“Life is queer with its twists and turns, as every one of us sometimes learns,” wrote Edward Guest, that relentless poet of optimism. The twists and turns that brought me to Bellevue, Nebraska, on May 9, 1989, were meandering indeed.
The trail started in my native Wales before flying to Toronto where I got my first job in newspapering. From there to New York City, where I met the winsome Mrs. Curtin and landed my second newspaper job before escaping to her native Omaha with two very small children in tow.
So it transpired that I spent 21 of the past 30 years with this newspaper, following the fortunes of Sarpy County generally and Bellevue specifically. It has been as interesting a journey as any that might have befallen me short of being inducted into NASA’s astronaut program.
I was fortunate to arrive at the beginning of a tremendous growth spurt for Bellevue. The 1990s were a time of almost frantic house construction, a population boom that spurred the retail development we see today along Cornhusker Road and Highway 370. There was much to track, and numerous entertaining personalities to follow.
Most of the prominent names of those days have receded now and can be found tending their gardens, living in retirement communities or battling illness. Some, of course, like Joe Baldwin and Big John Stacey have passed on to whatever comes next. Without naming names, I may describe this cast of characters as alternately irascible, combative, funny, sometimes yielding but unfailingly accommodating to the young fella with the accent who seemed to them, I think, eager to figure their town out.
All three of my children now consider Bellevue their hometown. They attended St. Bernadette School, St. Matthew the Evangelist School, Papillion-La Vista South High School and Creighton Prep. The odds against any of this coming to pass must have been spectacular when I was a kid running around the hills and valleys of south Wales, but, then, life is indeed strange with its twists and turns.
Probably the Great Designer, and whatever angel he assigned to me, plan a few more twists and turns before the final whistle blows, and one of them is at hand.
It turns out Creighton University needs a little help in the wordsmithing department, and so I’ll be heading over there to do my bit. In fact, given that this paper will be published July 31, I’m already there, my first day being July 30.
I’m happy to do this. Creighton University is one of Nebraska’s great institutions and a giant of Omaha history, not to mention a major player in soccer, baseball and basketball. If my 40 years in journalism (my, how time flies!) can help move things along, well, then, all well and good.
I will miss the phone calls from ordinary folk advising me of possible stories, expressing appreciation for this or that, and sometimes helping enhance my understanding with little nuggets of wisdom and experience greater than my own.
I will miss the banter here in the newsroom, which, as anyone who has worked here will testify, is constant and of a high order.
Naturally, it is impossible for me to lose interest in the further adventures of Sarpy County. This remarkably vibrant corner of the great state of Nebraska resides in a warm corner of my heart, to have and to hold till death do us part.
It has been a pleasure to write the first, rough draft of your history — of our history — and given that I won’t be far away, I expect that I’ll be seeing you, in all the old familiar places.