Tag Archives: marriage

Mr. & Mrs. Fink

June 1, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The evolution of CLOSENESS was quite literally a matter of the heart—not in a cheesy, romantic musing type of way, but the actual blood-pumping, life-sustaining muscular organ. Husband-wife duo Orenda Fink (Azure Ray) and Todd Fink (The Faint) are the masterminds behind the electro-dream-pop project. The couple say they always wanted to merge musical styles, but they could never quite find the time. Todd was touring in support of The Faint’s last album, Doom Abuse, and Orenda was involved in her solo work. As fate would have it, a frightening medical emergency involving Orenda’s heart temporarily brought everything to a screeching halt. In November 2015, she went under the knife to repair a birth defect that was
originally misdiagnosed.

“I had it my whole life, but never knew how dangerous it was,” Orenda admits. “They couldn’t believe I was still alive [laughs]. With my condition, I had a bunch of extra electrical pathways on my heart that were not supposed to be there. They had to get rid of them.”

“We realized there was no better time to do this,” Todd adds. “If we were going to do it, we had to do it now. After her surgery, everything became more urgent.”

Todd and Orenda have been a unit for more than 15 years, and it just so happens both are incredibly talented musicians in their own right. It was because of this shared love and compassion for one another that Orenda finally took her arrhythmia seriously. 

“I’ve had episodes my whole life,” she says. “A couple of weeks before I was diagnosed, my heart went into an abnormal rhythm. Normally, it would kick back in, but this time it just stayed. I was just so used to it that I was traveling, smoking cigarettes, hanging out with friends—but Todd was like, ‘Um, you need to go to the doctor immediately [laughs].’”

Orenda flew back to Omaha and went straight to the doctor. Two-and-a-half weeks later, the Georgia native was having heart surgery, which was the first time she’d ever had any kind of surgical procedure. What was supposed to be a three-hour event turned into 12 hours, but thankfully she pulled through. 

“Your heart is such an immediate thing—it has to be going,” she says with a hint of sarcasm. “It made us kind of realize how precious and fragile life is, I guess.” 

Back at home, she sunk into a depression, which can be common for heart patients. 

“When you are faced with your own mortality so intensely, you get depressed,” she says. 

Still recuperating in sweatpants and socks, CLOSENESS took its initial steps and Orenda quickly found solace in making music with her husband. 

“We started the band almost immediately,” she says. “It was cathartic. Something about that experience [surgery] made me realize now there were no more excuses not to do it.” 

On March 10, CLOSENESS unveiled its debut EP, Personality Therapy, and had its album release party later that night at Omaha’s beloved hole-in-the wall O’Leaver’s, where Todd and Orenda played to a packed house. Naturally, the Omaha music community came out in droves to support one of their own. Shortly after, the duo hit the road for Austin’s annual South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival and continued their road trip to New York City, something they’ve wanted to do for years. 

“We’re looking to tour as much as possible,” Todd explains. “It’s part of why we wanted to do a band with just the two of us—to be able to make kind of, like, a vacation out of it, where it’s just the two of us together, and we’re able to drive around in our car. It’s not like working. We don’t have to be away from each other to do what we’re doing. I am really looking forward to that aspect.” 

While traveling with other people has its merits, it also has its challenges. Oftentimes, the vastly different personalities can throw a wrench in the process, but for the Finks, it makes more sense. 

“We’ve been together for so long that our tastes have melded,” she says. “From what we like to do to where we like to eat—we just know each other. That’s one of the hardest parts about being on the road with other people—always having to compromise. This seems like a dream scenario.” 

Being a quintessential “rock-star couple,” however, didn’t always come easy. In the beginning, like all relationships, there were some hiccups, but it was nothing they couldn’t work through. 

“He got in trouble in the beginning years,” she jokes. “Not like cheating or anything, but figuring out what a married man can do—like he couldn’t go skinny-dipping with girls on tour anymore [laughs].”

“I thought the ocean was huge [laughs],” he replies. “You don’t get a manual when you get married. You don’t know exactly where the line is.” 

One big lesson they learned, however, is to not get caught up in the minutiae of everyday life. 

“Pick your battles,” Orenda says. “You have to keep the greatest good of the relationship as the highest priority. Everyone slips on that in any relationship. If you’re in a really intense working relationship together, you’re going to have friction. It’s figuring out how to deal with that friction. You want the outcome to be forgiveness and loving each other. If you slip up, remember that’s the ultimate goal.” 

“Winning an argument really isn’t worth anything,” Todd adds. “The goal isn’t to win. It’s to get back to a place of love.”

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This article was printed in the May/June 2017 edition of Encounter.

Individual Rights

March 2, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Originally published in March/April 2015 Omaha Magazine

The following anecdote explains much about retiring federal judge Joe Bataillon, but, more importantly, it is perhaps the greatest Creighton basketball love story ever told.

