Tag Archives: 60PLUS

Remember The Maine!

April 7, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Remember the Maine?

Press baron and Citizen Kane archetype William Randolph Hearst told us to do just that in 1898, but most have forgotten these days because we have so many other things to remember, like our Amazon Prime password and debit card pin number, let alone where we parked the car in the shopping mall parking lot.

In our defense, we do still remember Pearl Harbor and some of us even “remember the kind of September,” though revivals of The Fantasticks do seem to be thankfully decreasing in frequency.

Anyway, here’s a refresher. The USS Maine, an obsolete, poorly designed battleship, plagued by cost overruns during its construction—there is nothing new about military budget waste—sailed into Havana harbor to “show the flag.” That is, America wanted to show a little newfound muscle towards Spain, the last colonial power besides us left in the Western Hemisphere.

Well, our “muscle” sat there in the harbor for a couple of weeks until, tragically, it blew up along with 200 of its sailors. Immediately the American newspapers put forth the story that the Spaniards had treacherously used a mine to destroy the ship. Hence the headlines: “Remember the Maine!”

A nifty little war ensued. In short order, Commodore George Dewey sailed into Manila and sank the Spanish Pacific fleet, and Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, in support of the African-American 10th Cavalry, charged up San Juan Hill in Cuba. (Teddy got all the press, of course.) Cuba was independent pending the later outcome of Michael Corleone’s casino scheme with Hyman Roth, and the Philippines, freed of its old Spanish overlords, were then happy to be governed by new American overlords. “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” Sorry, I can never resist tossing in a quote from Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr. It’s my thing. Stick with me, I know where I’m going.

So—“Remember the Maine”—remember? Well, the thing is, it wasn’t blown up by a mine at all. Most experts now agree that the cause of the fateful explosion was a fire in a coal bunker. Yes, our old friend coal. It was big in 1898. Sure glad we’ve moved on from the stuff here in the “modern” world. The slowly growing fire in one of the battleship’s coal bunkers eventually ignited the ship’s powder stores. Boom! War! History!

And where do you keep the powder, and ammunition for a big ship’s guns? According to Merriam-Webster, you keep that stuff in a “magazine.” In this case, a magazine that changed the course of a nation.

Which brings me to my point—I know, finally, right?—a magazine.

Happy milestone to Omaha Magazine. This issue marks the completion of 35 volumes in print. Has this magazine changed the world? Maybe it has, a little here, a little there. Change does occur when facts and inspiration can join forces. Thirty-five volumes highlighting the people, places, issues, and interests of our community; giving writers, journalists, artists, and leaders a forum where they can share and inform; giving our city and region a chance to look clearly at our triumphs and tribulations.

So, here’s to more explosions of art and ideas. Here’s to Omaha Magazine.

Otis Twelve hosts the radio program Early Morning Classics with Otis Twelve on 90.7 KVNO, weekday mornings from 5-9 a.m. Visit kvno.org for more information.

This article was printed in the March/April 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

The Hidden Menace of Elder Abuse

February 20, 2018 by
Illustration by Matt Wieczorek

During Labor Day weekend in 2014, Jill Panzer and her youngest aunt set out for a seven-hour drive to Hemingford, Nebraska, to pick up Jill’s grandmother, Edna. The two were going under the guise that Edna would be staying in Omaha for a few weeks. Unbeknownst to Edna or her eldest daughter (who was also Edna’s caretaker), the two planned on keeping Edna in Omaha, because they suspected she was being exploited by her caregiver.

Panzer, the granddaughter, suspected something was amiss because her mother (Edna’s second of three daughters) said Edna—who had turned 90 a few years earlier—was appearing more and more confused during visits. Her eldest aunt moved into Edna’s home in the fall of 2011, months after Edna stumbled over her ottoman and injured her back.

Panzer says Edna’s eldest daughter began giving her mother the drug Lorazepam without a prescription to help Edna sleep at night and to help with her anxiety. Edna was later legally prescribed the drug. Then, the granddaughter says her youngest aunt visited Edna in July 2014. During that visit, she reported back to family in Omaha that the matriarch had a gash on her arm from a fall. She appeared extremely confused. Edna’s finances were also showing irregularities, such as missed rent payments that were due to Edna.

“We started looking and realizing there were a bunch of little things happening,” Panzer says.

