Kelly: He's here for Tom Osborne, but Barry Switzer's more like Bob Devaney -
Published Saturday, March 9, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 1:48 am
From the Notebook
Kelly: He's here for Tom Osborne, but Barry Switzer's more like Bob Devaney

Tonight's tribute in Omaha to Husker legend Tom Osborne, 76, promises to be memorable, with friend and former foe Barry Switzer among the speakers.

Tom and Barry enjoy a longtime, respectful relationship, though in personality type, Barry was more like the late Bob Devaney, another legendary Nebraska coach and athletic director. The pair loved playing practical jokes on each other.

Barry surprised Bob at his 76th birthday party in Kearney in 1991, organized by the Platte Valley Big Red Boosters. Dressed as a chef, the former Oklahoma coach pushed a cake into the room as 260 people sang “Happy Birthday.”

Devaney didn't realize it was Switzer until he took off the chef's cap. Barry took the microphone and gave Bob a bad time about not noticing an old friend who had traveled a long way.

The Bobfather then brought down the house, saying: “I didn't recognize him behind that birthday cake. If he had been carrying a bottle of Jack Daniel's, I would have known who it was.”

John Hlavacek of Omaha will celebrate his 95th birthday tonight with family and friends, and on Sunday will autograph copies of his new book — his 11th.

His book isn't all that's new — he also has a new hip and is recently up and walking. From 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. tomorrow at the New Cassel Retirement Center, 900 N. 90th St., he will sign copies of “Peeking Behind the Iron Curtain,” about his family's summer in 1967.

Hlavacek taught English in China in the 1930s, and he became a United Press war correspondent in the 1940s. He reported from India in the 1950s and from the Caribbean for NBC in the 1960s before moving to Omaha. He became a local news anchor, a travel agent and a member of the City Council in the 1970s.

He has stayed active through the '80s, the '90s, the '00s and whatever you call this decade. Gov. Dave Heineman has proclaimed Tuesday, John's birthday, as “John 'Hlucky' Hlavacek Day” in Nebraska.

For an extremely active 95-year-old with a new hip, what can you say? Hip, hip, hooray!

To celebrate the weekly Omaha Star newspaper's 75th anniversary, The World-Herald and KETV will provide a local high school student a chance for an early start in journalism.

Through March 29, we and the TV station are accepting entries for the Shine a Light contest — a story of up to 500 words on any important issue faced by Omaha-area teens. A version of the winning entry will be published in The World-Herald and broadcast on KETV.

The winner also will be honored at an April 19 gala honoring the Star and supporting its nonprofit Mildred Brown Memorial Study Center for aspiring journalists. The study center is named for the Star's late publisher.

Stories can be emailed to me at or at 1314 Douglas St., Suite 700, Omaha NE 68102. For official rules, go to and click on “contests.”

Omaha has long prided itself on its interfaith respect, and Project Interfaith on Sunday will present architectural tours of houses of worship.

Visitors will see the First Unitarian Church at 3114 Harney St. and the Mormon Trail Center at Winter Quarters, 3215 State St. Check-in begins at 1p.m. at First Unitarian. The fee is $10 for nonstudents and $5 for students.

No proselytizing is allowed. The point is to see diverse cultures and learn the religious meaning behind design elements. The afternoon concludes with a reception at the Mormon Trail Center.

Registration is suggested at, but walk-ins are welcome. Tom Laird of Project Interfaith said attendees on previous tours have been amazed at “spaces they didn't realize existed in their own backyard.”

National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore of Lincoln, whom I wrote about recently, was in Indianapolis last week shooting pictures of zoo animals as part of his international Photo Ark project.

He told the Indianapolis Star that he sympathized with fellow photographers who shoot portraits of humans rather than animals.

“Animals in a way are easier,” he said. “Even if it's a poisonous snake, it's easier than a toddler.”

Greensboro, N.C., is going all out in trying to secure the 2016 U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials, which were held in Omaha in 2008 and 2012.

Omaha remains one of six finalists for 2016.

The Greensboro News & Record says a new aquatic center gives its city an additional site for swimmers besides the competition pool and practice pool at the Greensboro Special Events Center.

More than 1,800 swimmers, a record for the event, competed in Omaha last year. Greensboro officials say a three-pool event may help with those numbers.

The numbers that cities really want to emulate: Omaha sold 160,000 tickets in 2008 and 164,000 last summer, and NBC posted the highest ratings in the time slots for all eight days. Visitors needed more than 24,000 hotel room-nights.

A 14-year veteran of the Navy SEALs, Rorke Denver, has written a book, “Damn Few,” that talks about the psychology involved in developing people physically and mentally.

First impressions, he told the San Diego Union-Tribune last week, can be misleading.

“You'll have a guy who shows up that's cut out of marble, he looks like a Greek god,” Denver said. “He's a top swimmer, he's an elite runner, every tool you can possibly have, and he'll hit that cold ocean water on day two and he'll quit.

“And then right next to him will be a kid from Nebraska, a little pudgy, he's never seen the ocean, he taught himself to swim two weeks before, and we couldn't stop that guy with a nuclear weapon. So it really comes down to what's inside you.”

Contact the writer: 402-444-1132,

Contact the writer: Michael Kelly    |   402-444-1000

Mike writes three columns a week on a variety of topics.

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