Tag Archives: Bellevue

It’s a Makers Weekend

November 15, 2018 by

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Pick of the WeekFriday, Nov. 16:  This Friday is full of good things, thanks to the OEAA Showcases happening at some of your favorite, local music joints in Benson. You can check out full lineups at Burke’s Pub, The B Side, and Barley Street Tavern, or bounce around to catch your favorites. For only $10, your wristband will get you in to see over 15 performances featuring bands, DJs, hip-hop artists, and comedians. Why would you spend your night anywhere else? Get the whole setlist here.

Thursday, Nov. 15:  It’s a magical night at Bayliss Park as they celebrate Winterfest. This free event marks the kickoff of a festive winter wonderland in the park. With Santa, hot cocoa, reindeer, and carolers, tonight will definitely get you in the mood for some holiday fun. Don’t miss the lighting ceremony and a showing of Frosty the Snowman. For the full rundown, click here.

Friday, Nov. 16 to Sunday, Nov. 18: Shopping for the perfect gift for your loved ones? Be sure to check out Junktoberfest at the Southroads Mall in Bellevue where you can choose from collectibles, crafts, handmade pieces, and more. There will also be food and entertainment available for when you need a break from all the mall walking. You have the whole weekend to check it out, but don’t wait until the last day if you want to get the good stuff. Head here for more information.

Saturday, Nov. 17: It’s part Santa’s workshop, part science fair at SAC Museum this Saturday. Their Makers Market celebrates invention, creativity, and resourcefulness, with everyone from engineers to hobbyists to craft brewers in attendance. This is an event for the whole family to experience new forms of arts and technologies. Be sure to check out the puppet shows, yoga workshops, and musical performances throughout the day. Did I mention the duct tape Transformers? (Yes, that’s all duct tape!) Get the full list of all the many ways they’ll have to entertain and educate here.

Sunday, Nov. 18: Spend your lazy, Sunday afternoon supporting local talent at OutrSpaces with poet A.J.K O’Donnell. An Afternoon with A.J.K. O’Donnell will help fund an extension of her book tour, so let’s make it work. Pre-sale tickets include a signed copy of her latest book, This Void Beckons. They will also include early entrance & seating, appetizers, an open bar, and several other perks. There will also be time for dialogue and questions for the author. To learn more, just tap here.

 

Francis Burt

October 28, 2018 by
Illustration by Derek Joy

There was much excitement in October 1854 as the Nebraska pioneers eagerly awaited Francis Burt, the new territory’s first governor. That hope was felt most in Bellevue. After all, according to the Nebraska Palladium newspaper, the town of Bellevue was “destined by nature to become the metropolis of learning as well as of legis- lation and commerce in Nebraska.” Surely, Governor Burt would recognize the obvious. 

He’d been appointed by President Franklin Pierce in August after General William Butler of Kentucky turned down the posi- tion. Burt was then serving as Third Auditor of the Treasury in Washington, D.C., and this seemed another political leap as Nebraska Territory (at that time) stretched from the Missouri River north to Canada and west to what became Idaho. 

Burt was a Democrat who had served as South Carolina state legislator and treasurer. He was also a member of the 1832 nullifi- cation convention, nominally a dispute over federal tariffs, but in actuality a defense of slavery and a state’s right to “nullify,” or ignore, federal law. 

In the lead-up to Burt’s appointment as ter- ritorial governor, local European-American settlers advocated for the cession of Native American land rights. In 1852, Missouri traders gathered at Uniontown in pres- ent-day Kansas to agitate for territorial government. That year, a Missouri con- gressman introduced legislation to create the Platte Territory, covering lands west of the Missouri River. Likewise, in 1853, an estimated 150 Iowans ferried across the river to Bellevue to elect Hadley Johnson as their territorial delegate from the still non-existent territory. 

Bellevue boosters then truly jumped the gun when (on Feb. 9, 1854) Peter Sarpy, Stephen Decatur, and a host of Iowa speculators organized the Bellevue Town Co. After all, where else would Nebraska’s new metropolis appear other than the main American settle- ment where fur trade posts first appeared in the 1820s? 