When they arrived at Edna’s house, Panzer and her youngest aunt noticed Edna wasn’t packed for the trip. Edna’s eldest daughter told Panzer that Edna wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t make the trip to Omaha. In Edna’s home, her eldest and youngest daughter began arguing. While Edna and her daughters were talking, Panzer went to her grandmother’s room and began packing whatever clothes she could into suitcases and sacks. Panzer would later find out that many of the things she packed wouldn’t even fit her grandmother.

“I literally just packed up my entire car while those two women were going back and forth about everything,” Panzer says.

As the arguing continued, Edna began to feel ill. She went to the bathroom. Panzer tried to convince her to go back to Omaha with them. Panzer told her youngest aunt, “If I have to call the sheriff, we are leaving this house today with my grandmother.”

Panzer got her grandmother’s walker and helped her into the van. As she buckled her grandmother in, Edna’s youngest and eldest daughters were still talking. Finally, Edna’s youngest daughter got in the van with Panzer.

“I hit my power button, the sliding door in the van shut. I threw it in reverse, and we just drove,” Panzer says.

During the drive, Edna was upset. Eventually, the mood calmed enough that they ate fried chicken at a restaurant in Broken Bow on the way back to Omaha. When they finally arrived, Edna stayed at her youngest daughter’s home.

Panzer and her youngest aunt arranged medical evaluations for Edna. Doctors determined Edna didn’t show signs of physical abuse, but they did note her blood pressure medication was being administered improperly.

Along with scheduling medical evaluations, Panzer began making calls to close any financial accounts that Edna’s eldest daughter had access to, including Edna’s credit cards and bank accounts. On paper, this would appear to be a challenge, because Edna’s eldest daughter’s husband was her power of attorney. All it took was Edna’s verbal OK to close many of her accounts.

“It was that stinkin’ easy. All I had to do was put my grandmother on the phone. It’s almost criminal,” Panzer says.

As Edna’s financial and medical issues were being resolved, the matter of placing her in an assisted living center still loomed. Neither Panzer nor her youngest aunt were able to care for Edna full time. Panzer’s mother (Edna’s middle daughter) lived hours away. Panzer says her grandmother reluctantly agreed to stay in an assisted living center for rehab, but not permanently.

“She’s buried two husbands. She’s always been a fiercely independent, proud woman,” Panzer says.

Since that Labor Day trip in 2014, Edna has continued to live in the same assisted living center. Panzer was able to get a new, independent power of attorney for Edna. Her home in Hemingford was sold, and Panzer had to hire lawyers and go to court to evict Edna’s grandchild (the daughter of Edna’s eldest daughter) from Edna’s house.

“I don’t have a unique story,” Panzer says.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention lists the forms of elder abuse as the physical, sexual, or emotional abuse of an older adult. It also lists neglect and financial exploitation as other forms of abuse. In 2016, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services reported that Adult Protective Services received 126 cases of elder abuse in Douglas and Sarpy counties.

Attorney Susan Spahn handles estate and trust matters at Endacott, Peetz & Timmer law firm. As people’s life expectancy continues to increase, so does the time when people are living in a “gray area,” which Spahn defines as a place where people are capable of living independently, but at the same time, are vulnerable to exploitation from family members, or telephone and internet-based scams.

“They can tell stories from the past that are accurate, but if you ask them to make a decision that requires thought, they cannot do it,” Spahn says.

When a parent becomes less and less able to make financial decisions for themselves, their children are the most likely to be called to handle the finances. It’s no coincidence that the most common perpetrators of financial abuse for elders come from immediate family members.

Spahn compares the hidden scourge of elder abuse to the rampant spousal abuse that went unreported in the middle of the 20th century. “Nobody would talk about it. And it was viewed as a civil matter,” she says.

Some of the biggest temptations for elder abuse comes when a family member may still be reliant on their parents for financial assistance. Then, when the parent becomes unable to handle their own financial matters, the dependent child suddenly has access to a parent’s bank account and starts writing checks to themselves, Spahn says.

Another issue Spahn has seen is with inheritance, and children who are expecting their inheritance to help them as they age themselves.

“If mom and dad are holding on to 95, then that means they’re approaching their retirement without their inheritance, and they don’t like that,” Spahn says.

Spahn says the best way to prevent financial elder abuse is to appoint someone they trust the most with their bills as their power of attorney.

“I tell my clients the power of attorney is more important than their will,” Spahn says. “The will isn’t pulled out until after they’re gone.”

