The Irish Walk of Fame will induct it's sixth set of Irish dignitaries on Wednesday, March, 11 in downtown O'Neill. Each year the Irish Walk of Fame inducts two people. One of the inductees is a present day contributer to the celebration and one is named posthumously. Individuals inducted into the Irish Walk of Fame receive a green jacket and plaque as well as having their names set in stone on O'Neill's main street sidewalks.
This year's honories are the late Shorty Miles of the Holt County Independent and Dr. Jerry Brockman and his wife Therese Sullivan.
2020 Irish Walk Of Fame Inductee
George Arlen "Shorty" Miles
This is the homespun tale of a hometown boy. It began like this: “Once upon a time, in 1932, a baby was born in the apartments above the NCHD building in downtown O’Neill…” That baby, the youngest son of G.E. “Hap” Miles and Beatrice (Murphy) Miles, was christened George Arlen, but known to most folks by the nickname “Shorty.” The lad was born and raised in a newspaper family. His grandfather George Miles had bought ownership of the Holt County Independent in 1904. The paper remains in the Miles family and has been published since 1880. Shorty had the traditional Irish Catholic upbringing, attending St. Mary’s School, graduating with the class of 1950. He served in the U.S. Air Force, until returning to help his father and brother run the newspaper in 1954. Then boy met girl, and he and Colleen “Dot” Kennedy were married at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Amelia.
By the time of the first “Green Horse Parade” in 1961, Shorty had two young children at home and three more arrived over the next few years. The St. Patrick’s Day festivities were growing too. Being a member of the Jaycees, he was a part of the pioneers who forged the modern day celebration, including a trip to “invade” Canada. As a side note, one of his kids was born almost exactly ninemonths after the first modern-day St. Patrick’s celebration, now how festive was that.
He used his publication to support the growth of the current celebration by touting the event and then covering all the day’s activities. He didn’t believe in sensationalizing the news, but he did find a way to share his opinion. One year the town fathers decided to move the St. Patrick’s Day celebration off the main street. Always a die-hard supporter, the cartoon he ran in the paper showed a coffin with “St. Patrick’s Day” on it, implying the fact that the City Council was trying to kill it!
His family recalls their dad’s expressions of Irish heritage, as being centered around family and community. Things like enjoying togetherness, protecting what’s important, loyalty and giving back to others. Shorty might put on a green sweatshirt, jacket or tie on St. Patrick’s Day, and after watching his kids take their turn as Irish Dancers and the parade, he’d go downtown with his wife and friends like Wansers and Bohns to enjoy socializing but not to excess. Continuing another family tradition, of being a fireman, he kept his devotion to duty in mind and made sure he would stay prepared to respond to a fire call even during a social event.
As young adults, it was expected that the Miles kids would be in O’Neill for St. Pat’s and join with the community to celebrate, but also to give back. Shorty modeled giving back, with organizations such as the KC’s, American Legion, Nebraska Press Association and St. Patrick’s Church. He was quoted in the Nebraska Newspaper publication "The good citizen, businessman or editor must pay his dues. He owes something to the public and his peers...owes until he hangs up his pica pole." (An instrument of measurement fundamental to the newspaper production.) Today his kids and their families can be found giving their time to others, as well as joining in as participants for activities like the Shamrock Fun Run.
Now Shorty wasn’t above getting a little fun out of his service to others. Daughter Shelly recalls the year she brought her fiancé home for St. Patrick’s Day. After the parade, they made their way across 4th St. and didn’t pay much attention to a firetruck sitting there. That is, until the dirty-faced man driving it yelled loudly at Greg, “Get your hands off my daughter!!” Yep, there had been a call to extinguish a grass fire,but Shorty didn’t pass up the chance to startle his future son-in-law and get a good chuckle out of it on the way!
And the tale of the hometown boy wouldn’t be complete without mention of the year Shorty and Dot were named the St. Patrick’s Day King and Queen.
The newspaper symbol used to indicate the end of a story is -30- . Onlyfour days after St. Patrick’s Day, on March 21, 2006, George Arlen Miles’ earthly story came to its end. We appreciate and honor all he did to make the story of O’Neill’s St. Patrick’s Celebration live on.