The Kansas-Nebraska Act that created two new American territories was signed by Pierce on May 30. The floodgates opened as the 1820 Missouri Compromise was squashed by “squatter sovereignty,” allow- ing residents of the new territories to decide on the issue of slavery. Around this same time period, the Whig Party self-destructed with mounting North-South tension, the “Know-Nothing” American Party sought to keep the country safe from Catholic hordes of German and Irish immigrants, and “Anti-Nebraskans” coalesced into the Republican Party. Meanwhile, the country marched steadily toward Civil War. It’s also worth noting that treaties ceding eastern Nebraska to the U.S. by the Omaha and Otoe-Missouria Nations were not ratified until June (after already officially establish- ing the Territory of Nebraska). 

These were heady times that greeted Burt’s arrival at Bellevue on Oct. 6, 1854. But these qualms of mortal men would soon be of little consequence to the rising politician. Burt had fallen ill during his voyage and was too sick to attend the reception held in his honor, where grandiose speeches went on without him. He sought refuge at the Presbyterian Bellevue Mission House, located on what is now the east side of Warren Street between 19th and 20th avenues. That’s where Burt took his oath of office on Oct. 16, and where he died two days later. 

Burt’s death marked the end of Bellevue’s ambitions, as Acting Governor Thomas Cuming’s interests in Omaha City soon became clear. Today, the name of Nebraska’s first territorial governor is commemorated by Omaha’s Burt Street (a sore consolation to those early Bellevue boosters) as well as the state’s Burt County. Bellevue remained part of Douglas County until 1857 when Sarpy County was created (Bellevue served as the county seat of Sarpy County until 1875 when Papillion seized the distinction through election).” 


Territorial governors were appointed. State governors are elected. Remember to vote in Nebraska’s gubernatorial election on Nov. 6. 

This article was printed in the November/December 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Alicia Sancho Scherich

March 29, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Behind every good artist, there exists a muse. And for Alicia Sancho Scherich, her muse happens to be a former pen pal—Mother Teresa. Yes, that Mother Teresa, Nobel Peace Prize winner and humanitarian extraordinaire. 

The two connected only once, but the memory still brings tears to Sancho Scherich’s eyes as she recalls it nearly three decades later. After completing a large canvas painting of the icon, she wanted to make reproductions and wrote to ask Mother Teresa if she’d like all sales donated to her charity. Being the saint that she is, Mother Teresa wrote back, suggesting Sancho Scherich keep her goodwill within her local community instead. But Sancho Scherich had an even better, bigger, and bolder idea.

Using this first 4-by-6 foot canvas painting as the epicenter of something much more grandiose, Sancho Scherich began painting, researching, and painting some more. Twelve years later, 17 more linen canvases made stunning with strokes of oil paint, and her magnum opus was complete—a mural titled “World Peace” that went on display in Creighton’s Lied Art Gallery last year. 

“I wanted to create something that captured the nature of man, with each canvas depicting either a different positive or negative aspect,” Sancho Scherich says. “I consider this my greatest and most thought-provoking achievement.”

And that’s really saying something for an 84-year-old artist who’s been working for the better part of the last century. Throughout her illustrious career, Sancho Scherich’s style has transitioned from traditional realism to abstract expressionism, but all of her work stands out for its near perfection. Even with hundreds of paintings, murals, and prints under her belt, each piece manages to combine obsessive research with uncanny imagination to embody all the things that make humanity, well, human.

“Although my work may look different, I always try to get straight to the heart of the matter, whether it’s a portrait or a symbolic piece,” Sancho Scherich says. “And when something comes to my head, I just love working and working on it until it’s perfect.”

With her lineage, though, creative perfectionism runs through Sancho Scherich’s very DNA. Her grandfather was a violinist in the court orchestra of King Alfonso XIII of Spain, and her grandmother was an accomplished artist, as was her father. So much so that he received wide acclaim and was awarded bronze, silver, and gold medals from the Spanish National Exposition of Fine Arts (the equivalence of such an honor in the United States would be being named Artist Laureate by the
federal government).

While Sancho Scherich has called the sprawling suburbs of Bellevue, Nebraska, home since 1960, she still looks to lessons from her father in the sunny vistas of Madrid as the catalyst for her later accomplishments. In fact, with her father’s guidance, her artistic career began with handcrafting royal dolls as a teenager and working towards a degree in fashion design and toy making. By age 26, this Spanish señorita was United States-bound after falling for and marrying an American airman who was being transferred from a post in Spain to Offutt Air Force Base.

