Kelly: A sellout crowd awaits first lady in Omaha -
Published Saturday, April 21, 2012 at 1:00 am / Updated at 9:31 am
Kelly: A sellout crowd awaits first lady in Omaha

» First lady Michelle Obama's appearance next Tuesday at the Girls Inc. luncheon in Omaha is officially a sellout: 2,507 people.

Tickets were $100 for the event at the CenturyLink Center. Vic Gutman, a spokesman for Girls Inc., said the crowd could have been larger.

"The White House advance team rearranged our site plan, which cut 20 tables," Gutman said. "We've had to turn people away. And we have more media than ever."

Of the big-name speakers for Girls Inc. luncheons, the only larger crowd, about 2,800, was for former President Bill Clinton. But that was on a Saturday, Gutman said, and the room was configured differently.

The luncheon has featured then-Sen. Barack Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Madeleine Albright and Warren Buffett.

The first lady is national honorary chairwoman of Girls Inc. Gutman said her high "likability rating" and the fact that it's a presidential election year no doubt contributed to the large turnout.

Susie Buffett of Omaha, a national board member of Girls Inc., was instrumental in persuading Mrs. Obama to come to Omaha, Gutman said.

» A hundred years ago today, the Brandeis Theater downtown was packed to overflowing for "the largest audience it ever held."

Lights were low, and black crepe stretched across the stage above a framed photo of Emil Brandeis, the department store executive who had perished at age 48 less than a week earlier on the Titanic.

Rabbi Frederick Cohn gave the invocation, and "the Rev. Mr. Matthews" prayed the benediction.

A front-page story in The World-Herald reported the next day that many paid tribute. Noting the city's loss, one speaker said "no other man would have done as much building in Omaha as Emil Brandeis."

Yesterday at the Durham Museum downtown, I viewed the pocket watch found on Brandeis. It is part of a display about the impact of the Brandeis family.

The J.L. Brandeis & Sons department store was founded by Emil's father, Jonah L. Brandeis. The Brandeis Theater was on the block to the west, at 17th and Douglas Streets. The theater was razed in 1959. The store was closed in 1980, though the 10-story building now houses condominiums.

At the time of the memorial service, Emil's body hadn't been found. When it was located a few days later (kept afloat by a life jacket), the mustachioed Brandeis was dressed in a gray suit. In his pocket was a huge amount of cash — $16,000, the equivalent of $370,000 today.

Why he carried so much money is a mystery. But the pocket watch and the cash are poignant reminders that when we die, two things no longer of value to us are time and money.

His remains were cremated and buried at Pleasant Hill Cemetery, 42nd Street and Redick Avenue.

» My colleague Tom Shatel's column this week on the late KFAB executive and Husker football broadcaster Lyell Bremser was a wonderful read.

The great thing about Lyell's trademark exclamation "Man, woman and child!" is that it never sounded forced, contrived or overused. It just burst forth.

Some other favorite Bremserisms: "Hold on to your hat, Mother, we're ready to go!" "Hold the phone!" "Mama, he's gone home!" "He just left a couple of guys countin' their change."

And in the 1971 "Game of the Century," Lyell's classic call after Johnny Rodgers' "all the way home" punt return for a touchdown against Oklahoma:

"Holy moly! Man, woman and child, did that put 'em in the aisles! Johnny the Jet Rodgers just tore 'em loose from their shoes!"

That one still gives me goose bumps.

» The bad news for public-relations man Bill Ramsey of Omaha is that he was diagnosed with prostate cancer 15 years ago. The good news is that he was diagnosed 15 years ago — and he's healthy at 82.

So Bill, who lives a few blocks from Warren Buffett, can offer encouragement to the famed investor after his early diagnosis of prostate cancer, which was announced this week.

Ramsey admits he was frightened at first. After much prayer, research and consultation with physicians, Ramsey decided on treatment that proved successful — tiny radioactive seeds implanted in the prostate.

As a young Marine in Korea in November 1951, Bill was badly wounded in the right arm. Nerve damage left his hand partially numb.

Though he didn't dodge that bullet, he says he dodged others — including cancer.

Buffett, 81, has assured his Berkshire Hathaway shareholders that he is fine and will receive treatment this summer.

» One family will gather Sunday to celebrate three milestone birthdays — 80, 50 and 25.

Retired insurance agent Eldon Gustafson of Omaha is the patriarch. His daughter, Jennifer Gerow, is in the middle, and his granddaughter, Sarah Novak, is the young'n.

All were born on April 23, so their actual shared birthday is Monday. But an open house will be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at the community center of Trinity United Methodist Church in Ralston.

Eldon and wife JoAnn have been married 58 years. They hope to see their long-ago flower girl, Marsha Shepard of Villisca, Iowa, whose birthday is also April 23.

Contact the writer:

Contact the writer: Michael Kelly    |   402-444-1000

Mike writes three columns a week on a variety of topics.

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