Kelly: She's 82, and still fine with kidney that's just 70 -
Published Saturday, November 30, 2013 at 12:30 am / Updated at 5:12 pm
Kelly: She's 82, and still fine with kidney that's just 70

Video: Surprise party for Darlene Miller, 40-year transplant survivor

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Family and friends recently celebrated a happy milestone in Omaha: a kidney transplant from 40 years ago.

Darlene Miller, 82, of Hartington, Neb., was surprised at a party by 40 friends and relatives.

Though 40 years isn't a national record — one kidney is still functioning after 48 years — she is the longest-surviving patient who has been transplanted at the Nebraska Medical Center. The first kidney transplant was done there in 1970.

“Darlene was transplanted in the infancy of transplant, and she is exceptional,” said Sue Miller, director of the Solid Organ Transplant Unit at the medical center. “Not only the fact that her kidney is still going strong after 40 years but also that she has reached her 80s as a transplant recipient.”

Also honored at the surprise party was Darlene's donor, her brother, Leo Arens, 70.

“He never hesitated in thinking whether to do this,” said Kimberly Kropp of Omaha, one of Darlene's four children. “Even at 30, with a wife and a new family.”

Kim said her mom's persistence in exercising has played a role in her good health.

Those of us still recovering from big meals Thursday could have taken admonishment from a long-ago mayor who called on Omahans to observe “a sane Thanksgiving.”

“Cowboy Jim” Dahlman, mayor for 23 years in the first third of the 20th century, deplored those who “gorge themselves with turkey and cranberries to the detriment of their health.”

Lynne Ireland of the Nebraska State Historical Society sent a note about the mayor's public scolding of citizens — in 1909.

His attempt to crack down on the Thanksgiving vice of overeating is humorous because he was an ally of “Boss” Tom Dennison, who ran other kinds of vice elements in the Omaha underworld.

Anna Green of Omaha says she has received a heartening response to her call for a citywide, all-denominations prayer rally against violent crime.

The event will take place at 10 a.m. next Saturday at Salem Baptist Church, 31st and Lake Streets.

“We are asking all women to wear red,” she said. “Our goal is to have over 1,000 women dressed in red praying for healing in our city and country.”

Alex Hale and Seth Garrison became teammates at age 11 on a Pacesetter baseball team in Omaha, and since then they have traveled widely.

Today they will meet for an important event at age 27.

Seth's family long ago moved to Texas, but the boys' dads stayed in touch. Over the years, the families would see each other at tournaments.

Alex, a catcher on two state champion teams at Creighton Prep, played for the University of Richmond. Seth came to the College World Series in Omaha with Arizona State, but an appendectomy kept him from pitching.

In 2008, both were drafted by the Boston Red Sox. They played on the same Class A team that summer in Lowell, Mass., had lockers next to each other and were roommates.

Injuries eventually curtailed their major-league dreams, but their friendship remained. Today both are coaches and instructors for young players, Alex in Omaha and Seth in the Dallas area.

To bring their friendship full circle: On Nov. 9, Alex was best man for Seth at his marriage in Texas. And today Seth is best man for Alex's marriage in Omaha to Micaela Barajas

Among those responding to my column on the death in Omaha of former pro wrestling villain Maurice “Mad Dog” Vachon was dentist Chad Brown of Sheldon, Iowa.

He recalled when a bald-headed, bearded patient walked into the Creighton University student dental clinic about 15 years ago.

“There was no mistaking who he was,” said Chad, who grew up watching wrestling on TV. “He was physically imposing even then in his twilight years. But he was a gentleman and an intellectual and one of the kindest people I've ever met.”

The pair connected immediately and even went to lunch a few times, with Chad reveling in Maurice's stories about his travels and antics.

Don Nogg of Omaha, retired president of Nogg Paper Co., paid tribute to John Y. McCollister, the former congressman who died this month at 92.

When John Y. became president of a downtown service club in the late 1950s, Don said, he learned that the club had never taken a Jewish member. Said Don: “He found that to be not only immoral, but a loss for the club.”

That was years before McCollister ran for elective office. He soon invited Don's father, Nate Nogg, and Jay Cherniack to be the first Jewish members, and within a few years the elder Nogg became club president.

“John Y. did it with absolutely no fanfare and showed the type of man he was,” Don said. “I never forgot him for that.”

Brix is a local-brand “wine and spirits” store that started four years ago and now has set its sights on national expansion.

Founder and CEO Dan Matuszek said the two Brix stores in Omaha, at Village Pointe and Midtown Crossing, will raise money for charities this holiday season with “12 Days of Brixmas” sampling events.

The cost is $5 per person, with proceeds benefiting the Food Bank for the Heartland and the Ronald McDonald House. For more information, go to

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

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

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