My paternal grandfather, Frank O'Rourke, was a
prolific writer of westerns, baseball stories, and essays. Three of his
westerns were made into movies: The
Bravados (one of the first NBC movies of the week), The Professionals, and The Great Bank Robbery. Frank
O'Rourke, by the way, was his pseudonym; his real name was Frank Maurice
The greatest kicker in the history of the NFL, Adam Vinatieri, is my second cousin. He and I are both the great-grandchildren of Justina and William Goeken, who settled in the hard-scrabble South Dakota of the early 1900's. Adam's mother and my mother are first cousins. Tim Foecke, a metallurgist with the National Institute of Standards and Technologies, and the originator of the “rivet theory” to explain the rapid sinking of the Titanic, is my second cousin, again, via Justina and William Goeken. Evel Knievel and Pawnee Bill are more distant cousins from this side of the family. My Great Great Great Grandfather (Wilhelm) Goeken and Evel Kneivel's Great Great Grandmother (Gertrude) Kneivel were siblings. My Great Great Great Grandfather Lillie and Pawnee Bill's Grandfather Lillie were brothers.
My cousin-once-removed (i.e., my father's cousin), is Mark Pfeil, the longtime trainer for the Chicago Bulls during the Michael Jordan era. He ended his career with the Milwaukee Bucks. During his years with the Bucks, Cathy and I lived in the Bay Area. When the Bucks would come to town to play the Golden State Warriors, Mark would give us his two comp tickets, and we would watch the game courtside from the Bucks' small section (mostly with the showy Bay Area girlfriends of the Bucks' players; apparently the players had concubines in each NBA city!) at the Oakland Coliseum. It was great fun. Mark began his career, by the way, as the student trainer for the 1971 national champion Nebraska Cornhuskers football team, speaking of which, here is a photo, taken in Omaha in the fall of 2013, of my father with two of the stars on that team—Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rogers and all-American quarterback Jerry Tagge. Also in the photo is Jerry Murtaugh, all-American linebacker from the previous year’s National Championship Husker team.
My cousin, Jane
DeLaubenfels (daughter of my mother’s sister, Sharon), interviewed our
grandmother, Veronica Lillie, in Yankton, South Dakota on 9 July 2004, when
Grandma was 89 years old. Grandma died just over ten years later, on 22 August
2014, exactly 46 days shy of her 100th birthday. Here is part I of Jane’s interview with this remarkable
woman, and here is part II.
My "mathematical grandfather", i.e., my thesis advisor's thesis advisor, is J. H. Conway, one of the world's most prominent mathematicians.
My Erdos number is 2. Here is a list of people with Erdos number 2. Two is a good Erdos number. In fact, now that Erdos is dead, 2 can't be improved upon, except perhaps by Mark Twain.