Mourners Begin Paying Respects To Richard Milanovich

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - Starting Monday, friends, family and well-wishers will gather to honor Richard Milanovich, the chairman of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, who died earlier this month at the age of 69 after a two- year battle with cancer.

A viewing will be held from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday and from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday.

A public remembrance ceremony is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Wednesday, followed by a celebration of life reception at noon. All events will be at the Palm Springs Convention Center.

Parking will be available at the corner of Avenida Caballeros and Amado Road, according to a statement from Agua Caliente tribal spokespeople.

The services will celebrate Milanovich's "life, legacy and contributions to the city of Palm Springs, the Agua Caliente Tribe and the Native American community," the tribe's statement said.

Milanovich, who died at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage on March 11, began serving on the Tribal Council in 1978 and was elected the tribe's chairman in 1984.

Many tribal and community projects were undertaken during his tenure, including the purchase of the Spa Hotel in 1992; the addition of the Spa Resort Casino in 1995; development and construction of the Agua Caliente Casino in 2001; and the opening of the $90 million Spa Resort Casino in 2003 and the Spa Hotel's Well Spirit Center Fitness Center in 2004.

The Palm Springs resident also oversaw construction of the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa's new hotel and expansion in 2008, followed by the completion of the tribe's entertainment venue, The Show, in February 2009.

Milanovich, who earned a bachelor of science in business and management from the University of Redlands in 1996, was instrumental in the passage of Prop. 5, the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, which governs gambling operations on Indian land, and met with both presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

"But it was his common touch that has made him such a popular national figure... His warm magnanimous spirit and his deep respect for our common humanity have charmed everyone he encountered and disarmed the most recalcitrant politician," the tribe's statement said.

Milanovich is survived by his wife of 37 years, Melissa, and six children, Scott, Reid, Trista, Sean, Travis and Shari.

Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet ordered that the flag at City Hall be flown at half-staff today and Tuesday in honor of Milanovich. He said this year's Palm Springs Veterans Day Parade would be dedicated to the memory of the late tribal chairman, an Army veteran who was particularly fond of the parade.

A condolence book is available for the public to sign at the Palm Springs Public Library at 300 S. Sunrise Way.

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