Omaha civic leaders and philanthropists Mike and Gail Yanney were standing in the middle of a downtown intersection Sunday afternoon next to their smashed-up car.
They looked a little rattled — who wouldn’t? But the good news is they were standing.
The crash had happened minutes before. I was walking toward the Old Market about 4 p.m. when I noticed the flashing lights of police cruisers at 13th and Farnam Streets.
I approached the Yanneys, who said they were physically OK. Airbags had deployed, and their car was totaled.
Just back from a vacation in Alaska, they had headed west on Farnam. Mike, behind the wheel, had a green light — but out of the corner of his eye he sensed a car coming fast from his left, headed north on 13th.
“I slammed on the brakes as hard as I could,” he said.
A witness waiting to cross the street told police that the northbound car ran a red light, striking the front end of the Yanneys’ vehicle.
The 30-year-old driver, who was not injured, was ticketed.
“I hope she is fine,” Mike Yanney said when I checked back later in the week. “There’s a good lesson in this for everybody.”
No. 1, don’t run red lights. But it’s also a reminder that a green light doesn’t necessarily mean an intersection is safe.
Fortunately, Yanney, 84, reacted quickly, and the impact was toward the front bumper. It was a severe jolt.
“The airbags and the seat belts,” he said, “saved our lives.”
But if he had reacted a split second later and his car had braked, say, 6 feet farther into the intersection, the impact would have landed squarely on his door.
Australian sees Huskers beat Bluejays in latest Omaha visit
If you run into John Pearson during his latest visit from Australia, be sure to tell him, “G’day!”
Since his first Omaha visit in 2011, he’s become a big Omaha booster. “I love it!”
A former aircraft refueler in Sydney, John visited Boston seven years ago and decided to take a three-week train trip to San Francisco before flying home.
After a stop in Buffalo, New York, to see nearby Niagara Falls and then a few days in Chicago, he decided to sample Omaha “because that’s where Warren Buffett lives.”
He said “G’day” to a police officer, David Bowes, who became a friend and since has retired. Thursday night, John attended the Nebraska-Creighton volleyball match along with 14,000 others at the CHI Health Center, including David’s brother, Bill Bowes, chief of the Papillion Fire Department.
A favorite Omaha memory, the Aussie said, was a December night when he stood on the footbridge at the downtown Gene Leahy Mall, with people skating in the frozen lagoon, recorded music playing on a loudspeaker and white lights sparkling in the trees.
“It was so tranquil, with everybody just enjoying life,” he said. “I could have died and gone to heaven because I was already halfway there.”
At 82, he offers advice: “Don’t grow old! Keep yourself active.”
Omaha trumpeter-singer is moving to Arizona
Trumpeter-singer Mike “Gooch” Gurciullo, an Omaha native who performed for 15 years in Las Vegas before coming home a decade ago, is taking his act to Arizona.
Ever since returning to Omaha, he has led a popular big band on Monday nights at the Ozone Lounge at Anthony’s Steakhouse. One night, he recognized an old friend in the audience, schoolteacher Elaine Flaxbeard.
They married in 2010 and, of course, Gooch gave her a smooch.
Besides leading the big band and occasionally touring with other acts, he has played at the Omaha Community Playhouse and other venues. In addition to driving for VIP Limo and painting houses, last year he painted the iconic black Angus steer on the roof of Anthony’s near 72nd Street and I-80.
He will continue at the Ozone on Monday nights until he and his wife move to the Phoenix area in early November. He expects to see more musical opportunities there, besides being closer to Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
The band will continue at the Ozone under the leadership of Dennis Strawn, who plans to include a variety of singers.
Racehorse Ransom the Moon will stand at stud next year
Postscript to a recent column on Jeff Wilke, who owns “one leg” (a fourth) of the racehorse Ransom the Moon:
It was announced this week that the 6-year-old stallion will stand at stud in 2019 at the famed Calumet Farm in Kentucky. It’s a big deal, though financial terms weren’t disclosed.
“Moon” has qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs on Nov. 3. Horse-racing publications reported that the horse then will retire from racing.