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Kelly: Daughters playing in big leagues, romantically

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Kelly: Daughters playing in big leagues, romantically

Mary Catherine and Mark Melancon in 2009, when he played for the New York Yankees.


Bob and Sue Cimino of Omaha are enjoying big-league baseball more than most this summer — with a son-in-law and a future son-in-law having terrific seasons.

Their daughter Mary Catherine is married to Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Mark Melancon, who earned a save in a big series this week against the St. Louis Cardinals. The first-place Pirates owned the best record in the majors entering this weekend — after 20 straight losing seasons.

The Ciminos' other daughter, Christine, is engaged to Los Angeles Angels outfielder J.B. Shuck, who hit his first big-league home run Monday night. In a time-honored tradition, his teammates gave him “the silent treatment” when he returned to the dugout. (They eventually smiled and high-fived him.)

Mark and J.B.'s teams met earlier this summer in Los Angeles, but they didn't face each other as pitcher and batter. “Thank God for small favors,” Bob said.

Another Omaha connection to the Pirates is pitcher Tony Watson, a former Husker who married Cassie Kleinsmith, a classmate of Mary Catherine Cimino's at Marian High.

Mary Catherine met Mark at her university, Notre Dame, when he played there in an NCAA regional game. He later pitched in the College World Series, and their rehearsal dinner in 2009 was in the Stadium View Club at Rosenblatt Stadium.

Christine and J.B. (he attended Ohio State) met in Houston in 2011 when he and Mark played for the Astros. The wedding will be at Notre Dame on Nov. 9.

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» Kitty Lee Dahlberg started teaching dance in her basement with three girls from her neighborhood, but over the years she opened studios and the number of students totaled thousands — including several Miss Nebraskas and Radio City Music Hall Rockettes.

On June 8, in a wheelchair, she received a prolonged standing ovation from about 1,000 people at Burke High School during a recital for the Kitty Lee Dance Studio. She died on July 16 at 85.

“What was nice,” said daughter Diane Hansen, who now runs the studio, “was that a lot of her former students who live out of town actually came to see her the last couple of months.”

Her former dance students seemed to be everywhere, including one of her nurses in the hospital, and rehabilitation aides. Many became dance teachers, including Diane and her daughters, now in their 20s.

“Miss Kitty,” who retired after 52 years, started dancing when she was 4.

She graduated from Omaha Tech High in 1946 and met her husband, Jack, at a dance after he returned from the war. “He was a great dancer,” she said, “and we really hit if off.”

Besides Jack and Diane, survivors include sons Steven and Donald, and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Diane said the studio at 168th and Blondo Streets has about a dozen teachers and 550 students, and she hopes her daughters keep it going for future generations. She said one thing won't change — it will always be named the Kitty Lee Dance Studio.

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» Rich Hartom, a retired steamfitter from New Jersey, was vacationing in Montana last summer when he came across two Omahans on a cross-continent bicycle ride.

Bill Staley and Frank Jenson were riding to raise money and awareness for the Tourette Syndrome Association. Rich was so impressed that he offered to meet them weeks later — after he flew home — at the end of their two-month, 3,465-mile trek.

He did so in New York City's Central Park, and that led to a friendship. Rich recently flew to Omaha and accompanied the two buddies and three of their friends on a bike ride through parts of Wyoming, South Dakota and Nebraska.

“There's a lot of beauty in this country,” Rich said. “And you see the true American spirit out there — the kindness was unbelievable.”

On a 97-degree day, Rich asked at a small gas station if there was a place to rent a pickup truck so he could drive a couple of overheated riders into town. A woman pointed to a pickup and said, “You can have this one. Will you bring it back?”

Yes, he brought it back.

OWH Columnists
Columnists Michael Kelly, Erin Grace and Matthew Hansen write about people, places and events around Omaha. Read more of their work here.

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» After 30,000 miles on his bicycle, David Patrick of Lincoln could feel as though he's not getting anywhere — after all, it's a stationary bike.

But he figures all the pedaling has gotten him a lot, including fitness at 81.

“I'm in pretty good health compared to what I was in 1987,” he said this week. “And my legs are in good shape.”

In '87, he suffered a heart attack. Though not overweight, he had smoked from age 15 until quitting a few years earlier at about 55.

“I shouldn't have started in the first place,” he said. “I grew up in Scottsbluff and smoked when I spent eight summers working on a ranch in Wyoming.”

David retired in 1991 from the First National Bank of Lincoln. In 2007, he reached 20,000 miles on the bike, which he rides after breakfast while watching television. When he got to 30,000 last week there was no celebration.

“I just kept going,” he said. “I try to ride about 10 miles a day.”

Now it's on to 40,000?

“If I'm still around, I'll be working on it.”

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» The “Armed Forces Medley” is always stirring, especially when former service members stand in an audience when the song for their branch of the military is played.

The Jimmy B Orchestra, which will play its big-band music from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. today at the Sarpy County Fairgrounds, takes that a step further. Bandleader Jim Bochnicek asks veterans and active members of the military to come to the front of the stage.

“Most of them don't know each other,” he said, “but it's so awesome when they come up and shake hands with one another like they've known each other forever.”

The band follows that with “God Bless America” and taps. There will be a special salute to the American Legion posts of Bellevue, Gretna, Papillion and Springfield.

Lots of other good songs will be played, too. Admission is free.

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