“There are many cultural differences in Spanish and American art,” Sancho Scherich says. “Here, the first thing many consider is how much money they can get out of a painting. In Europe, price is secondary, so the work is more authentic and passionate.” 

These Spanish values stay with Sancho Scherich today. Most of her paintings are given as gifts or adorn the walls of her home (adjacent to Fontenelle Forest). But even the most passionate of painters needs to make some pennies. From St. Joseph Hospital to College of St. Mary to the Woodmen of the World Society, she has been commissioned to paint portraits for present and past leadership in notable organizations. Additionally, she creates work for local philanthropies that are given to help raise funds at charity auctions. 

Like Spanish wine, things seem to only get sweeter with age for Sancho Scherich. In late 2017, she nabbed two nominations from the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards for her showing of “World Peace” at Creighton earlier in the year. And if she has any say, that’s just the beginning of this piece’s journey. She hopes to market it to be shown in galleries across the Midwest, the nation, and eventually the world, all with the end goal of it finally being installed in the United Nations General Assembly.

“Her passion for this project is simply unmatched,” says Steve Scherich, her son. “Even me, after years of looking at these canvases, I’ll find things I hadn’t ever seen before. This really needs to be shared with others.”

At barely 5 feet tall, this petite painter packs a big heart and doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. Even after suffering a stroke two years ago and losing her husband, she says nothing will stop her from hunting down that next big idea.

“Art is something inside you that you need to express always,” Sancho Scherich says. “I can’t stop doing this and go to the Riviera anytime soon. I just need to find something to inspire me to create again.”

Saint Cecilia Cathedral’s Sunderland Gallery is hosting an exhibition of Alicia Sancho Scherich’s father’s work, A Lifetime of Painting by Mariano Sancho, through April 1. Visit cathedralartsproject.org for more information.

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

Evelyn Zaloudek

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.


Evelyn Zaloudek, 86

My family moved to Omaha in 1945 from a farm in Woodbine, Iowa, where I was in the 4-H Club. My project was raising two Hereford steers, one of which won the grand champion of his class at the Harrison County Fair. I showed him at Aksarben, and he won a blue ribbon. It was a sad day when he was sold with a group of other blue-ribbon calves to a hotel in New York City. Of course, in those days, they sent the calves right over to the packing house and then shipped them back East. That was the end of my farming days.

I graduated from South High where I met my handsome, hardworking, successful husband, Eugene Zaloudek. We have been married 66 years and counting. We have a son, Steven, two daughters, Wendy and Kris, and six adult granddaughters. I am blessed with nine great-grandchildren, four boys and five girls.

Because of the Korean War draft, Gene enlisted in the Navy in 1951 and was stationed at the Olathe Kansas Naval Air Station. We lived in Bonner Springs, Kansas. Gene received orders to go to Guam, where I joined him with our 11-month-old son. Guam was quite an experience. There were Japanese guns still on the beaches and Japanese soldiers hiding in the hills. Our daughter, Wendy, was born in the new military hospital just three days after it opened.

We left the island by ship in January 1955. After 18 days at sea, we docked at Oakland, California, where Gene received his discharge. We returned to Omaha by train.

We bought a home in Papillion, where our daughter Kristen was born. All three of the children graduated from Papillion high schools. We built a home in Bellevue in 1974 and still reside there. I love the area, with all the wildlife, trees, and good neighbors.

I worked at Mutual of Omaha for 10 years, the Sarpy County Court judge’s office for 10 years, and in the Sarpy County office of Dakota Title & Escrow Co. for 26 years. I sat on the board of directors of Midlands Community Hospital for five years in the 1980s and saw the hospital come out of receivership. I have volunteered in the gift shop for over 35 years.

I have wonderful happy memories of skiing in Colorado, sailing on Gavin’s Point Lake on weekends, wintering in Florida after retirement, and the great trips we have made. Many of these memories include family and good friends who are no longer with us.

We adopted a nine-year-old rescue westie, Stella, who is now 13 years old. I cannot help laughing when I call her to come into the house; it reminds me of Marlon Brando in the movie On the Waterfront. I hope I outlive her.