Bataillon left the U.S. Federal Courthouse early one spring day a few years ago to get home in time to watch Creighton play in an NCAA tournament game. When he opened the door to his back porch, he looked down and saw a small rectangular metal box. It was not his. There was no message on the box. Considering some of the killers he has sent to prison, there was good reason to fear it was a bomb.His conundrum: If he called the U.S. Marshal’s office, he knew he would be forced to leave his house.

His brother, Douglas County District Court Judge Pete Bataillon, relates the rest of the story: “So Joe just goes inside and watches the game and only calls when the game is over to see if that’s actually a bomb on his porch,” Pete says. “The marshals come, make him leave, blow the thing up, and realize it’s an outdoor utensil set. A few weeks earlier he had presided over a wedding and the people dropped by with a present. They probably should have left a note.”

“The marshals were not at all happy that he put his life at risk for a basketball game,” his brother says.

So Joe Bataillon, graduate of Nebraska City Lourdes High School and Creighton Law School, is a big Bluejays fan. Got it. (He actually was the equipment manager for the basketball team in college. “We were low-budget back then. The guys had to really blow out their [Converse] Chuck Taylors before I could give them new ones.”). But there’s more there. After 17 years on the highest bench in Nebraska, ruling on everything from misdemeanors on tribal lands to brutal murders involving drug kingpins to the constitutionality of Nebraska laws, he is obviously a man courageous and seasoned enough to be walking calm in a world in which some very bad people might prefer him dead. And despite the gravity of his rulings on a massive number of cases (Judges of Nebraska’s federal district court have the eighth-highest caseload out of the nation’s 94 federal districts.), he’s still known in eastern Nebraska for giving up his limited free time to preside over wedding ceremonies.

Retired U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey, who advocated for Bataillon’s nomination process in the mid-1990s, after Bataillon’s distinguished career with the county and in private practice, offers insight: “Joe is a terrific federal judge—he has been a very strong protector of individual rights,” Kerrey says. “He’s just a special guy.”

“And unlike me,” Kerrey jokes(?), “he’s extremely likable to boot.”

Be that as it may, Bataillon’s defining characteristic, his brother agrees, is that paramount concern for the rights of individuals when they are squared off against the government and the majority. Bataillon says he would be thrilled if that is, in fact, his legacy.

“You can never lose sight of the fact that these are real people and that you’re impacting their lives profoundly,” he says. “You have a duty to everyone who you’re going to impact to work your hardest to see the whole picture.”

Bataillon was raised in an environment sated in the concept of social justice. Amid his parent’s constant involvement in their community, his father founded and led Nebraska City’s volunteer rescue squad, a sometimes grisly and difficult effort to more quickly get life-saving help to people in crisis. “Caring for those less fortunate” is a foundational ideal of a Jesuit education, he adds. “It’s just an idea that’s always been there.” For one, throughout his career, Bataillon has been a key figure in building treatment and job programs for people trying to right and rebuild their lives after convictions.

Bataillon’s most controversial decision came nine years ago, when, in Citizens for Equal Protection v. Bruning, he ruled unconstitutional Nebraska’s voter-approved amendment to the state constitution that read “only marriage between a man and a woman shall be valid or recognized in Nebraska.” His ruling for individual rights was overturned by a higher court, but his groundbreaking arguments can be heard in debates on the issue elsewhere in the country.

Bataillon still is impacting the argument over gay marriage. In late January, he ruled not to delay a lawsuit challenging Nebraska’s gay marriage ban while the U.S. Supreme Court considers the issue on the national level.

Amid a slew of major decisions, one other case stands out. It got Bataillon a lot of snickering press reports, but the fundamentals of the ruling speak to his own fundamental beliefs.

In 2013, Bataillon ruled that the Nebraska State Patrol needed to return more than $1 million confiscated from a woman in a traffic stop in 2012. The cops suspected it was drug money. Bataillon believed the evidence suggested the woman’s story was true.

In fact, Tara Mishra, 33, had been saving the money—perhaps a dollar at a time—over 15 years working as a stripper. Mishra was driving from California to New Jersey with her life savings to buy a nightclub. She wanted a new life, and her story checked out.

““The government failed to show a substantial connection between drugs and the money,” Bataillon wrote in his opinion.

“He understands the government has a tremendous amount of power,” Kerrey says. “It can be unpopular to make some of the rulings he has made, but when individual rights are being abridged, Joe has been there to provide the balance.”

While Bataillon retired from “active service” in the fall, he will continue in a semi-retired role as a senior federal judge. He’ll continue his very active role in national federal judiciary issues. What is quickly becoming clear is that there won’t be much retiring in his “retirement.”

