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March 2 is my last day at the Lincoln Journal Star after 22 years as a sports reporter/copy editor, arts and entertainment reporter and features editor.

It’s, of course, bittersweet.

It was a dream of mine since I was a kid to work at my hometown newspaper, and I’ve enjoyed it immensely. I loved sharing other people’s stories with readers.

But a great opportunity came my way. James Arthur Vineyards has hired me as its tasting room manager. Owners Jim and Barb Ballard have been dear friends for a long, long time. As some readers know, I worked part time at JAV from 2005-12.

My byline won’t disappear completely. I plan to freelance for the Journal Star as time permits. But journalism won’t be my full-time job, as it has been since 1987.

With that said, I’ve listed a dozen stories I wrote for the Journal Star since I started in February 1996 that affected me for one reason or another. These were my favorites:

Lissy DeGrazia

By noon, on an overcast day in mid-May, the beast is wide awake. Sirens wail, cab horns blare, jackhammers pound, subways rumble, smells rise and the people -- hundreds of thousands of them -- jostle for position with every step on every corner of the Big Apple. Four floors above the street, inside a quiet brownstone apartment, the mother leans across a crib and gently kisses the forehead of her sleeping 6-month-old son. "You see that," she whispers, pointing to a fluffy black-and-white cow nestled amid a cribside menagerie, "that's his Nebraska cow." -- June 3, 2001

Why it’s memorable for me: DeGrazia, a Lincoln native, allowed me to shadow her on the set of the Tony-nominated Broadway show “Jane Eyre” in New York City. Our first day with her in the theater, the director gathered the cast and told them the show was closing soon. Bad for them, but great for my story.

Ryan Kathman

Mom ... It was just a word; part of a line in a Sam Shepard play. But it meant so much more. -- Aug. 11, 2009

Why it’s memorable for me: Kathman, a 29-year-old University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate theater student, had just discovered that Omaha actress Moira Mangiameli, 50, was his birth mother. They were appearing in a play together. For Kathman and Mangiameli to share their very personal story with me was special.

William Shatner

Not long into the telephone interview to discuss his one-man show, television icon William Shatner asked about Nebraska. -- Jan. 20, 2013

Why it’s memorable for me: The TV star, aka Capt. James T. Kirk, is one of my boyhood heroes, so, as you can imagine, objectivity flew out the window when I had a chance to interview him. My wife and I even got a photo with Bill -- I call him Bill now -- after his show at the Lied Center. It’s still on our refrigerator.

Mark Gross

Try as he might, Rodney Carrington can’t deliver the line without cracking up. “I love you, Charlie,” he says to his small-screen sister-in-law, “but I would rather run a marathon ... (a smile begins to crease his face) “with a badger in my shorts.”  -- Sept. 19, 2004

Why it’s memorable for me: Gross, a friend dating back to our days at the high school newspaper at Lincoln Southeast, allowed me to spend a few days with him on the set of Carrington’s ABC sitcom “Rodney” in Studio City, California. Gross, who was transitioning from stand-up comedy, was a producer and writer on the show, and has enjoyed much success in the industry since then.

Russ Snyder

Russ Snyder froze the instant wood struck rawhide. But just for a second. As the baseball rose into the blue Los Angeles sky, he turned to his left and ran as fast as the legs on his willowy 6-foot-1 frame would carry him. -- Oct. 19, 2003

Why it’s memorable for me: The first autograph I ever got was from Snyder when I was 5 or 6 years old. I thought it would be fun to catch up with the baseball star and World Series champion in small-town Nelson, where he retired after his Major League Baseball career ended.

Tilted Kilt review

One and done. -- Feb. 8, 2013

Why it’s memorable for me: I’ve written nearly 1,000 restaurant reviews, but this is one I’m always asked about and most remembered for. It was my worst dining experience -- ever. After re-reading it, it was a pretty darn funny (and accurate) review. And the Kilt, as we all know, didn’t last long.

The Blaze

Ted Pool wanted advertisers of Lincoln radio station The Blaze to know he and other listeners were not happy with changes in the station's morning show. So he sent emails to several of them expressing his concerns. The response, however, wasn't what he expected. -- April 11, 2012

Why it’s memorable for me: When I contacted Three Eagles Communications as to why it would threaten to sue its listeners, I was told “this shouldn’t be something (the Journal Star) should be concerned with.” The story was picked up nationally, so I guess there may have been some interest there.

Maestro’s appendicitis

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University of Nebraska-Lincoln piano Professor Mark Clinton was the first to congratulate Tyler White after Lincoln's Symphony Orchestra concert. "What an exciting Thursday night," Clinton said to White backstage at Kimball Recital Hall. Indeed, it was. -- May 7, 2010

Why it’s memorable for me: White conducted Beethoven's Ninth Symphony without rehearsal when Lincoln's Symphony Orchestra music director Edward Polochick went to the hospital with an appendicitis. What’s even more remarkable was the maestro returning the next night to conduct the encore performance. He appeared on stage with a hospital gown over his tuxedo, complete with a fake buttocks.

Rick Stempson/Andy Stock

Nearly all of the 13 boys in the team photo stare straight-faced into the camera -- except Rick Stempson and Andrew Stock. The two stand side by side in the back row -- Rick sporting a short, sun-bleached haircut and Andrew a 1980s mullet -- grinning from ear to ear as if they're in on a joke that no one else knows about. And, in this case, they are. -- April 9, 2006

Why it’s memorable for me: On a whim, Lincoln's Stempson and Stock wrote a movie script together. Then they entered it in a contest. Then they won the contest. Then their script was made into a movie. And then another script of theirs was made into a movie. How cool is that?

Don Gill

The woman loves the music of 1940s singer Eddy Howard. It reminds her of how she and her recently deceased husband danced to the crooner's velvety smooth voice. One of their favorites -- Howard's “I Wonder, I Wonder, I Wonder.” Oh, and how she wanted to hear it again, only she didn't have it, couldn't find it and didn't know where to look. So she calls Don Gill. -- Aug. 27, 2006

Why it’s memorable for me: Some stories stick with you long after writing them. This was one of them. The late Gill, who was being inducted into the state's broadcasting Hall of Fame, sat at his kitchen table with me and shared one great story after another about his time in the radio business.

Jeremy Sonnenfeld

If Jeremy Sonnenfeld had a favorite number, he may scrap it in favor of a new one. Like 900. -- Feb. 3, 1997

Why it’s memorable for me: It was my day off. I had just started painting the walls in my guest bedroom when the phone rang. I almost didn’t answer, but when I did, Nebraska bowling coach Bill Straub was on the other end. He told me I may want to stop whatever I was doing and head down to the bowling center -- one of his bowlers, 20-year-old Jeremy Sonnenfeld, had just rolled a perfect 900 series, which eventually became the first sanctioned by the American Bowling Conference in its then 101-year history. I finished painting the following weekend.

Live in a living room

Cars begin filling up the street outside Rebecca Carr’s small house in north Lincoln around 7. The sun is down, and the air is crisp. But the house ... it’s warm and inviting. -- Nov. 18, 2007

Why it’s memorable for me: While working on a story about the house concert phenomenon, I met my wife, the woman who was hosting the house concerts. One of our first dates was a dining review of The Parthenon. She’s been my dining companion ever since, much to the chagrin of my co-workers and friends who previously had accompanied me on my reviews.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7213 or

On Twitter @LJSjeffkorbelik.


Features editor

Jeff Korbelik is the features editor and covers dining, performing arts, TV and local media. Follow him at @LJSjeffkorbelik.

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