By Lori Pankonin
Nebraska celebrated its 144th birthday last week, having officially become a state on March 1, 1867. Russ and I had the first-time privilege to attend the Statehood Day dinner in the Capitol rotunda Saturday.
Our invitation came from the governor due to a connection with Allen Beermann, one of the three distinguished NEBRASKAlander honorees. Allen, Tom Plummer of Ogallala and DiAnna Schimek, a former senator, all show admirable traits of making a difference for Nebraska.
Upon arriving at the event, I was so impressed with a sweet little lady, strikingly dressed with a big fashion hat. I commented on how great she looked and we had a brief chat. Later I was astounded when Sally Gordon was introduced as a centenarian.
Wow. Sally is 101 years old and works as assistant sergeant-at-arms for the Nebraska Legislature. That’s right, she continues to work and even walks to her job at the Capitol building.
She got her first paycheck in the 1920s and has worked as a court reporter, model and state worker for numerous Nebraska governors for the past 84 years. And she has no plan to retire. She has managed to shine into another century although she still finds no need for a cell phone or microwave. Sally also enjoys playing the violin and she knits for charity. What an inspiration!!
No doubt the most photographed person of the evening was Miss America. Eighteen-year-old Teresa Scanlon from Gering wowed the guests with her maturity as she confidently addressed the group and focused on being thankful for having grown up in Nebraska.
Last April, we were awed with the space shuttle launch at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. U.S. Astronaut Clayton Anderson also returned to Nebraska to honor Allen with his wife, Susan. His stories are fascinating.
Clayton is especially proud of the photo in outer space when he wears a Larry the Cable Guy flannel shirt with the cutoff sleeves, a University of Nebraska baseball cap, a baseball from the College World Series held in Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Cabela’s camouflage pants, and the gloves worn by Nebraskan Curt Tomasevicz when he won the Olympic gold medal with the U.S. Men’s Bobsled team. Nothing like a Nebraska-grown astronaut totally attired in Nebraska paraphernalia in a place other than Earth.
Speaking of Tomasevicz’s gloves, Curt was also present to add his own fascinating stories about life as an Olympian. Fortunately he had just flown in, having recently been training in Europe. Americans love seeing and wearing his authentic Olympic gold medal for photo opps. And he’s a good sport about sharing it, as long as he gets it back of course.
U.S. Senators Ben Nelson and Mike Johanns returned to the Capitol as did Congressman Adrian Smith. But no doubt coming the farthest was a special friend to many Nebraskans, John Lin from Hong Kong. Typically when we see John in the States, he has made other arrangements for business in New York City. This time, he had to get back so he literally arrived Thursday, attended the evening activities Saturday and headed back home the next day.
Whoa. Living in southwest Nebraska, we often times put in much more travel time to get to activities in the Capitol City compared to our friends and cohorts. Well our trek across the state to honor Allen was like a dot on the map compared to John’s journey that approached 20,000 miles.
Allen is the reason all of these people are friends. His wife, Linda, plays a significant supporting role. He is why we have a special tie with Rolf Thomsen in Switzerland who knows the Queen of England personally. He knows people around the world and has a way of bringing them together.
When we were in Hong Kong with a predominantly Nebraska group, we were treated to a night on the Victoria Harbour. A dinner cruise with fresh seafood cuisine and a laser light show across the skyscraper skyline was obviously unique entertainment for us. We were told that this could not compare to the treatment the folks from Hong Kong have received in Nebraska.
How could we beat that? Well, you can bet Allen Beermann had an integral part in their agenda and you can bet that there were Nebraskans gathered to share warm Midwestern hospitality. Our friendliness is a commodity that is priceless.
Needless to say, I’m proud to be beef-fed and Nebraska raised!! Go Big Red!!