2020 Irish Walk of Fame Inductees – Jerry Brockman and Therese Sullivan.
A common thread running through the lives of many Irish Walk of Fame honorees, is that of being a part of something bigger than themselves. This is never truer than when you’re talking about husband and wife Dr. Jerry Brockman and Therese Sullivan. The Shamrock Fun Run began as a brainchild, was nurtured by Jerry and Therese through formative years and growing pains, became a well-known entity under their leadership and has continued on the path of success they set for it, even as they stepped back and others stepped up to do management of the hugely popular annual event.
Now the Irish Walk of Fame is about honoring people, not just events or contributions, and it is Jerry and Therese we are honoring here. Jerry has called this part of the world “home” ever since his family moved to rural Emmet when he was three. After graduating from OHS, he completed his schooling at UNMC College of Dentistry. He was a senior dental student when he met first-year dental hygiene student Therese Sullivan. She was born in Omaha and grew up in Bellevue. Her father and grandfather were both dentists. Her other roots included her grandmother, one of three Gallagher girls sponsored to come from Ireland to America by their uncle Fr. Cullen who helped establish the Catholic church in York Nebraska.
Jerry returned to his Holt County roots in 1976 to establish his dental practice. The couple married in 1978 and have worked together ever since. It takes more than Irish eyes to have a good smile!
Someday if the Irish Walk of Fame biographies are made into a book, the Shamrock Fun Run will be entitled to its own chapter. This is just a brief synopsis: In 1978, running was becoming a popular activity and running buddies Tim Edwards, Tim French and Jerry had the idea for a road run to be part of the 1979 St. Patrick’s Day celebration in O’Neill. It took place on a cold, rainy, windy, muddy Sunday afternoon. Jerry denies any responsibility for the naming of the event, because he would definitely have left the word “FUN” out of the title! Therese became involved in 1981, making important changes, like moving the race to Saturday morning and designing a great T-shirt. Over time the start, finish and distance of the race were changed, and a walk was added. Jerry asked Emerson Steele to have the band play Irish music as runners rounded the stoplight corner and the tradition continues.
Jerry relates that many people volunteered to help over the years, as well as “conning” many friends into it. From the very beginning, Adamson Distributing sponsored by supplying beverages at race’s end. Track coaches from the high schools helped along the way. Gary Hostert became the right-hand man at the finish line. Timing and placing was done by hand and most runners took their time and position very seriously. Frosty Peetz and Jack Henderson began video taping the run and many times just before the awards ceremony, Jerry and Therese would be frantically reviewing the video, to see who beat who. This included one time when the couple had their own “photo finish” and family pride was at stake! Other people mentioned as mainstays of the event are Don Caouette with his shotgun starts and Orv Morrow who, along with Therese, participated as a runner every year.
Jerry and Therese were race directors for 20 years, before talking to the O’Neill Rotary Club about turning over the Shamrock Fun Run to the Rotarians in the future. The couple continued on as directors for five more years.
They spent many hours working on the race, but it built up many good memories and friendships. During those 25 years, Jerry and Therese were the main sponsors of the run. To them it was a community service, to have the best experience for the runners and families as possible. They provided the best T-shirts and awards that they could find. Under their leadership, the Run grew from 37 participants to nearly 300. They credit the Rotary Club with doing an excellent job continuing the run, now in its 41st year.
The couple’s other involvements with the St. Patrick’s Day celebration have included being named King and Queen and lending their classic convertible for dignitaries to ride in the parades.
Early on, Jerry and Therese had envisioned the run as being something family-oriented, to bring people into town. It continues to fulfill that, as generations of some families, like the Weeders, have made it an annual tradition. Asked to name a visual that stands out to them about the run, Therese says, “The start of the race - when everybody is pumped up to go!” Jerry recalls in later years, “People coming up to say thank you” - thanking them for having the run, which is among the longest-lived ones in Nebraska. He has spotted Shamrock Fun Run T-shirts being worn all over the state.
They both say that the greatest satisfaction has been watching the Shamrock Fun Run continue as a popular and well-managed event, which has grown to some 350 entrants. Dr. Jerry Brockman and Therese Sullivan, have given a lasting legacy of health to our area and to the St. Patrick’s Day celebration, and for this we thank and honor them both.