It was 1961. John Kennedy was inaugurated President of the United States. The U.S. began military involvement in Vietnam. East Germans and Soviets built the Berlin Wall. The Bay of Pigs disaster went down in Cuba. Russian Yuri Gagarin went up in space. And the Shirelles sang “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?”
Against this backdrop, nine Omaha couples—most in their early 20s or late teens—married and set out on what would be a lifelong journey to answer that lyrical question. Seven marriages made it to 50 years and counting. Two marriages ended with the death of a spouse—Eileen Erman and Sherman Neff. Judy and Shelly Brodsky moved to California.
The remaining six couples are still here in Omaha, bonded not only to their life partners but also to the others who started out in married life with them. Omaha Magazine introduces these Omaha couples to you with the hope that their love stories, which have withstood the test of 50 years of marriage, will encourage and inspire you. Happy Valentine’s Day!
Don and Nancy Greenberg’s families have known each other for many years. When Nancy heard that Don might be asking her out, she asked her grandfather about him. He said Don was the hardest-working man in his family’s business. That sounded good to Nancy as she was brought up to work hard as well. Each speaks respectfully about the other’s family. It meant a lot to Nancy that Don sent little gifts to her mother. Their secret to a long marriage and friendships is to work hard, stay in touch, be patient and forgiving, and share events with family and friends. They have two children and five grandchildren.
Deanna and Larry Gilinsky are one of two couples with one out-of-towner. Kansas City transplant Deanna met Larry, a native Omahan, at the University of Oklahoma when both were 18. They married at 20. Larry said that they grew up together along with the other couples, all of whom Larry has known from childhood. His friends became her friends and they’ve all stayed in touch for 50 years. Their major challenge occurred when Larry was shot by a robber, whom he chased out of his jewelry business. He recovered and is back at work today. They have two children and six grandchildren, including triplets. Their secret to longevity of marriage? Compromise and pick your battles, and celebrate one another.
Mike and Barb Platt also married at 20. Barb is the only one who converted to her husband’s religion prior to marriage. (All the others shared the same religion, which they said was a significant factor in the stability of their marriages.) To this day, Mike is touched by her conversion. They have five children and 13 grandchildren. Barb moved to Omaha in eighth grade, went to Central High, met Mike, and the rest is history. Mike went to nursery school, grammar school, and high school with some of the members of the group; Barb was accepted and became part of that group. Their families became friends and even now, some of their children are friendly with children of some of the other couples.
Bob and Bobbie Epstein almost never were a couple. In high school, Bob broke his first date with Bobbie to go out with another girl. Bobbie didn’t speak to him for a year. The summer after graduation, the two both found themselves in Chicago. Bob asked Bobbie for a date and she relented. After that, Bob never went out with another girl. Bobbie went away to Ohio State for college. Bob stayed in Omaha to work for his family’s business but went to visit Bobbie twice. At Christmas, she moved home and they married the following June 1961. Asked what has kept their marriage together, Bob said, “We were in love then, and we are in love now.” They have three children and nine grandchildren.
Norman and Joodi Veitzer married in February 1961. Joodi went to UNO but stayed at home after the first of their three children were born. They now have six grandchildren. Norman went to Creighton Law and practiced briefly before going to work at the family business, Omaha Bedco (made famous by actress Julia Roberts, who had a great night’s sleep at the Four Seasons Hotel and bought the mattress right off the bed.) Norman and Joodi credit the longevity of their marriage to being a part of the social group they grew up with. No one considered divorce. Joodi says that’s because they don’t talk politics.
Phyllis and Dick Glazer are the second couple to include an out-of-towner. Dick is from Fort Dodge, Iowa. After he and Phyllis married, they moved into the house where they live today, 51 years later. They agree that health has been a major challenge in their family. When they learned one of their grandchildren was deaf, their initial reaction was great sorrow. But they soon turned that sadness into a project, which resulted in closed captioning at one of the Rave movie theaters in Omaha. Phyllis says that golf, Husker football, events for children and grandchildren, and a whole lifetime of connections support their marriage. Dick has faced recent physical challenges and felt unwell the summer of their 50th anniversary year. He got himself out of bed to participate in all the activities planned to honor and celebrate their union. Dick’s closing statement was that theirs had been ‘a Good Life.’