If a person either doesn’t have children, or has children who live too far away to be an effective power of attorney, Spahn says the next best step is to appoint a corporate fiduciary to handle their financial matters. Most banks have trust departments, where people can appoint independent financial guardians.

If a parent has more than one child, Spahn says one of the best ways to alleviate family tension amongst siblings is to have the designated power of attorney provide copies of banking and financial statements, and use software like Quicken to provide online access to such information.

“If one child is not willing to do that, then that’s a red flag,” Spahn says. “If mom is still alive, and the kids are hiring lawyers, they’ve all just lost.”

To report elder abuse, people are urged to call Adult Protective Services at 800-652-1999. Callers may remain anonymous. Visit the National Center on Elder Abuse at ncea.acl.gov for more information.

This article was printed in the January/February 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Stephen Hipple

December 22, 2017 by
Photography by Heather and Jameson Hooton

These autobiographical pieces and corresponding photos are part of a special edition of 60PLUS featuring local residents who prove that fashion has no age limits.


Stephen Hipple, 68 

I’m just a guy who loves wine, food, friends, parties, dogs, hunting, motorcycle riding, traveling, and—most of all—my wonderful wife and children.

Some of my most cherished accomplishments include organizing wine and food festivals around the world for the International Wine & Food Society (a nonprofit organization), riding my BMW motorcycle from Omaha to the southernmost tip of South America, and learning there are many more good people in this world than bad.

What brings me happiness? My friends, wife, children, and dog Charlie (a long-haired black dachshund).

Here’s my advice for living life: If you’re having a bad day, instead of whining, wine a little.

Don’t get hung up on trying to look like you’re 17 again. All that will do is make you feel bad.

If you want to look great at any age, be sure to exercise, eat healthy, and drink two glasses of fine wine every day.

This article was printed in the January/February 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Joan Standifer

Photography by Heather and Jameson Hooton

These autobiographical pieces and corresponding photos are part of a special edition of 60PLUS featuring local residents who prove that fashion has no age limits.


Joan Standifer, 75

I’m a fabulous, 75-year-young woman with an attitude that embraces the joy of living.

I’m an Omaha native who raised two now-adult children: Michael, who lives in Omaha, and Monica Baker, who lives in Atlanta, Georgia. My legacy continues with granddaughter, Micka, and 8-month-old great-granddaughter, Zaina. I am married to the marvelous love of my life, Stanley Standifer, and enjoy a blended family with his four children and seven grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter.

My college education culminated with a master’s degree from the University of Nebraska-Omaha in education administration. Over a 30-year span, I held several positions with Omaha Public Schools, retiring as an elementary principal.

Many years of my life were spent as an advocate of social equality and quality education. I consider myself a cultural navigator, dedicated to lifelong learning and discovery of the world and its people. This philosophy has been reinforced by my travels to 75 percent of the world, and in serving on civic, social, and education boards. As a UNO-sponsored Fulbright Scholarship recipient, I traveled to Pakistan, met world leaders, and shared these experiences in presentations. Many honors and awards have been extended to me as a result of sharing my experiences.

Happiness is knowing that my life has been a beacon for my former students and members of my family. It’s rewarding to know that a former fifth-grade student of mine, to this day, regards me as the “greatest teacher ever.” I relish the fact that at this age, I continue to make a difference in the lives of those around me.

Let your light shine so that others can walk in your path toward success in life. Let others discover their value and be willing to share of themselves for the greater good. Be honest and unpretentious in your relationships. Aging becomes less of a factor when you live by faith and have respect for mankind.

This article was printed in the January/February 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Tony Abbott, Ron Palagi, and Frank Skrupa

Photography by Heather and Jameson Hooton

These autobiographical pieces and corresponding photos are part of a special edition of 60PLUS featuring local residents who prove that fashion has no age limits.


Tony Abbott, 75

I was born during World War II. My father was away in the Army, and my mother went to live with her parents in Hordville, Nebraska. So, in the beginning, I was a country boy. We later moved back to South Omaha where I began grade school. In the early ’50s, we moved to a house in the Blackstone area. I finished high school at Omaha Central and began studies at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

I found work at an aquarium store called the Fin Shop on South 14th Street. While there, I met Michael Harrison. We would work together for 30 years. He passed away in 1992.

