» For many years while visiting Omaha from her native Mexico, she traveled with a passport that listed her birthday as 11-11-11.
Last week, Ninfa Concepción Jaúregui Herrero died on 12-12-12.
Her actual birthday may have been Nov. 10, granddaughter Jennifer Magilton of Omaha said, but for some reason that's not what her passport showed. The good thing is that she was able to take care of herself until three years ago and lived to 101.
“When I was growing up,” said Jennifer, “my grandma would come to visit and stay for two or three months at a time. All of my friends knew her. She would make us quesadillas.”
Jennifer, 38, called her by the nickname “Conina.” She didn't speak English and stood under 5 feet tall, but she imbued her granddaughter with a huge love for the Mexican half of her heritage. (Jennifer is Scotch-Irish on her father's side.)
Jennifer learned to speak Spanish while visiting Conina often in Mexico City, and she said her bilingual ability helps in her real estate business.
Last week she had just returned from a wedding in Cancun when she learned that Conina was dying. She flew right back to Mexico for the funeral.
“Conina loved coming to Omaha in the winter,” Jennifer recalled. “She never came in the summer. She liked snow.”
» During locker-room chatter, Matt Overton of the Indianapolis Colts surprised his teammates with a culinary recommendation.
“For some odd reason, Omaha has the best sushi I've ever had,” Matt said. ”There's a chain place out there called Blue Sushi, high-end sushi. I tell people Omaha serves the best sushi and it's in the heart of our country, near no water.”
The Indianapolis Star reported that when he mentioned the restaurant's “Husker Roll,” the skepticism got to be too much for one teammate: “And the best ocean-view property is in Idaho Falls, Idaho.”
Two years ago, Matt played for the Omaha Nighthawks. A long snapper (he centers for punts, field goals and extra points), he didn't say whether he recommended other dishes — like, oh, snapper.
» Inspired by a video titled “Free Hugs in Italy,” nursing instructors at Nebraska Methodist College this fall emphasized the importance of human caring.
They took it up a step further, trying to lessen test anxiety by holding up “free hugs” signs and then giving out hugs to students who asked for them. It became a pre-test ritual.
On final-exam day, instructors brought Hershey's Kisses, but a surprise followed. In a kind of flash mob, students took off their coats, revealing each wearing a purple shirt with FREE HUGS in large pink letters.
Each instructor then was presented a shirt, with the names of the students and teachers on the back.
Said instructor Echo Perlman: “What amazing students to coordinate something so meaningful. It truly brought us to tears.”
Sounds like the hugs had an effect. You might say the students had totally embraced their studies — and the message of human caring.
» Postscript to last Saturday's item about Dave Webber's absence from hosting Christmas with the Symphony for the first time in 20 years because he is recovering from a heart attack and gallbladder surgery:
Symphony violin soloist Anne Nagosky visited Dave's home Thursday along with seven of her student violinists. They serenaded him and his family with Christmas carols, ending with “What Child Is This?”
Symphony CEO James Johnson said 38 student violinists between the ages of about 5 and 18 played that piece at last weekend's Christmas show. Because it was the weekend of the Connecticut massacre, he said, the poignancy of the performance “brought a hush over the audience every night.”
» Korean War veteran Ray Stratman, who retired as a manager for the U.S. Postal Service, played Santa Claus for 25 years for a young man with multiple physical and mental handicaps.
“When Bobby heard Santa's bells on Christmas morning,” said Geri Stratman, “he could hardly contain himself.”
Her husband died in October, but he already had purchased gifts for Bobby, which the Stratman family will make certain are delivered by Santa.
A longtime volunteer at the Siena-Francis House for the homeless, Ray also played Santa for children there — as well as for his own grandchildren. One year the grandkids got suspicious as to Santa's identity, so he showed up with gifts as the Easter Bunny. And then he wore a Santa suit at Easter.
Said Geri: “Our children say that if their kids have any psychological problems, they can blame them on us.”
» Howard T. Swain Jr. of Omaha adds a humorous note to a column last week about the late Itey Crummer, who helped save the old Union Station and reinstated its Christmas tree tradition.
The 1931 Art Deco structure (now the beautiful Durham Museum) was in danger of being razed before Itey and others mounted a campaign to save it. Howard served on the committee when a large Christmas tree was dropped off in the 1970s.
The building was temporarily being used as a bus station, and Itey instructed him to recruit passengers from the waiting area. They went outside and helped push it in.
Then they were invited to a room for Christmas caroling — and wine, poured into plastic cups.
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