Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013 | 2 a.m.
Among the works of noted Southern Nevada artist/photographer Cliff Segerblom is a poignant 1941 photo he took of his wife, Gene, sitting at the edge of a cliff near Boulder Dam, gazing with wonder and hope, perhaps toward the distant future.
As a four-term Nevada assemblywoman representing Boulder City, Searchlight and Laughlin, Gene Segerblom played a vital role in shaping that future — always displaying great respect and admiration for that modern wonder-of-the-world dam and the rest of old Nevada, and what they meant to modern Nevada.
“Without the dam, there is no question there would not have been the growth experienced throughout the valley,” Gene Segerblom told the Sun in a Sept. 24, 1995, story about the 60th anniversary of the iconic structure.
It also could be argued that without Gene Segerblom and others addressing — that is to say, stemming — uncontrolled growth, Boulder City might not be the quaint, postcard picturesque town it is today.
The death of Genevieve “Gene” Segerblom on Friday at age 94 at Boulder City Hospital brought to an end the stirring saga of a senior-citizen politician who diligently promoted statewide tourism for landmarks such as Boulder Dam, preserved Nevada’s historic resources and protected the beauty of the natural landscape.
Although Gene Segerblom often took on such issues with great enthusiasm and courage, she unashamedly admitted that she was more than a little hesitant and frightened the day her new husband asked her to carefully climb down the side of the cliff so he could take the photo that has been published numerous times during the past 70-plus years.
But Gene Segerblom also said she had faith in her late husband’s artistic vision to know that despite the peril she faced, the final product would be well worth the risk. And, quite fittingly, as a Boulder City councilwoman and as an assemblywoman (1992-2000), Gene Segerblom would never hesitate to go to the limit for her constituents.
“That photo depicted a young, beautiful woman indeed looking toward the future,” said her son, Assemblyman Richard “Tick” Segerblom, D-Las Vegas. “My mother bridged the old Nevada with the new, making sure she preserved the rural areas and making sure people never forgot the importance of old Nevada.”
The Segerblom family is the only one to have had four generations serve in the Nevada Legislature.
Gene Segerblom, a former teacher, began her political career in 1979 at age 61, winning a seat on the Boulder City Council. There she addressed a shaky period of growth in that U.S. government-founded city by tackling head-on the issues of dwindling water and power resources to encourage sustainable yet limited growth.
In 1992, then age 74, Gene Segerblom ran for the Assembly on a platform of championing women’s issues, controlling health care costs for seniors and children and otherwise revising the budgetary process.
Just before her 92nd birthday, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., a former Gene Segerblom constituent from Searchlight, read into the congressional record a tribute honoring her “lifetime of service to her family, community and the entire State of Nevada.”
“Perhaps no other person with whom I have come in contact over these years has been as great a force for good as has Gene,” Reid told the legislative body.
She was born Genevieve Wines on March 15, 1918, in Ruby Valley, near Elko, in Humboldt County. Her grandfather, W.J. Bell, was in the Nevada Legislature in the early 20th century, and her mother, Hazel Bell Wines, was a Humboldt County assemblywoman.
Gene Segerblom graduated from the University of Nevada and became a teacher. She moved to Boulder City in 1940 and a year later married Cliff Segerblom. He served as the first official photographer for the Boulder Dam project.
After his death in 1990, Gene Segerblom attended several shows featuring her husband’s work, primarily watercolor paintings and photography.
In addition to her son, Gene Segerblom is survived by a daughter, Robin Liggett of Manhattan Beach, Calif.; five grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
At Gene Segerblom’s request, there will be no public services.
The family said donations can be made in Gene Segerblom’s memory to the Boulder City Museum, one of the many landmarks she fought to preserve.
Ed Koch is a retired longtime Sun reporter.