In 1969, we began work at the French Café in the Old Market. Slowly the Old Market began to grow, and so did the French Café. I’m very proud and happy to have survived 42 years in the restaurant business. During that time, the name French Café was recognized in Omaha by residents and praised by the press locally, nationally, and internationally. I was also named “Maître-Conseil en Gastronomie Française” by the French government and presented with a medal.

I married late in life and was delighted to receive two beautiful girls. Sadly, I lost one of them to cardiac arrest due to asthma.

Happiness is having wonderful friends like Ron Palagi and Frank Skrupa (among others).

I was told many years ago, “You are born to die, so make the most of the life you are given and enjoy.”


Ronald Palagi, forever young

As a young boy, it was my dream to be an attorney who helped others. Yes, I’m living my dream.

I find happiness in cooking for and with loved ones and friends, and in great music and art.

I was blessed with loving parents, wonderful independent daughters, creative friends, and loves in many countries.

Laugh, cry, give thanks, and keep moving every day. Life is a mystery. Each day is an adventure.


Frank Skrupa, 85

I was born, raised, and entirely educated in Omaha. I married the right woman, who was delightful, humorous, and hard working. I worked with Rosemary for 40 years in business, and I’m proud Credit Advisors is still around after 60 years.

I have only lived in two houses in my life: my parents’ home, and the one I moved into when I married and raised a family. I still live there now.

I am proud of the friends who helped me along the way, and my three children, Frank, Sam, and Carlo. As Rosemary, an attorney herself, would say, “Two are attorneys, and one is a success.”

What makes me happiest? BS-ing with friends over good wine and food, my children, and (in a pinch) reasonable relatives.

Humor is the secret to a good life. Also, cut back to just one bottle of wine a day. Exercise is for dogs and horses. I tried golf once but gave it up when I realized the better you get, the less you get to hit the ball.

This article was printed in the January/February 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Roger duRand

December 21, 2017 by
Photography by Heather and Jameson Hooton

These autobiographical pieces and corresponding photos are part of a special edition of 60PLUS featuring local residents who prove that fashion has no age limits.

Roger duRand, 74

I’m a designer, husband, father, and grandfather (and former “fashion guru,” according to the World-Herald).

Although I was born in Colorado, I grew up in Omaha. After I finished school, I traveled extensively in the U.S., performing a variety of jobs from folk singer and fry cook to portrait artist, art teacher, sign-painter, and illustrator, all the while passing through Omaha occasionally to work with my father as an architectural designer (as I had done from the age of 13).

I eventually gravitated back to Omaha, and became a partner in 1967 in a Midtown counter-cultural shop called The Farthest Outpost. When I learned of the former produce market downtown and toured the beautiful old buildings, I knew I wanted to be there. The Farthest Outpost became one of the first new businesses that opened in the Old Market in 1968. We sold the business in 1969 and opened duRand & Wright, a design-oriented shop, which I closed a year later to concentrate on my own design practice. I designed many shops, apartments, condos, logos, and advertising campaigns, and provided aesthetic counsel to nascent businesses in the growing Old Market.

Over the years, I have designed for clients across the country and in England, but the Old Market holds a special place in my affections.

In 1971, I participated in the planning commission that created the “return to the river” Central Park Mall, and the anticipated Marina City that was tragically co-opted by ConAgra. I fought to save Jobbers Canyon from
needless demolition.

In the ’80s, I served on Omaha’s Zoning Board of Appeals, and later on the Landmarks Historic Preservation Commission.

My work consists of a variety of disciplines: primary architecture, interior architecture, furniture design, lighting design, graphic design, and corporate identity.

Back in the day, I used to cut hair for rock bands. The Farthest Outpost booked San Francisco bands into the Music Box and other local venues. I even made clothes and leather goods.

My wife, Jody, and I were married 24 years ago in the Garden of the Zodiac and hosted our reception at La Buvette, closing 11th Street south of Howard Street for the party.

Life is good. I will never retire. Family, work, recreation, and travel energize me.

My advice on aging is: don’t. Stay involved in society. Stay fit and healthy. Use your special abilities. Show your love and friendship.

There’s no reason that a person of advancing years can’t look great. Style trumps fashion. Style is art; fashion is commerce. Have the confidence to express your unique personal creativity in dress. I have acquired a great wardrobe over many years, and routinely wear items that are 40 years old. Buy the best quality and maintain conscientiously. Style is never out of style.

This article first appeared in the January/February 2018 edition of 60PLUS.