My advice for others? If you have a talent, share it, even if it is a green thumb. I have given away many varieties of hostas that I have collected over the years.

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

Nebraska’s Capital

January 25, 2017 by
Photography by Contributed

When Nebraska achieved statehood on March 1, 1867, it was the turning point in a 12-year-long, bitter, and sometimes violent struggle to move the capital from Omaha to…well, anywhere except Omaha.

“Divisiveness festered the moment Congress organized the Nebraska Territory on May 30, 1854. The first territorial governor, Francis Burt, arrived in October to determine the capital’s location. In ill health, Burt was besieged by “every influential man in the territory”—especially those with large landholdings in fledgling towns near the Missouri River. Though Burt appeared to favor Bellevue, a more established settlement predating Omaha, he died just 10 days later and “sought in the grave that repose which it was evident he could never find in Nebraska,” according to James Savage and John Bell in their 1894 book, History of Omaha.

“Our pioneer urban developers knew getting the seat of government would help drive their community’s economy. There was no tax base, and they needed all the federal money they could get,” says Harl Dalstrom, retired history professor, University of Nebraska at Omaha. “Even today we may complain about federal spending, but it becomes legitimate and welcome when the dollars come our way.”

The battle for the capital took shape on both sides of the Platte River, a geographical barrier for people north and south of it, and a political dividing line. The Kansas-Nebraska Act that created the Nebraska Territory also focused on slavery’s expansion. The act would destroy Democratic unity in 1860; it split the U.S. into two political parties, with Republicans primarily in the north and Democrats in the south.

Using the Platte as a line of demarcation, Thomas Cuming, territorial secretary and acting governor, divided the Nebraska Territory into eight counties: four north and four south of the river. Although a census showed more people lived south of the Platte, Cuming announced the first legislative session would convene in Omaha.

capital

A rising young Iowa Democrat, Cuming undoubtedly was influenced by his ties to Council Bluffs and his landholdings in Omaha. “Both cities were interdependent as the West expanded. It’s unlikely Omaha would have existed without its ties to Council Bluffs,” says Dalstrom. The Council Bluffs and Nebraska Ferry Co. supported Cuming’s decision, offering its meeting house on Ninth Street between Farnam and Douglas streets for the session beginning Jan. 16, 1855.

Rancor soon was apparent, with delegates from Bellevue and south of the Platte arriving dressed as Indians, wearing red blankets “to indicate their ‘savage’ intentions toward Cuming,” according to Upstream: An Urban Biography of Metropolis Omaha & Council Bluffs, co-authored by Lawrence Larsen, Barbara Cottrell, and Harl and Kay Calame Dalstrom.

Cuming ignored the blanketed delegates. A.J. Hanscom, unofficial leader of the Omaha delegation, was elected Speaker of the House, supported by his friend, Andrew Jackson Poppleton, a master of debate and parliamentary skill. Buoyed by rich Omahans who bribed delegates with money, land, and promises, the two led a joint resolution on Feb. 22, 1855, naming Omaha the capital, with the ferry company’s meeting house becoming the first capitol building.

The second territorial capitol was built in 1857 on the site of today’s Central High School at 20th and Dodge streets. Scarcely had the mortar set when Omaha’s adversaries introduced a bill in January 1858 that would move the capital to a new, non-existent town. Omaha did not have enough votes to stop it, so Hanscom and Poppleton began a carefully orchestrated showdown using parliamentary procedure, writes David Bristow in A Dirty, Wicked Town: Tales of 19th Century Omaha.

Through a technicality, Poppleton succeeded in getting Nebraska City’s James Decker, the new House Speaker and an Omaha foe, out of the speaker’s chair, and temporarily replaced him with J. Sterling Morton, an Omaha ally. Intending to filibuster until time ran out on the session’s remaining eight days, the Omaha contingent drew the wrath of Decker, who vowed to regain the chair “or die trying.”

Decker attempted to pry the gavel from the chair’s occupant, then tried to tip him out. Hanscom engaged Decker in a tug-of-war, igniting a brawl with bloody noses and black eyes too numerous to mention, writes Bristow. On the following morning, the anti-Omaha crowd adjourned to Florence (then its own city) and carried a motion to move the legislature there. However, Acting Governor Cuming refused to recognize the Florence legislature, supported by incoming Gov. William Richardson.

