us. Michonne & Stephen, we worked together many times especially when extra help was needed for certain events. I will never forget how you treated all of us as equals. "No job is less important than another." We were all a team. You both are definitely the products of wonderful parents who taught you well. Thank you!!
Debra Greig
Work
July 10, 2021
Our sincere condolences go out to the whole Ascuaga family .It was a great honor to work for, and live by your dad! He truly was one of the Best men to grace Nevada history. He will be deeply miss and never be forgotten!
Steven , Pam Peterson and family
Friend
July 10, 2021
Our sincere and heartfelt condolences to the Ascuaga family. I had the distinct pleasure and honor to have performed music at the Nugget for many years. He was a giant in the industry and still made time to personally talk to everyone, including the musicians. He always made me feel appreciated and usually had a joke or two for me. Thanks for all the great memories, Mr. Ascuaga. The world is a lesser place without you.
Paul January
Work
July 9, 2021
A great boss
Dovie Pickering
July 9, 2021
Dear Ascuaga Family, John was a wonderful Man! We feel fortunate to have met him a long time ago. My Dad, Dr. John Scott, was your family pediatrician, so your dad made sure we (the 4 Scott boys) saw Bertha and Tina and all the top entertainers as we were growing up. It was wonderful!! Rest in Peace Sir. Will and Diana Scott
Will and Diana Scott
Other
July 9, 2021
Mr. Ascuaga was a fantastic man and I had the honor of working with him for many years. Please accept my sincerest condolences to the entire family and know this community will miss him dearly.
Debra
Work
July 8, 2021
I worked as a bus boy in the General Store when I was young. I remember going off to my lunch break and taking off my bowtie. After coming off my lunch break, I noticed Mr. Ascuaga sitting with Red Skelton. I carefully asked permission to ask for Mr. Skelton´s autograph. Mr. Skelton said "Of course, son" and wrote it on a napkin. I said "Thank you Mr. Skelton and Mr. Ascuaga". Mr. Ascuaga leaned over and kindly whispered to me..."Son don´t forget to put your bowtie back on, we want to be professional around here". He then smiled at me. I said yes Mr. Ascuaga. I never forgot to put that bowtie back on after my break. Mr. Ascuaga ran a tight ship and always made sure customer service and quality was number one. Thank you Mr. Ascuaga for giving our community such a wonderful place to go for great service and wonderful food. You will never be forgotten. My deepest condolences.
Jesse Blackburn, Sparks, NV
Work
July 7, 2021
My heartfelt sympathy goes out to your entire family. Your dad always made a point of saying hello when I saw him asked how my parents and the Cordovas were he made everyone feel like family. I will always call it John Ascuagas. Nugget no matter what
Dr Jim& Cindy Stewart
Friend
July 7, 2021
Our sincere condolences go out to the whole family. I am honored to have known and worked for John for 32 years. All of us will deeply miss him and I think Sparks should name a street after him
Bob and Barbara Murray
Work
July 7, 2021
I worked for the Nugget for 40 years Mr Ascuaga he was always fair and treated us right .
george stowell
Work
July 7, 2021
Please accept my sincerest condolences.
Robert Marquart
July 7, 2021
I was opening my store in Smith Valley at about 6:00 a.m....I looked up and there was John in a double JA Land and Livestock truck with 20 to 25 brand new bicycles in the back. One bicycle for each of his farm and ranch worker's children. I have known John for years and I can say, without a doubt, he may have been short in stature, but cast a very long shadow. He will be missed.
Robert Martin
Friend
July 6, 2021
So very sad to hear! I had the pleasure of meeting him many years ago - what a pillar in our community! The Nugget was never the same without you! Rest easy, sir....
Kim
Work
July 6, 2021
So sorry for your loss. I loved working for you all at my time at the Nugget. Mr. A. sir, was an inspiration to many people. My nickname was Queenie. I have many fond memories and so do many others. Love to you all.
Lynda Murdock
Work
July 5, 2021
Despite being small in height, John Ascuaga was a very tall man. He made customer service a speciality, along with treating employees with respect. I was one of hundreds, if not thousands of people that benefitted from his strong support of education. My appreciation, gratitude & respect rides high in the saddle for him, which he himself did with his entire life. God bless John Ascuaga.
Tom Lorentzen
July 5, 2021
My family and myself were devastated to hear of John's passing. It was an honor to know him and to work for him. He always treated me and my family as his own and I am blessed to have known him and I will miss him dearly. I will always have a special place in my heart for John.
Beverly Jones
Work
July 5, 2021
Northern Nevada lost an icon, a business leader and a very good man. Few make the impact he did on their community and we were lucky and blessed that he called this home. God Bless him and his family.
Thomas Bordigioni
July 4, 2021
I'm so sorry to hear this, he was such a wonderful, caring and thoughtful man. He gave so much of himself in all he did. I will remember him in my prayers and in my thoughts of his family and all who knew him. great man!
Kathy Neal'Compton
Work
July 4, 2021
Very sad to see this. My sympathy to all.
Steven Dawson
Other
July 4, 2021
Our deepest sympathy to the family. We will miss his calls, hearing of the daily activities at the ranch. He was full of energy and whit. To say he was a great man is a understatement. We will miss him terribly.
Kathi Turner
July 3, 2021
Our prayers and thoughts are with you at this difficult time. Many wonderful memories are stored in our minds of the experiences we had at Jacks Valley Ranch with your family.
Lloyd, Susan, Brent and Brian Danielson
Work
July 3, 2021
John - you are a man of such incredible faith, generosity, loving kindness, and fantastic wit I wish your children deep comfort in their time of grieving. Michon and Steven may you feel the love and gratitude this community has for your parents and for you. Holding you and your families close in heart for strength and peace. . Much Love, Terri - St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Community
Terri Antoci Domitrovich
Other
July 3, 2021
So sorry for the family´s loss as well as the community´s. Such a great generous man. Sparks high grads will never forget your kindness
Mary Fenton
Other
July 3, 2021
Michonne, Stephen and families, I am so very sorry for the loss of your Dad. But I know he's with your Mom now and I hope that brings you some comfort. He was such a great man.
Linda Cassinelli Wicksten
Friend
July 3, 2021
Your presence was just a part of The Nugget so it was natural that your name be part of the casino. My parents played the slots when it when we were kids and the place wasn't more than a coffee shop. What incredible drive and enthusiasm! We love you and feel pretty sure God does too.
Patricia L Thomas
Other
July 3, 2021
Showing 1 - 36 of 36 results