Editor's note: This is the first edition of our weekly columnists mailbag. Erin Grace, Matthew Hansen and Michael Kelly will answer reader questions about past columns. Want to get your two-bits' worth in? Send them an email. Contact info is listed at the end of this column.
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Matthew Hansen recently wrote a column about being a long-suffering Nebraska basketball fan as the Huskers prepared to play their final game at the Devaney Center. The column generated feedback from strangers, as well as this one:
Great article. I'm your Mom's oldest cousin. I had season tickets for NU BB ever since they moved into the Sports Center in 1977.
We moved to Goodland in 1989 where I coached and taught until 2008. I'm still a staunch Husker fan and have been to many home and away games in that time. We take the Sunday OWH and I have read other articles you've written.
Keep up the good work.
Sincerely, Wally Hansen
Cousin Wally: I am running your email for the express purpose of telling the following story.
In November 2003, I wrote a story for the Lincoln Journal Star breaking the news that then-athletic director Steve Pederson was planning to push Frank Solich out after the Nebraska football team's last regular season game.
People were not happy about this story. On Thanksgiving Day, I opened the Journal Star to see a letter-to-the-editor calling for my firing.
This letter was written by one of my relatives.
(For the record, it was not Wally.)
See you soon at the family reunion!
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I enjoy reading your columns so much! Barb at the jail, made me cry. Pantless Ken, best job ever. And like Randy Siske, I cheer Nebraska men's basketball and make my husband take me to a game every year for my birthday present (I'm the sports fan, he is not).
It is very apparent that writing is your passion and I'm excited you're at the World-Herald. Keep up the great work!
First, Michele, thank you.
Secondly: You make your husband take you to a Nebraska basketball game as a birthday present?! This intrigues me for several reasons.
Reason No. 1: My wife can't stand Nebraska basketball. She likes the occasional football game, and she completely dug our trip to Chicago's Wrigley Field, but the Devaney Center, not so much.
We once snagged two prime tickets right behind the Husker bench. We were so close to the action that whenever the TV cameras focused on the Husker bench, you could see us in the background. On at least two occasions, TV viewers caught a glimpse of my significant other. She was knitting.
Reason No. 2: Your husband needs to step it up. Listen up, Mr. Lastovica. Next year, an early dinner at Venue followed by a limo ride to the Pinnacle Bank Arena. If your wife's birthday wish is to watch the Nebraska basketball lose, let's at least do it in style.
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Erin Grace thought the odds of seeing a Jesuit pope were about as long as seeing a woman assume the chair of St. Peter. At least one reader was quick to remind her of the old admonition, “Never assume.”
“By design, the Jesuits, as part of their nearly 500-year-old charter, don't seek positions of church office, such as bishop, cardinal or pope, and aren't therefore in the pipeline.”
Well, that sure changed in a hurry!
I'd love to think the fates aligned on Tuesday, when my column ran about Prep teacher and Jesuit priest-to-be Vince Strand being in Rome during the papal conclave. And that the fates decided to prove me wrong. If that were the case, I'd write a lot more stuff for the fates to undo. I might start with winter.
Yes, we in Nebraska are wimps. Four to eight inches of snow = Snowmageddon. Milwaukee calls it 3-4 inches of lake effect. Being a transplant from Wisconsin, I have never met a Wisconsin snow wimp. People in Colorado, Wisconsin and other northern states embrace the snow and its activities.
It is winter, it snows, you start out early and travel slow.
My middle name is wimp. Especially when it snows in March, when I've lost tolerance for winter weather. I think Wisconsinites and their hardy brethren (and sisteren) can enjoy winter because when it comes, it really commits to staying. Winter takes off its coat in Milwaukee and stays a while. And everyone has a beer. In Omaha, winter can't make up its mind. It comes, it goes and so, like a jilted girlfriend, I can't get too attached. I've got two words for this winter: Buh-bye!
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Erin Grace wrote one day about two greeters at the Estabrook Cancer Center, Joyce Thomas and Ethel Martin. Readers, including this widow, wrote in about their own experiences with the two women.
