Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Bob Armstrong dies

The Armstrong name is well known around Chadron and western Nebraska. It dates back to the coming of Ross and Ruby Armstrong to Chadron during the early 1930s, and the standout athletic teams coached by Ross at Chadron State College. Of course the Armstrong Center at CSC is named for Ross Armstrong.

Old-timers will also remember Robert “Bob” Armstrong, Armstrong’s son and a standout athlete at Chadron Prep in the 1940s and 1950. He also excelled in sports at CSC and was inducted into the Chadron State College Athletic Hall of Fame.

Bob Armstrong died last week (10/30) in Tucson, Arizona, where he and his wife, Jerry (Hirchert), made their home. He was 75.

After teaching and coaching for 10 years in Carson City, Nevada, Bob taught at the University of Arizona and then founded a computer software company. He and his wife had three daughters, Karen, Kristi, and Kathie, who also survive. They are show (left-to-right) in this 2006 photo below with Jerry and Bob, who were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.

The Armstrongs have been staunch supporters of Chadron State College for many years, often hosting events in their Arizona home.

According to Mike Smith and Con Marshall, who were kind enough to send us this information, a memorial service for Bob Armstrong will be at 2:00 p.m. tomorrow (11/5) in the Student Center at CSC. A reception will be held in the Armstrong Gymnasium following the memorial service.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Legendary Nebraska musician dies

Native Nebraskan Neal Hefti has died. Born in Hastings in 1922, Hefti won fame as an arranger for a wide variety of big bands during the 1940s and 50s, including Charlie Spivak, Woody Herman, Charlie Barnet and Harry James. He died Saturday (Oct. 11) at his home in Toluca Park, California.

An accomplished trumpet player, it was really Hefti’s composing and arranging that won him the adoration and respect of top-flight musicians ranging from Frank Sinatra to Count Basie. He was also a conductor and worked with the likes of Doris Day, Tony Bennett, Mel Torme, and Sinatra.

Without a clue to his roots, I remember playing a lot of Neal Hefti recordings on KCSR in Chadron, Nebraska in the 1950s. I often wondered if Neal was related to Paul Hefti, a Chadron banker – not an altogether wild assumption, since Hefti is a rather unusual name, and they both had Nebraska roots. I never found out. (NOTE: Paul Hefti's son, Marvin, responds that he does not believe Neal Hefti and Paul Hefti were closely related, if at all - 11/1/08)

Neal Hefti’s name graced a bevy of big band, standards, and jazz albums in those years. But probably his most popular works were the theme songs for the hit television series "The Odd Couple" and "Batman."

My favorite Hefti composition was a lumbering jazz ditty entitled Li'l Darlin’.

Neal Hefti was 85 years old.