The struggle to relocate the capital continued year after year until December 1866, when the U.S. Congress passed a resolution naming Nebraska as the country’s 37th state, effective March 1, 1867. President Andrew Johnson opposed the statehood and vetoed the bill. But Congress overrode it, the only time in U.S. history that a statehood bill became law over a presidential veto, writes Tammy Partsch in It Happened in Nebraska: Remarkable Events that Shaped History.

To placate those south of the Platte River who were considering annexation to Kansas, the legislature voted to place the capital city in Lancaster County. Prior to the vote, Omaha Sen. J.N.H. Patrick attempted to thwart the move by naming the future capital city after recently assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. It was assumed Democrats would not support a capital named after the Republican president, but the Removal Act successfully passed in May 1867.

Gov. David Butler and others toured sites and, by September, had zeroed in on the village of Lancaster, renaming it Lincoln. The state capitol building was completed Dec. 1, 1868, but despite the intervening months, nothing had been done in Omaha to prepare for the move. Many officials, including Butler, didn’t believe Omaha’s citizens would let the capital go.

So, during an evening snowstorm in late December 1868, men surreptitiously entered the Omaha capitol and cleared it of all documents, deeds, and certificates related to the governance of Nebraska, writes Partsch. By midnight the men and pack horses departed, spiriting the documents to Lincoln’s new capitol building, where the Nebraska Legislature would meet within a month. Like the history preceding it, the change was made under a cloud of politics and controversy.

Visit nebraskahistory.org for more information.

At the Heart of St. Matthew

November 15, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

“When I see a student no longer having to struggle to read or do a math problem—that is why I teach. They take so much pride in them-selves when they become independent in their thinking.”

-Lisa Benson

As a young Girl Scout in Texas, a lightbulb went off when Lisa Benson’s troop adopted a special needs class during her middle school years. She knew exactly what she wanted to be when she grew up. That connection to those students made her realize that her future place in life was in a classroom. She held on to that joy of helping others when she attended Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, and majored in elementary education. She dedicated her education further by continuing on for her master’s degree in literacy from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Now, at 58 years old and with over 20 years of teaching experience, Lisa Benson was recently honored as one of the Educators of the Year in the elementary category by the Archdiocese of Omaha at the Archbishop’s Dinner for Education on Sept. 29, 2016.

Nominated by the principal, staff, and community of St. Matthew Catholic School, where she has taught first grade for the past 14 years, Benson was just as shocked as she was thrilled to receive the award: “I was so surprised. I feel I have always given my best to St. Matthew School, my students, and their families. It is such an honor to be recognized for hard work and dedication. I truly appreciate all the support from the archdiocese, my fellow teachers, and the families at St. Matthew.”

It’s that heart and dedication that is exactly why she was nominated, according to school principal Jim Daro, who has worked with her during the four years he’s been at St. Matthew.

“Mrs. Benson is an outstanding teacher,” Daro says. “She cares deeply for her students and their progress in and out of her classroom. She maintains a classroom environment where students are cared for and comfortable; they know they are there to learn. They respect her just as much as she respects them.”

As a mother of three grown children, Benson loves cultivating independence in not only her own children but those she teaches every day in the first grade classroom. “At this age, they love learning,” she says. “So all I have to do is present it to them, and they soak it up. When I see a student no longer having to struggle to read or do a math problem—that is why I teach. They take so much pride in themselves when they become independent in their thinking.”

But teaching hasn’t always come easy to Benson. She didn’t start her teaching career until after raising her children. At the start of working at St. Matthew, she felt behind in the field of education. “Things had changed since I graduated from college. This struggle has made me aware of how my students, or even a new staff member, may feel when a concept isn’t clear to them.”

That empathy is what led her to become like a support system to many other teachers at the school. Daro raves about Benson’s ability to help others, “She is a mentor and a leader with the rest of the faculty. She is highly involved in our school and community beyond the classroom. Mrs. Benson is involved with our school board, our development team, and our school improvement team.”