My husband HATED doctors and hospitals. Don very reluctantly walked through the doors, met Joyce and Ethel and knew he had a fighting chance. After he had his initial evaluation and meeting with so many caring people, we went out for supper to celebrate life. Two years later, he subsequently lost his war with cancer. One of his last thoughts was to tell me to make sure the people at Estabrook knew what they meant to him. All the family holds a warm place in our hearts for them, especially Joyce and Ethel, who greeted Don with a hug and smile every visit.
I'm so sorry about your loss. I think it takes incredible grace to see the beauty amid such a hard situation. So thank you for sharing this. I'm not sure how Joyce, Ethel and the other caregivers can do such important but emotionally laden work. Certainly I saw the warmth and compassion they shared with families like yours reciprocated. They seemed to make real connections, as your experience shows.
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Mike Kelly's column after the election of Pope Francis drew a response from former Des Moines Register columnist Chuck Offenburger.
“Nice insights on the new pope, and pulled together so quickly,” he wrote. “It reminded me how a columnist's most reliable tools are his or her experiences — your observations on your grandson's confirmation, recalling the movie 'We Have a Pope,' knowing Father Don Doll from Creighton and your recent trip to Rome. You just never quite know when you're going to have to pull them out and use them! . . . I've read your column-colleagues' work, too, and they're good. Quite the stableful of horses you've got there now at OWH!”
Chuck, you know the column-writing game as well as anyone. I appreciate your kind note. And thanks for your note about colleagues Matthew and Erin, two of many excellent writers at The World-Herald.
I told someone after talking at a Rotary meeting today that I think our writing staff today is the strongest it has been in my 43 years at the paper. And they're almost all younger than me!
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Mike Kelly's column about turning 65 later this year, but not planning to retire, drew dozens of responses.
“I've found myself — at an age when many people are anxious to slow down and plan for retirement — starting a new career,” wrote Mary Ridder of the Ridder Hereford Ranch in Callaway, Neb. “Part-time, flexible and off-site, but still wanted to be challenged and to do something new and different.”
Mary, many thanks to you and others who wrote me, almost all encouraging of the idea of working as long as I enjoy it. A few, though, said I should reconsider because retirement is great. And one unsupportive correspondent all but invited me out the door.
I met a psychotherapist the other day who said she has talked to a number of male clients who are fearful of retirement because of a possible poorer self-image. Everyone is different. Nothing wrong with retiring if you're ready and plan to stay active. I'm just not ready. As Bernie of Omaha wrote: “Retirement eligible does not mean retirement-ready.”
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Mike's column on musician Mike “Gooch” Gurciullo, drew an email from Carmie Egger of Omaha:
“We are so fortunate to have Mike back in Omaha. Vegas' loss is our gain. He has received numerous calls and Facebook messages from many, many people.”
Carmie, I loved getting to “research” Mike's music more than once at the Ozone Lounge. You're right — he is terrific. And so is his “Las Vegas Big Band,” which more people should see and hear. Great for dancing. And to think there's not even a cover charge. Omaha has such a great live-music scene, of whatever genre you like.
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James Polack of Omaha wrote about Mike Kelly's column on Andy Greenberg, who survived the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and delivers one-minute motivational commentaries on more than 200 radio stations.
“If there were more Andy Greenbergs in the world, it would be a much better place,” James wrote. “It was great to learn a little more about someone I thought I already knew pretty well. But he is more of a treasure to the community than you know.”
He is one of a kind, James. Andy's longtime volunteer work at the Rose Blumkin Home, communicating to people of all ages, has inspired many to volunteer. And he never runs out of stories that make simple but important points about life.
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Mike App of Omaha responded to the Kelly column on lifelong friends Bill Honke, 47, and Mike Moylan, 48, who became fathers for the first time when their wives each gave birth to twin boys days apart.
“Thanks for the profile of my old-fogie pals,” wrote Mike App of Omaha. “That was priceless and has caused some great email and phone chatter from friends we hadn't heard from in too long — and from all over the country.”
Talk about a fun column to write. You should have seen the old dads, Bill and Mike, waving their hands and making faces to try to get the 3-month-olds to smile as our photographer shot photos. The babies may not have thought the dads were funny, but moms Molly Maguire and Sigrid Moylan cracked up at their antics.
By the way, Mike, I like your comment that you and friends took Bill and Mike out and referred to the evening as “dinner for the sleep deprived.”
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