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Day 8 – The story of Ludovica Dimon Graham

By ThisIsReno
Published: Last Updated on

Submitted by Karl Breckenridge

OK – it’s Monday morning. We’ve been cooped up by my count since St. Patrick’s Day a week ago – are old habits starting to die out? Not for me, neither. Two friends (that I know of) are having birthdays today – gotta get Lew Carnahan after our “workout” at Sports West today and buy him a Dodger Dog at Simon’s. Then for Nettie Oliverio, a suitable taco at the Jesse. Whoops – we ain’t doin’ either one of those today – so Happy Birthday, Lew and Nettie – you each have a rain check!

Whoops – and I just threw my new editor Bob Conrad a curve – let’s see if you read “aren’t” or ain’’t” in that last graf….

Onward. For this bright Monday morning we’ll start a little game: Who is the oldest person you knew at one time in your life? The person doesn’t have to be close to you, nor even alive right now (in fact, probably won’t be). The criteria are that you knew him or her well enough to remember something about him. Or her.

I’ll start by throwing out the name of a person I knew as a six- or eight-year old, who was born a year after Nevada became a state in 1864.

1864! I occasionally portray James Nye, the first governor of Nevada, and Ludovica Dimon (Graham) was born while he was governor (barely). She was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1865 and was a remarkable lady who came to Reno off-and-on in her early life and finally liked our town so much that she built a big house here.

Graham Mansion
The Graham Mansion, which eventually became the Sigma Nu fraternity house. Image: provided by Karl Breckenridge

She had lots of money from her family, who owned a shipping and shipbuilding company – Dimon Navigation – with a head shed in Baltimore but offices all over the nation, including one in San Francisco. Her family before she was born owned the Sea Witch, a tea ship that held the record for a sailing ship from Hong Kong to New York harbor. 74 days, it took that sturdy craft in 1849 – probably still a record.

Ludovica – “Lou” to her friends and family I spoke to about her a decade ago – loved life and married well and often. Dr. John Graham was her second and second-to-last husband. From him she took (and kept!) his name, dispelling the rumor that the home was built by the profits from Graham-Paige automobiles or Graham crackers. She did it on her own.

How did I know her, to make her eligible for this prize today, you ask? As a kid growing up on Ralston Street across from Whitaker Park, together with the rest of the Upper Whitaker/Little Italy rug-rats, like Tom Cook, Margaret Eddleman, Mary Eickbush, Neal Cobb, Marilyn Burkham (Ma Bell), Don Hartman, Cecelia Molini, Lana Scheuller and a few more, we were welcomed by Lou to play in the expansive yard of her home at 1075 Ralston Street, which you may know better as the Sigma Nu fraternity house. When there was a Sigma Nu fraternity, but that’s for another column another day.

She was a nice lady. She offered us cookies and drinks. She turned the expansive grounds of her home over to the University of Nevada repeatedly for garden parties. When she passed away in 1952 the U of N was one of her principal benefactors.

Ludovica Dimon Graham, born in 1865 – my nomination for the oldest person I ever knew. Quite a lady. Who’s yours? Let’s write about him or her. See you back here tomorrow. Be safe, huh?

Karl Breckenridge

Karl Breckenridge was slowly going nuts. So he decided to help out This is Reno by writing a daily out-of-his-mind column for the duration of the coronavirus shutdown. Now that it’s over he’s back to his usual antics, drinking coffee with the boys at the Bear and, well, we’re not sure what else. But he loved sharing his daily musings with you, so he’s back, albeit a little less often, to keep on sharing. Karl grew up in the valley and has stories from the area going back to 1945. He’s been writing for 32 years locally. 

Read more from Karl Breckenridge

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