As for what Benson will do with the $5,000 award prize from her prestigious Educator of the Year recognition: “My husband and I are still figuring that out. Maybe a trip!”

And with all the hard work, time, and heart Benson puts into each day of teaching, a trip is definitely a great way to celebrate her dedication to the St. Matthew students and educational community.

Visit stmatthewbellevuene.net for more information.

This article was printed in the Winter 2016 edition of Family Guide, an Omaha Publications magazine.

Obviously Omaha

June 29, 2016 by
Bohemian Cafe

Bohemian Cafe

Outdoor Adventure Center

Outdoor Adventure Center

Farmers' Markets

Farmers’ Markets

Alpine Inn

Alpine Inn

Farnam House Brewing Company

Farnam House Brewing Company

Omaha's Original Greek Festival

Omaha’s Original Greek Festival

APPRECIATE
Omaha’s Czech community will lose a cornerstone of culinary heritage with the shuttering of the Bohemian Cafe (1406 S. 13th St.) scheduled for September. Enjoy dining on their signature plum dumplings, svickova, goulash, hasenpfeffer, and kolaches while you still can. Closure of the south Omaha staple is the latest in a trend affecting many of the city’s most historic restaurants.

PADDLE
Escape the sweltering heat by river. The University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Outdoor Venture Center (OVC) offers affordable canoe, kayak, and stand-up paddle board rentals. Paddling from Schramm Park to Louisville State Recreation Areas is a mild 5.6-mile trip that takes roughly 2.5 hours on the Platte River. The OVC also rents camping equipment for those heading to the Niobrara River or other far-off destinations.

FORAGE
Summer is the season for farmers’ markets. Support local agriculture and artisanal vendors all across the metro area: Saturdays in the Old Market, Benson, Village Point, and Bellevue; Sundays at The Florence Mill and in Aksarben Village; Wednesdays at Charles Drew Health Center Market in North Omaha, and in Papillion; Thursdays on Council Bluffs’ Main Street; and Saturdays and Wednesdays in Plattsmouth.

GO WILD
The Alpine Inn feeds deep-fried dinner scraps to wild raccoons once daily outside their restaurant, 10405 Calhoun Rd. The feeding frenzy is not set by clock time; rather, the feast begins once customers’ leftovers fill a 5-gallon bucket. Raccoons linger impatiently opposite a large glass windows before and after evening meals.

DRINK

Farnam House Brewing Company’s Bière de Garde won a silver medal at the 2016 World Beer Cup in May. The once-every-two-years event—billed as “the most prestigious beer competition in the world”—featured 6,596 beers from 1,907 breweries and 55 countries. The only other Nebraska brewery to medal was Lincoln’s Ploughshare Brewing Co. Bière de Garde means “beer for keeping” in French, and Farnam House keeps the farmhouse-style ale on tap year-round.

CELEBRATE
Remember to say, “Opa!” and head to St. John’s Greek Orthodox Church (St. Mary Ave. & Park Avenue) for Omaha’s Original Greek Festival on August 19-21. Authentic Greek music, culture, food, and alcohol await. Adult entry costs $3, and the event is free for children under age 12, students, military, police and fire department staff.

Clara Sue Arnsdorff

June 9, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When Clara Sue Arnsdorff, 73, moved to Bellevue with her Air Force family (husband Gordon, son John, and daughter Susan) in the late ’70s, many things in what seemed like just another short-term assignment turned out to be key ingredients for a sweet life.

“The Air Force sent my husband’s whole unit here in 1977, and we have been here ever since,” Arnsdorff says. “We loved the area. Good schools, kids were settled nicely, so we stayed until my husband retired. Both kids attended Hastings College and got excellent educations. All because we moved here.”

It’s funny how helping out becomes habitual for some folks. When the Arnsdorff family was still new to Bellevue, it was the younger members who set the stage for their mom’s backstage life promoting the Bellevue Little Theatre.

BellevueLittleTheater2“I blame that on our kids. When they were 7 and 9, there was an open audition at the Bellevue Little Theater for the first of a series of family shows to be done there, ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,’” Arnsdorff says. “Both kids auditioned, and our daughter was chosen. I had absolutely no idea that some 35 years later I would still be so involved.”

