» The tornado that ripped through Omaha 100 years ago today was the worst weather event in Omaha's history. Could it also have been part of the worst weather in the nation's history?
Arguing the affirmative is Trudy E. Bell, a science and technology writer from Akron, Ohio. The storms that started on Easter Sunday, she said, cut a wide, destructive swath through many states that wasn't apparent a century ago.
As the Akron Beacon-Journal reported this week: “What many people have come to see as profoundly local tragedies was actually part of a storm system that Bell is convinced is the No. 1 weather event in the history of the country.”
Said Bell: “Even post-Katrina and post-Sandy, it's the biggest natural disaster the United States has ever suffered.”
It's a provocative thought. Though there is no definitive account of how many people died, Bell estimated deaths at about 1,000, nearly half of those in Ohio.
As reported in last Sunday's World-Herald, an estimated 103 were killed and 350 were hurt in the Omaha area. The storm system headed east, causing widespread flooding and other destruction.
» On a much different weather note: Omaha posted the highest temperature in the nation 46 years ago this Monday.
The official reading hit 89 on March 25, 1967, and this newspaper reported it was the nation's high — surely a rarity for Omaha. I called the National Weather Service, which verified that records show 89 as Omaha's official high that day, but a meteorologist told me there's no easy way to know whether Omaha has ever posted the nation's high on any other day.
I remember that day well because it came during the week of my first visit to Omaha — on spring break of my freshman year in college.
» A World War II sailor from Omaha who was twice thought to have been killed — along with his brother — died this week in Michigan at 89.
Erwin F. “Erv” Mueller was 17 and his brother Henry was 19 when both were reported dead after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Just before Christmas 1941, an overflow crowd attended a memorial service at First Lutheran Church, where a pastor eulogized the brothers as “true patriots.”
Their German-born parents, who lived at 3724 N. 44th St., grieved their deaths aboard the USS California. But on Jan. 2, 1942, the Mueller family received telegrams from the Navy saying there had been a mistake.
“I laughed and I cried,” their mother said. “I shook so much that a lady who was visiting us had to hold my arms.”
The former Tech High students and World-Herald carriers came home on leave before returning to the South Pacific. On Jan. 29, 1943, the brothers were serving on the cruiser Chicago when it was sunk in the Solomon Islands.
In that case, fears soon were allayed — both had made it to life rafts, and the Muellers weren't actually reported as casualties. Both survived the war.
Erv, who later lived in Illinois and Utah, was buried Thursday in Ishpeming, Mich., with military honors — 72 years after his first memorial service with military honors in Omaha. Henry preceded him in death.
» As a World-Herald report indicated this week, the role of Father Tim Lannon in successfully lobbying for Creighton University's invitation to join the Big East Conference shouldn't be underestimated.
Long before he became CU's first alum to serve as the school's president, Tim wasn't shy. As student body president 40 years ago, he made an appointment with then-Coach Eddie Sutton to say students wanted a more up-tempo style of basketball.
He is famed more for his “people skills” than his knowledge of basketball. As far as is known, he hasn't given coaching suggestions to Greg McDermott, whose Bluejays defeated Cincinnati on Friday in the NCAA tournament.
In the Big East, recruiting will be crucial. Three years ago, a Creighton recruiting trip also was crucial — CU board members secretly flew to Philadelphia, where Lannon was president of St. Joseph's University, to try to persuade him to come to Creighton.
The presidency of Marquette University also was open, and some at Creighton feared that Lannon would take that post in Milwaukee. He did meet with Marquette officials but eventually accepted the job as head Bluejay in Omaha.
» Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in downtown Omaha is offering something new for Holy Week: late-night gatherings called “Last Call Omaha.”
No alcohol will be served, but spaghetti will be provided for Maundy Thursday, and dessert will be served Saturday night.
“It's exciting that the ancient and mysterious story of Easter is being remembered and celebrated in such a creative new way,” said Bishop J. Scott Barker. “I can't wait to see how this midnight adventure turns out.”
The nondenominational Last Call, open to all who are searching for “real world” spiritual dialogue and fellowship, begins at 10:30 p.m. Thursday in the cathedral basement, 109 N. 18th St. Events start at midnight on Good Friday and Holy Saturday.
The cathedral hopes especially to attract young adults. Speakers will come from the Food Bank of the Heartland, Siena-Francis House homeless shelter and the YMCA.
» Among those attending the ceremonial swearing in of the U.S. secretary of defense last week in Washington, D.C., were the secretary's long-ago political science professor.
When Chuck Hagel returned from serving in Vietnam, he enrolled at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and took a course in 1971 from Professor Orville D. Menard. Over the years they became friends, but the prof hadn't been able to attend Hagel's swearing in for his two terms in the U.S. Senate.
Now retired, Orv and his wife, Darlene, received a formal invitation from Vice President Joe Biden to attend the March 14 ceremony at the Pentagon.
Besides the vice president and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Menard said, attendees included three-star generals, members of Congress and ambassadors from many countries.
At a reception afterward, Darlene posed for a photo with a longtime Hagel friend from his days with the USO — the host of TV's “Jeopardy,” Alex Trebek.
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