If something good happened in South Omaha, Steve Cavlovic likely was involved.
He was a founding member of the South High Alumni Association. He helped the association raise more than $300,000 for its H.P. Smith Sports Training Facility and its Roy Smith Softball Field. Steve Cavlovic Field is just across the street.
Cavlovic was vice president and co-developer of the nonprofit Corrigan Senior Center and housing units. They have served South Omaha senior citizens since 1984.
He was chairman of the 1989 South High Centennial Scholarship program, creating a permanent endowment.
He helped found and was president of the Ritonya Buscher Poehling Scholarship Fund, which raises money for and gives college and vocational school scholarships. Recipients are graduates of South, Bryan and Gross High Schools. Grants also are given to teachers at these schools. The fund is in its 36th year.
Cavlovic, 82, died Tuesday at the Nebraska Medical Center from complications after surgery, said his wife, Mary Lou Cavlovic of Omaha.
“Steve put new meaning to South Omaha Boy,” said friend Randy Lukasiewicz. “The world needs to be full of Steve Cavlovics. He was Mr. South Omaha.
“He was so proud of South Omaha.”
Cavlovic was born and raised in South Omaha, the son of a Croatian immigrant father. A standout athlete, he played baseball and football at South, graduating in 1950.
While in high school, he played on the 1947 Metz Brewery-sponsored American Legion baseball team that finished eighth in the Legion World Series.
The next year, he played for a Legion Post 1-sponsored team and returned to the world series. That team finished in fourth place. A heroes' welcome — 10,000 strong — greeted the team at Union Station when it returned home.
After high school, the Brooklyn Dodgers organization drafted Cavlovic. He played for the Ponca City (Okla.) Dodgers until the Army drafted him.
After military service, he followed in his father's footsteps to work at Wilson Packing Plant, his wife said.
He stayed until the plant closed in 1976, then became a project manager for the Nebraska Roads Department until retiring 20 years later.
Cavlovic never lost his love for a ballgame — his or someone else's.
He began the first intramural girls softball programs in Omaha for 5- to 8-year-olds.
From 1956 to 1968, he coached, played on or did both for numerous fast-pitch softball teams.
He served eight years on the Omaha Softball Association Board.
He initiated the South High Packer Sports Greats Hall of Fame and was later inducted. He also was inducted into the South High Hall of Fame and the Omaha Old Timers Baseball Hall of Fame.
Other honors included Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben Ike Friedman Award for Outstanding Community Service, United Way of the Midlands Volunteer of the Year, and the American Red Cross Heroes of the Heartland Lifetime Hero Award.
Cavlovic worked with others to see that a plaque with the names of 40 servicemen who played baseball in Omaha and died in World War II found a new home in South Omaha's Brown Park after Rosenblatt Stadium was torn down.
Cavlovic also championed, so far unsuccessfully, getting Johnny Goodman, a South Omaha native and the last amateur to win the U.S. Open golf championship, inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. But Cavlovic and others did succeed in working to have the city name an Omaha golf course for Goodman.
Besides Cavlovic's wife of 58 years, other survivors include daughters Cheryl Morgan of Omaha, Connie Monastero of Omaha and Denise Cavlovic of Kansas City, Mo.; three grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
His funeral Mass will begin at 11 a.m. Friday at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, 36th and X Streets.