The next year, Arnsdorff’s son John, then age 10, was cast in “Oliver,” then “Cheaper by the Dozen.”

“The list continued for some time. I guess I became a familiar face down there. When the publicity person moved on, I was asked to take over the job,” Arnsdorff recalls wistfully about the amount of time and effort that went into spreading the word in the ’80s. “Back then, all the info had to be mailed to the newspapers, radio, and TV stations, and I used our old Apple to type that up, print it, and mail it.”

It didn’t take long for Arnsdorff to become a permanent part of the Bellevue Little Theatre team.

“After a couple of years, I was asked to be on the board of directors, and I have been active there ever since,” Arnsdorff says. “I have been corresponding secretary for about the last 10 years…and I must say that the job actually involves much more than ‘corresponding.’”

As co-chair of the play and director selection committee, Arnsdorff is tasked with reading and selecting the plays and musicals to be staged at the Bellevue Little Theatre. She even invites the directors for each show.

Arnsdorff says her life in theater has taught her about patience, empathy, and understanding.

“As you get older, I think you appreciate more the everyday struggles of families and working moms. Raising kids is a full time job. I was fortunate that I was a stay-at-home mom, but that luxury is fast disappearing,” Arnsdorff says. “Volunteering has helped me to be more empathetic. It reminds me that we have to be patient with volunteers. It’s hard sometimes. Many expect volunteers to be experts at their jobs, but it doesn’t work like that. We have to share ideas, be ready to admit errors, and move on to make things better. We have to listen, but be open…that is hard.”

Visit bellevuelittletheatre.com for more info.

BellevueLittleTheater1

Peace is His Profession

February 5, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

How many times have moviegoers seen Washington, D.C. destroyed by a wayward nuke/seven-mile-wide comet/giant solar flare/fire-throwing robots/aliens/zombies or renegade paramilitary outfit, only to have a fearless pilot save the day at the last minute? Hollywood, at least since the Cold War, has thrived on channeling Americans’ apocalyptic fears, now more clearly defined since the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

While the causes of the onscreen cataclysmic events may be a little off-kilter, swooping in to rescue officials from the highest levels of government is no fantasy for a select group of pilots at Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue, including Major Jon Grossrhode. A member of the 1st Airborne Command & Control Squadron and a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Omaha, Grossrhode (pronounced GROSS-road-ee) flies one of the great wonders of the aeronautical world.

The military calls the highly modified Boeing 747-200 series the E-4B: its project name, Nightwatch. Civilians know it as the “Doomsday Plane,” but Grossrhode isn’t biting.

“Well, some people call it that,” the 34-year old Plattsmouth resident says quietly, clearly not comfortable surrendering the vital importance of Nightwatch to pop culture lingo.

If a worst-case scenario unfolds in Washington, “We will support the President and his national security team, the Secretary of Defense, and the Joint Chiefs,” explains Grossrhode. “The plane has been tested (to withstand) nuclear attacks.” Thus, Nightwatch becomes an airborne command post. Its ability to re-fuel in the air allows the plane to fly for days. The 165,000 pounds of electronics onboard keep the lines of communication open with forces on the ground.

There are actually four E-4Bs that rotate a maintenance schedule, leaving two planes on active duty at any given time. An E-4 is somewhere in the world on alert 24/7, 365 days a year. Since the planes are based at Offutt, Midlanders often look up in the sky, see an E-4 on a training mission between Omaha and Lincoln, and mistake it for its cousin, Air Force One.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (our July/August 2014 Omaha Magazine cover feature), a western Nebraska native and 1971 UNO graduate, already knows the E-4 quite well. He uses it for overseas trips, with Maj. Grossrhode one of three pilots at the controls.

“We’ll fly from Offutt to Andrews (Air Force Base) and he meets us there,” explains Grossrhode. What are the odds (all due respect to Tom Cruise and Top Gun) that two UNO Mavericks would find commonality aboard a plane also manned by a Nebraska-based crew?

“I knew he had gone to UNO, but you just can’t go up to the Secretary of Defense and say, ‘Hey, what’s up? How’s it going?’” says Grossrhode, showing a flash of humor. “His staff introduced me to him.” The two men have since formed a bond, often chatting about Omaha and Offutt.

