As the Nebraska Cornhuskers prepare for the final game on New Year's Day, another hardworking group is gearing up, too — the Cornhusker Marching Band.
Among those playing their final game in a Nebraska band uniform are fifth-year seniors Derek Hupp of Lincoln and Dylan Heng of Nebraska City. Football players can play only four years out of five, but there is no limit for the band.
Alto-sax players Derek and Dylan are two of a dozen fifth- or sixth-year band members bowing out after Wednesday's game in Jacksonville, Fla.
They fly out of Lincoln at 6 a.m. Monday, but band members are used to rising early. Each school day during the season, they practice from 7 a.m. to 8:20 a.m. at Memorial Stadium.
Derek, a global studies major who will enter the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha next year, said being a band member is a privilege. He and buddy Dylan figured that the bowl game will be their 50th game performance.
“Our entire goal is to support the football team,” Derek said. “Our band director (Tony Falcone) always says we support the team no matter the opponent, no matter the score.
“The team has it a lot tougher than we do because they are in a fish bowl. There's nothing riding on it if I miss a note in a halftime show, other than being mad at myself.”
The team also endures injuries. The band might have someone with a stress fracture in a foot, or a couple of musicians passing out in summer camp.
The 297-member band will march Tuesday in the Gator Bowl parade. Derek said playing “Hail, Varsity” for the final time Wednesday will be poignant.
He says that the Huskers have a good chance to win against Georgia but noted that Nebraska is 0-6 in postseason games where he and Dylan have played in the band — three conference title games and three bowls. (A snowstorm kept the band in Lincoln for the Holiday Bowl that NU won in San Diego their freshman year.)
No matter the opponent, no matter the score: As the fight song says, fans stick together in all kinds of weather.
Said Dylan: “This might be our last game in uniform, but we will be Huskers for life.”
» Helen Robinson was excited, her family said, that a World-Herald photographer had taken her picture as a patient being escorted at Methodist Hospital.
Her smiling visage appeared on the front page Thursday with a column about Bob Dearing and the hospital's patient escort service. The photo by Rebecca Gratz was shot earlier this month.
“Mom had joked that the photographer took so many pictures, it might break the camera,” said daughter Desiree Juelfs of Ithaca, Neb.
Unfortunately, Helen didn't get to see her photo. Unknown to the newspaper, she died on Wednesday.
Desiree said the family was glad to see the picture, partly because it doesn't have many of her.
“Mom was not a picture person,” she said. “She was always thinking of other people and put everyone else in front of herself. She never asked for anything and always made do with everything she had.”
Helen grew up in the Ozarks of Missouri and married at 15. She and husband Jerald would have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on Feb. 3.
|Columnists Michael Kelly, Erin Grace and Matthew Hansen write about people, places and events around Omaha. Read more of their work here.|
They moved to Omaha in 1966 and to Fremont in 1991.
She recently went to Methodist Hospital for chemotherapy treatments for Stage 3 uterine cancer. She also took thinners for blood clots.
“We thought she was doing great,” Jerald said. But on Christmas Day at home, she said she needed to rest. She broke into a sweat, and an ambulance took her to the Fremont Area Medical Center, where she died. She was 65.
Besides her husband and daughter, she is survived by her son, Jerald Robinson Jr. of Fremont, as well as six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. A memorial service is set for 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Ludvigsen Mortuary Chapel in Fremont.
» Carla Shearon of Bloomfield, Neb., received a special gift for Christmas — a first-time trip to Hawaii to visit her daughter.
Carla was diagnosed with ALS, often called Lou Gehrig's disease, four years ago at age 54. Her trip is courtesy of the Gleason Foundation, founded by former New Orleans Saints football player Steve Gleason, who also has ALS.
Carla and husband Rick are visiting daughter Rita and her husband.
In a message provided by Omaha-based ALS of the Heartland, Carla said: “Steve Gleason inspires me with his determination not to allow a disease like ALS to limit what he can and can't do. ... I'm just overwhelmed by the generosity and compassion of others.”
» Arnie Kimmel, an Omaha Central High and University of Michigan graduate, was hired this month as CEO of Franciscan St. James Health in the Chicago area.
The SouthtownStar newspaper said Kimmel, 67, has experience returning underperforming hospitals to profitability.
After the announcement of his hiring for the health care network with Catholic roots, Kimmel said: “I just told a bunch of physicians that for a Jewish kid from Nebraska, I've done a lot of work for Catholic hospitals.”