Kelly: It was no joke when unwelcome guest was driving homeowners batty -
Published Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 3:41 am
Kelly: It was no joke when unwelcome guest was driving homeowners batty

Robert Batt of Omaha arrived home one evening with wife Janice only to find an uninvited visitor — a bat.

The Batts about drove themselves batty for an hour and a half trying to bat down the bat, but finally gave up and called the Nebraska Humane Society.

Bob, executive vice president of the Nebraska Furniture Mart, asked for help and gave his address and his name, Batt.

As he recounts it, the woman answering the phone thought he was pulling a prank. “Sir,” she said, “this line is for serious calls.”

He spelled his name, with two t's, and eventually made it clear that it was no joke.

An animal control officer arrived, captured the bat “within all of five minutes” and set it free outside.

“All I know is that I had a bat in my house,” said Batt, “and it was not related to me.”

* * *

Former first lady Laura Bush will speak on Oct. 22 at the CenturyLink Center Omaha for the Phoenix Academy.

The academy is a nonprofit private school, K-8, for students who need “explicit, multisensory, direct instruction in reading and math,” said Nancy Liebermann, executive director.

Bush, a former elementary teacher and librarian, was an honorary ambassador of the United Nations Literacy Decade. Proceeds from the luncheon will provide scholarships for the school's students.

Tickets, starting at $100, can be purchased by calling 402-345-5401 or online at www.

Honored for their work on literacy will be Del Weber, former chancellor of the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and John Gottschalk, retired publisher of The World-Herald.

* * *

The St. Augustine Indian Mission in Winnebago, Neb., dedicated its $70,000 outdoor classroom Sunday in a sloping, wooded area behind its 107-pupil grade school.

Donors provided funds for the project, which includes a wooden footbridge as well as wood-chip paths leading to areas for music and movement, nature art, discovery, gardening and more. Nature Explore, which collaborates with the Arbor Day Foundation, helped with the design.

Archbishop George Lucas made the trip 80 miles north of Omaha to celebrate Mass and bless the outdoor classroom.

“It's always a blessing to come here,” he said after the ceremony. “There's a beautiful openness to the culture of Native Americans.”

The Rev. Dave Korth, the mission's director, played the flute and used an eagle feather to waft smoke from burning cedar needles.

The idea for the outdoor classroom, he said, started when Principal Don Blackbird took students on a field trip to the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge and noticed that most of them, like kids everywhere, were listening to music through earphones.

Said Korth: “Our hope is that our kids will embrace education in a deeper level because of this new space.”

* * *

When Janet Van Dever of Omaha suggested the Big O as the autumn destination for her far-flung friends three years ago, the initial reaction was, “Who wants to go to Omaha, Nebraska?”

But they had such a great time that they are returning today and will wear T-shirts that say, “The Gals of '55 Love Omaha!”

The 10 women graduated from high school in 1955 in Keokuk, Iowa, but now are spread across the country — Arizona, California, Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Pennsylvania.

For the past 18 years, they have picked places to visit. Over the next three days, they will tour the Durham Museum in the old Union Station as well as the Old Market and other sites. They will do a little shopping and a lot of singing.

“We all have a background in singing,” Janet said, “and we love to harmonize.”

* * *

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

For 25 years, Howard Hamilton has given Halloween tours in cemeteries, but he said this might be the last.

“It depends on my health,” said Howard, now in his 70s, who claims to have walked every row of every Omaha-area cemetery.

Unlike Halloween haunted houses, his tours aren't designed to scare you. He talks about people buried in the cemetery. He also will explain the process of cremation.

Howard will literally work a graveyard shift on Oct. 30 and 31, leading evening tours at 5:45, 8 and 10. The cost is $20.

He doesn't announce the cemetery in advance or the midtown pickup site for the bus. To make a reservation, call 402-341-6983.

* * *

A recent note here about people confusing Omaha and Oklahoma led to several responses, including one from the Rev. Ryan Lewis.

He said the late Pope John Paul II confessed to Archbishop Elden Curtiss in the 1990s that the Indian names from medium-sized archdiocese in the middle of America caused him confusion.

“Considering that his jurisdiction was the entire world,” the priest wrote in an email, “It's pretty impressive he knew them enough to get them confused!”

Bob Shreve of Omaha said he traveled for business in the U.S. and Europe and “was constantly introduced as being from Oklahoma.” Marcia and Jack Cohen of Omaha said neighbors at their winter home in Sanibel, Fla., often ask, “What's it like in Oklahoma?”

* * *

Orchestra conductor Vimbayi Kaziboni, 25, who was born in Zimbabwe and moved to Omaha at 15, has received a Fulbright fellowship to do research on south-central Asian music in Uzbekistan.

As a Millard West High School student, he was featured in The World-Herald after his Carnegie Hall debut at 16.

Vim, who graduated from the University of Southern California, did graduate work at Frankfurt University of Music and Performing Arts in Germany. For the past year, he has conducted the International Ensemble Modern Academy in Germany.

* * *

After dazzling audiences last weekend with the Omaha Symphony, singer Marilyn Maye, 85, this week took part in the annual Cabaret Convention in New York City.

“There were about 20 singers on the bill,” emailed Bill Sacrey of New York, a longtime fan, “and she got the only standing ovation.”

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

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

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