“[Hagel] comes up to the flight deck, puts on a headset and thanks us every time,” Grossrhode says, adding, “He’s very personable.”

A tour of the E-4B shows a plane short on amenities but huge on technology, with conference rooms, offices, and space for a full complement of media. Hagel’s quarters are spartan compared to the facilities on the President’s plane. He has a bunk bed, several chairs, and a small bathroom with a sink, but no shower, making a 15-hour flight from Beijing to D.C. challenging. Nightwatch can reach a top speed of 602 mph but “with a good tail wind, it can be faster,” says Grossrhode.

The son of a career Air Force dentist and a high school guidance counselor who are both from the Omaha area, Maj. Grossrhode grew up on several bases around the country. He knew early on that he wanted to honor his father’s legacy by becoming an Air Force pilot. He even looks the part of a man entrusted with the Air Force’s last line of defense. Tall and lanky with close-cropped hair, the soft-spoken Grossrhode has to bend his head way down to enter the E-4 cockpit, which is literally covered from top to bottom in switches and doo-dads of all stripes. Already a seasoned pilot by the time he trained on the E-4, Maj. Grossrhode credits his college experience with giving him a solid foundation.

“I wanted to live near my aunts, uncles and cousins, so I chose to go to UNO,” he explains. As a student at the school’s Aviation Institute, a gem of a program but little-known outside aviation circles, Grossrhode trained at Eppley Airfield and earned his private pilot’s license by the time he graduated in 2002. He arrived at Offutt in 2007 after serving as an instructor pilot in Oklahoma.

He has enjoyed every day since he arrived back home seven years ago.

“I’m living my dream,” he says. “I wanted to be a pilot for as long as I can remember, since I was a little boy. I grew up on Air Force bases watching air shows, getting to know the pilots. Now I get to come to work and fly every day.

“And I get paid for it!”

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Ring Our Bell

December 22, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Salvation Army red kettles, and the bell ringers who accompany them, are synonymous with the holiday season. For many community groups, bell ringing has become more than just volunteer service—it’s a yearly tradition.

Members of Boy Scout Troop 474 of Bellevue, and their families, have been active bell ringers for nearly 15 years and will be continuing the tradition this year. “They started when they were just 7,” says Rhonda Harris, whose 14-year-old son Josh is a member of the troop, “Now they’re freshman in high school.”

This year, the boys and their families will be bell ringing at the Hy-Vee at Shadow Lake Towne Center, their spot of choice the last several years. Each year between 15 and 20 scouts from the troop participate. “It’s nice to think of others this time of year,” says Dr. John Harris, Josh’s father, who serves as Troop Committee Chairman for Troop 474.

Josh, a freshman at Bellevue West High School, serves as Troop Service Project Coordinator and also became an Eagle Scout last January. Josh says that community service is an important part of Boy Scouts and has had a significant impact on him.

Boy Scouts can advance in rank through volunteerism, which is one reason many members of the troop come back year after year. But most of the scouts he knows, he says, volunteer for more reasons than personal gain.

“You get a lot out of it [community service]; knowing you are helping other people,” Josh says. “Those of us who have already achieved Eagle Scout still do it because we love to do it.”

Troop 474 started bell ringing, in part, because it’s a community service activity in which children of all ages can participate with adult supervision. Dr. Harris and his son added that, in addition to benefitting a good cause, bell ringing can be entertaining—meeting new people, hanging out with friends and family. Josh remembers one year in particular when he attended a lock-in the night before an early morning of bell ringing.

“I had just came back from the lock-in and I still loved doing it—even though I was practically falling asleep,” Josh remembers, laughing.

This year, Troop 474 plans to participate in a bell ringing challenge sponsored by the Salvation Army. There will be awards for most money raised in a kettle, most bell-ringing hours, highest percentage of club members ringing bells, and most money raised per club member.

Oh, sure, some people might avoid eye contact with the scouts when walking in and out of the store. Or, give them that “stop pestering me” look. But those folks are generally in the minority. “The vast majority of people are really glad you’re out there,” John says. “And you’re making a difference for people who aren’t as fortunate.”

Do you want to try your hand at bell ringing this year? The Harris family has one piece of advice for you: “Dress warm,” John says. “You never know what you are going to get with Nebraska weather!”

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