Scherry Teague Harrah, former actress and showgirl who helped William F. Harrah decorate his Reno and Lake Tahoe casinos, has died. She was 75.
Harrah, one of the longest tenured of the late gambling magnate’s six wives, died Sunday in Reno of breast cancer, said Gary Nelson, an attorney for her son, Tony Harrah.
The Chattanooga, Tenn.,-born Scherry Teague worked in Hollywood before moving to Reno in the mid-1940s to become a dancer at Harold’s Club, one of the Nevada city’s earliest casinos. She soon met Bill Harrah, who founded his storied Harrah’s Club in Reno in 1946.
Two years after that, she married the generation-older businessman, who died in 1978 at the age of 67. They divorced in 1969, shortly before his brief marriage to pop singer Bobbie Gentry.
Through the 1950s and 1960s, Scherry Harrah chose colors, dishes, furnishings and several decorating elements for her husband’s original casino in Reno and the companion resort he founded in Lake Tahoe in 1955.
She also joined her husband enthusiastically in his avocation: collecting and exhibiting antique cars. The collection expanded to more than 1,500 automobiles and became the nucleus for his antique auto museum in Reno.
Scherry Harrah was active in--and frequently entertained--the Horseless Carriage Club of Nevada. Dressed memorably in pre-1915 costumes, she would drive antique automobiles on long excursions.
What she wore--the period clothing, elegant designer evening ensembles or bargain denim for trimming hedges--became a part of her much-admired persona. Known as a modest and private woman, Harrah was also remembered for her kindness, her ability to treat elevator operators as nicely as she did celebrity entertainers and her self-deprecating sense of humor.
“Once she took on a project, she saw it through,” said Harry Spencer, a writer who had been working with Harrah on her autobiography. “She encouraged her sons to set goals and then get the job done.”
Son Tony now owns the Wild Island Family Adventure Park in Sparks, next to Reno, and son John is a real estate developer in the Reno area.
After her divorce, Harrah remained single and continued to live in Reno, maintaining an interest in her former husband’s businesses and in development of the city. Until recently, she could be seen dining in Harrah’s Reno Steak House.
She also launched businesses of her own: a small casino, a cosmetics company and a juice distribution operation.
Spencer said the autobiography will be completed but no publication date has been set.
Harrah is survived by her sons, John and Tony of Reno, and five grandchildren. Services are private.
Memorial donations can be sent to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, P.O. Box 2425, Reno, NV 89505.