LILLIE SIMSON VAN VOORHIS PINGER
The information below has been compiled from a variety of sources. If the reader has access to information that can be documented and that will correct or add to this woman’s biographical information, please contact the Nevada Women’s History Project.
At A Glance:
Born:September 1878 in Kansas
Died: Dec. 27. 1959 in Redwood City, California
Maiden Name: Lillie Simson
Race/Nationality/Ethnic Background: Caucasian
Marrried: Walter A. Van Voorhis, Leo Pinger
Children: Wayne Van Voorhis and Bruce Avery Van Voorhis
Primary City and County of Residence and Work:
Fallon, Churchill County
Major Fields of Work: Civil service
Other Role Identities: State Assemblywoman, Nov. 1929
Family deaths did not derail woman’s service to state and community
Lillie Pinger suffered many personal losses in her life, yet rose above them to serve her neighbors and fellow Nevadans in the Fallon community and as a Nevada State Assemblywoman from Churchill County.
Lillie, whose childhood name may have been Lilba, Simson was born in September 1878 in Kansas to Alice and Winfield Simson. She had an older sister, Lulie, and a younger brother, Joel Daniel.
She married Walter A. Van Voorhis in Aberdeen, Washington, where she taught in an Indian school. After the birth of the couple’s sons, Wayne and Bruce Avery , her husband moved the family, including Lillie’s mother Alice Simson, to Fallon in 1909 when he became the Indian agent for the Stillwater Indian Reservation.
The family moved into the town of Fallon in 1917, when Van Voorhis left the Indian agent job and was employed by the I.H. Kent Co. lumberyard. He died of pneumonia in January 1919. Lille, a widow at 41, was employed as a bookkeeper on an experimental farm and continued to live in Fallon with her sons and her mother. In 1920, she changed jobs, becoming secretary to the Board of Directors of the Truckee Carson Irrigation District, serving until 1934.
She married Leo Pinger on Sept. 14, 1921. Pinger had come with his brother Harry from Golden, Colorado, and bought the Lowe Ranch. Leo died on Dec. 14, 1941 and Lillie was once again a widow at age 63.
Tragedy continued to haunt Lillie with the onset of World War II. Wayne, her older son, a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, was captured on Bataan in the Philippines and suffered the infamous Death March in early 1942. She found out almost three months later that he had died of malaria. This was only after information hidden by fellow captives from the Japanese was discovered upon the liberation of Camp O’Donnell by American forces.
In the same year, her younger son Bruce Avery Van Voorhis, a Naval Academy graduate and Naval aviator, was killed in action during a heroic solo dive bombing raid in the Pacific that singlehandedly destroyed a vital Japanese base on Hare Island in the Solomon Islands. Again, Lillie had to wait for confirmation of his death. Bruce Van Voorhis, who had asked to serve in the Pacific after his brother’s death, had been listed only as missing since July 1943. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor after his death, and the Naval Auxiliary Air Station in Fallon was named Van Voorhis Field in November 1959.
In 1928, Lillie Pinger ran as a Republican against two male candidates and won a seat in the 1929 Nevada State Assembly as an advocate of children’s rights. She favored moving the State Orphans Home to Fallon, where she believed that the “equitable climate in the Lahontan Valley” would be much more agreeable for children and that they would attend some of the best schools in the state. She also sponsored two bills, one authorizing Churchill County road bonds and another regulating transportation and sale of poultry. She was a member of the following committees: Claims; State Institutions; Federal Relations. She was chair of the Irrigation Committee.
She died on Sunday, Dec. 27, 1959 in Redwood City, Calif., on a holiday visit. Lillie belonged to the Order of Eastern Star, serving as Worthy Matron and Grand Marshal. She was also a charter member of the Lahontan Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, holding several offices. She was a charter member of the Entre Nous card club.
Researched by Patti Bernard and written by Janice Hoke. Posted to website October 2017.
- Ancestry.com: Lily Pinger, 1930 United States Federal Census, Fallon, Churchill, Nevada.
- Ancestry.com: Lillie Pinger, 1940 United States Federal Census, Fallon, Churchill, Nevada.
- “Lillie VanVoorhis Pinger,” Pinger, Vertical File, Churchill County Museum and Archives, article and photo, miscellaneous notes, biography
- “Lillie Pinger Dies Sunday in Redwood City, California.” Fallon Eagle Standard (Nevada). Jan. 1, 1960. Pinger, Vertical File, Churchill County Museum and Archives.
- “Lillie V. Pinger.” Fallon Eagle Standard (Nevada). Aug. 18, 1928 and Oct. 20, 1928. Pinger. Vertical File, Churchill County Museum and Archives.
- “Lt. Van Voorhis Malaria Victim.” Oct. 26, 1945, Reno Gazette Journal (Nevada). p3:4.
- Walter A. Van Voorhis, www.onlinenevada.org/articles/walter-van-voorhis.
- “Women in the Nevada Legislature,” http://www.leg.state.nv.us/Division/Research/Publications/Bkground/BP95-01.pdf.