Crossing the line

I don’t know why, but my thoughts turned this weekend to a time fairly long ago when,as a magistrate judge,  I sentenced people to jail for crossing the line at  StratCom headquarters at Offutt Airbase in Omaha.   These folks, part of the Catholic Workers movement, protested against the military and nuclear weapons by crossing a line at the base entrance.  Two fellows in particular come to mind.

One was Father Frank Cordero.  Big Frank, a former wrestler, raised hell throughout Iowa and Nebraska protesting against various and sundry things.  He was (and I presume still is) a smart ass.  One time, after I sentenced him to jail for six months, he surrendered to the US Marshals with a cross made out of hack saw blades.  I think he ended up at MCC in Chicago.  If he did, he wasn’t laughing.

Photo credit:  Frank Cordero and

Photo credit: Frank Cordero and

The other fellow I came to know was Rich.  He crossed the line, but agreed to abide by probation.   I learned that Rich operated a shelter for men down on their luck and often just out of prison.  About that time, I married Joan after the death of my first wife.

True to her faith, Joan insisted that my kids learn about the poor.  So, I contacted Rich.  Over the next several years we spent Thanksgiving with Rich’s guys delivering turkeys in North Omaha.  It opened eyes wide.  Later, we lent Rich a little money to keep the shelter running.  Rich repaid us in full.  But, he gave us so much more.


2 responses

  1. Great lesson for your kids. when my daugter brougt her Chicago boyfriendhome to meet us two Thanksgivings ago we served the poor at a shelter and Max served next to me for two hours. I saw his character as he warmly greated and smiled and chatted with the folks passing before us and knew by the end of the afternoon he was a true gem.

  2. Thanks. Truly, we learn by serving others. We find gems in the most unusual places.

    By the way, it was not only a great lesson for my kids, it was a good lesson for me too. Once, at a really awful old house in North O, I fell on my ass while lugging a huge and freezing cold turkey. Rich’s guys did all they could not to laugh, but that was impossible. I remember this older fellow (just out of prison) with his arm draped over my son’s shoulder and the both of them giggling like school children. I never felt less like a judge–it was a good feeling.

    All the best, my dear friend.


%d bloggers like this: