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Omaha World-Herald, Neb., Michael Kelly Column: Michael Kelly: Urban Legend Has Legs, If Not Happy Feet

December 9, 2006

By Michael Kelly, Omaha World-Herald, Neb.

Dec. 9–From the notebook:

–Penguins can’t fly, but the urban legend about them has again taken flight.

The story this week was that a child took home to Des Moines a small penguin from Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo.

In the family car, the boy had talked about having a “new friend.” The parents thought nothing of it because he often spoke of imaginary friends.

When they arrived home, the parents were shocked to discover a small penguin in a backpack.

Lee Simmons, Omaha zoo director, said the story is false — and just won’t die. A reporter in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, also called him this week, asking about a report of a penguin-kidnapping.

“I guess it’s just so hard to resist — a 6-year-old smuggling a penguin home,” Simmons said. “If you ever smelled one. . . . Well, it would be hard for anyone to smuggle it home.”

–Generations of future physicians studied under a man the University of Nebraska Medical Center has honored for 50 years in teaching, including 26 at UNMC teaching anatomy.

He is Robert Binhammer, known for his demanding teaching style and for coming down hard on students when necessary. They nicknamed him — what else? — “The Hammer.”

–Why would an old map of Nebraska railroads hang behind the desk of a financial holding-company CEO in Baltimore?

It’s because Omaha native James A.C. Kennedy, 53, the new chief of T. Rowe Price Group, worked summers in college overhauling diesel locomotives and repairing tracks.

That’s according to the Baltimore Sun, which said he made $7.6 million in bonuses during the past three years.

The Creighton Prep graduate is the son and grandson of J.A.C. Kennedy Sr. and Jr., both deceased, of the former Kennedy Holland law firm.

–This is supposed to be the season of peace on earth and good will to all. Peace on earth remains elusive, but you can count on Goodwill.

Goodwill Industries has served the Omaha area since 1933, creating jobs for people with disabilities. For the past 40 years, Percy Goynes has been a mainstay.

He was born in Arkansas, where a birth defect led to amputation of a leg before he was a year old. He moved to Omaha at 26 and was hired to repair donated electronics items.

He has worked as a “Jack of all trades,” and met Gertha, his wife of 29 years, while both worked at Goodwill.

–To encourage donations to United Way, the Grace-Mayer insurance agency in Omaha usually starts the campaign with a “pie in the face” contest.

Christina Peatrowsky, marketing coordinator, said employees decided on something different this year — head shaving.

Shane Belohrad, who heads the agency’s agricultural department, and Dan Ferris, head of benefits, agreed to the head shaving, but only if pledges increased at least 20 percent from last year.

It worked. About 70 staffers cheered last week as the bosses’ locks were sheared.

–Max Ulveling of Omaha retired as a major long ago after 22 years in the Army, including two tours in Vietnam.

His car, with “retired military” insignia, was parked this week on a shopping trip near the Westroads Mall. Someone slipped an anonymous, handwritten note under the windshield wiper: “Thanks, soldier.”

That’s a reminder: If we see a member of the military while traveling or just moving around town, it wouldn’t hurt to smile and give a greeting that’s always in season: “Thanks.”

World-Herald researcher Michelle Gullett contributed to this column.

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Copyright (c) 2006, Omaha World-Herald, Neb.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.

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