A loss for the community


We have sad news to report today.  In the last two weeks we have lost two Las Vegas pioneers, Joe Thiriot and Harvey Diederich.  Joe was 102 years old when he passed away earlier this week.  He had been a teacher at the old Las Vegas High School and was quite a shutterbug.  He took pictures and slides of many of the drama classes he taught over the years as well as the changing face of Fremont Street and the Las Vegas Strip.

He attended the annual all school High School Reunions for Las Vegas High and was always surrounded by well wishers and friends.  Back in 2005 when I was doing the video oral histories, Donna and Gail Andress suggested that Joe should be interviewed.  We called him up and arranged a time.  For two hours he talked to us about his life and his accomplishments.  When the interview was over, he drove home.  He was 98 years old at the time and still as sharp as a tack.

From today's Las Vegas Review Journal:

Thiriot Elementary School teachers believe the arts are useful in teaching core subjects like math and science, such as having dances to demonstrate the principles of density.

By coincidence, the school's namesake, Joseph E. Thiriot, who died Sunday at age 102, was involved in the performing arts, teaching drama, public speaking and chorus at Las Vegas High School for 28 years.

Thiriot also directed community plays and was a founding member of the Las Vegas Little Theatre. As a musician and artist, he played the banjo and piano and made jewelry from his gem collection.

"He was a great role model for us," said Patricia Schmidt, principal of the school, 5700 W. Harmon Ave., near Jones Boulevard and Flamingo Road.

The school opened in 2005. Thiriot frequently attended its music programs and plays.

"He was a big believer in children," Schmidt said. "It wasn't riches that he was after. It was giving of himself."

Alice Waite said her father's philosophy of teaching was to make it fun so his students would "learn without realizing they were learning."

She said her dad "loved life" and always kept busy. "He didn't stop driving until he was 100," Waite said.

Thiriot is survived by his three children, Alice Waite, Jeannetta Peterson, and Jon Thiriot; 14 grandchildren, 41 great-grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren.

Services are planned for 11 a.m. Thursday at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints chapel at 221 S. Lorenzi St.

Palm Mortuary, 1325 Main St., is handling arrangements. The family is asking that donations be made to the school.


Harvey Diederich came to Las Vegas in the post war years and was instrumental in helping to not only put the Las Vegas Strip on the map but he helped turn the town into America's Playground.  He was a publicist who worked, in those early days, with some of the best photographers of the Las Vegas News Bureau.  He was good friends with Don English and they often worked together on ideas for cheesecake photographs of showgirls in skimpy outfits or swim suits posing for pictures with the hotels always featured prominently in the background.

He and Don used to attend the Old Timers Media Luncheon and that is where I met both of them back in 2002.  This wonderful group of photographers, publicists, journalists and former news men and women as well as  performers meet each month to share stories, tall tales and remenince about the old days.  I was fortunate to interview both Don and Harvey in 2003.  They attended the premiere of "The Story of Classic Las Vegas" (where they were both featured) at the CineVegas Film Festival in June 2005.

We lost Don back in 2006 and his death was a blow to Harvey.  Harvey had lost his wife and when he lost his good friend, it hit him hard.  He still tried to attend the montly luncheons but we saw him less as grew frailer.

Harvey's spirit lives on though, in the photographs he collaborated on and in the publicity he churned out that made Las Vegas sound like an oasis in the desert that just had to be visited.  They were a dynamic group of men and women who helped sell Las Vegas to the nation and to the world.  We won't see the likes of them again.

HARVEY DIEDERICH A light goes out in the City of Lights. No one will notice, as they travel through the morass of the neon that has helped make our city famous worldwide, that one our brightest lights has gone out. Harvey Diederich, chosen as one of the "Hundred Most Influential Las Vegans" has left us after 89 years on this Earth.

Harvey was one of the original strip publicists who began in the 1950's to spread the word the world over about a sleepy little desert town that would someday play host to celebrities, movie stars and some of the most famous guest in the world. A mentor to so many, who came after him, Harvey, along with men like Herb McDonald, Al Freeman and Don English gave Las Vegas its image. Organizations like the Las Vegas News Bureau and the Las Vegas Convention Authority received their impetus from the unusual adroit mind of Harvey D.

In fact it was said, many times by many people, that Harvey could see the future of Southern Nevada. Harvey was working in the ski resort town of Sun Valley, Idaho in the early 50's when Herb McDonald contacted him about a job opening at the Last Frontier in Las Vegas. Harvey interviewed and was hired by General Manager Bob Cannon. Over the next 35 years, the Sahara, Tropicana, and the original MGM Grand Hotel were just a few of the mega properties whose image he polished. Harvey and his wife Joan, who preceded him in death, raised five children, Mick, Terre, Guy, Gaye and Darrilyn; six grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren, all of whom mourn his loss.

Harvey's modesty prevents us from full disclosure of his contributions, it is enough to say that he will be sorely missed. There was a memorial service on Sunday, March 22, Palm Mortuary, 7600 S. Eastern Ave. Donations can be made in Harvey's name to New Hope Hospice Foundation.