“I’m not finished with this work by any means,” he says.

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Karen and Ron Baker

January 16, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Karen & Ron Baker had their first date on May 1st of last year. On October 4th, just four short months later, they were married. Crazy kids in love?  Impulsive, impetuous teenagers? You might think so, but you would be wrong. These two lovebirds are admittedly far from their teen years, and rather than being impulsive, they explain that they “just knew” that they belonged together.

“It did happen fast,” Karen admits, “but it isn’t as if we were strangers. I’d known Ron and his family for years. He was our mail man before he retired. We were in the same parish. Our kids were even in the same dance class together.” But in spite of knowing each other, Ron admits he was nervous when he thought about asking Karen out on a date.

“My wife of 48 years had died,” he explains, “and I knew her husband had also died.
I was so lonely that I somehow found the courage to call her up.”

Karen believes their connecting was a sign of faith, explaining that she had gone to church to offer what’s called a novena, a nine-day prayer, asking God to tell her what she was supposed to do with her life now that her children were grown and her husband gone. “I was amazed to realize,” Karen says,” that Ron’s call to ask me out came either nine or ten days later! I took that to be a direct answer to my prayer.

“I felt comfortable with him right away,” Karen recalls of their first date. “We discovered we shared so many interests.” Ron agrees, and adds, “By the end of that first date, I knew I loved her, and I told her, even though I was afraid I might scare her off!”

“He didn’t scare me off,” Karen adds, “because I already knew I was feeling the same way.”

From that moment on the couple was inseparable. “I asked her to marry me within a few weeks,” Ron says, “because there was no reason to wait. At our age, you understand how limited your time may be, and that anything could happen to change things.”

Though their family members were indeed surprised (between them, they have 10 children, 22 grandchildren, and two great-great grandchildren, all of whom were at the wedding), they are “150 percent supportive of our decision,” says Karen. “They just want us to be happy.”

And it definitely appears that they are.

“We’re enjoying doing so many things together,” says Karen, “especially since both of our spouses had been sick for such a long time. We’ve taken up golf again, and we’re also traveling—things that neither of us had been able to do for many years.”

“We honestly feel like we’re about 30 years old, in the sense that we’re rediscovering life,” adds Ron. “We’ve been given a second chance at love, and we don’t take it for granted. We’re going to share the rest of our lives together.”

Family Success Story: 
The Ner Clay & Paw Tha Family

November 4, 2013 by

Ner Clay and Paw Tha are a humble couple with a story that is hard for most of us to imagine. They have lived three different lives—the first in Burma, their homeland; the second in the refugee camps of Thailand; and now their third in Omaha.

Burma—now called Myanmar by military rule, but forever known as Burma to its refugees—lies south of China on the Bay of Bengal. Home to a number of ethnic groups, the Karen (kuh-REHN) people make up about one third of the country’s population. The Karen are quiet, respectful, and industrious. Family life is extremely important. Marriages are strong and function as a partnership of equals. The parenting style is firm but loving, and children of every age are respectful and obedient. Traditionally, Karen do not have family names; each person is seen as an individual.

The Karen suffered political and religious oppression in their homeland for many decades. But it became much worse in the 1970s and ’80s when a violent new military régime took over the government. A systematic genocide began, driving the Karen people into the forest while government soldiers burned their villages. The only way to stay alive was to flee to refugee camps in neighboring Thailand, where the families of Ner Clay and Paw Tha found safety.

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You might think of a refugee camp as offering temporary quarters. But history tells us the average stay for people in refugee camps worldwide is 15 years. Paw Tha lived 11 years in the camps. Ner Clay spent 30 years there.

“Life in the refugee camps was difficult,” says Ner Clay. “We were safe inside the fences, but we could hear enemy gunfire in the hills. People were crowded and lived in poor conditions. Monsoons washed away the dirt walls of our shelters, and we had to rebuild them after the rainy season. People could not leave the camp borders, and there was no way to earn a decent wage to a better life. When the fighting grew closer, the entire camp—thousands of people—had to move farther into Thailand.”

Faith and education are important values of the Karen culture, so churches and schools were organized. Ner Clay learned to speak English as a boy. As an adult, he served as a minister and helped charities organize services to the residents of the camp. Paw Tha arrived as a teenager who had already studied languages, history, and science. She taught English to first graders. Eventually, the couple found each other and were married. All three daughters—Victoria, now age 12, Gloria, 10, and Julia, 7—were born in the camp.

In 2008, Ner Clay and Paw Tha and their daughters were granted visas to travel to the United States. They were first placed in St. Paul, Minn., where they lived for three months. The couple’s English language skills positioned them in high demand. Then Ner Clay was asked to move his family to Omaha, where there was a need for a religious and cultural leader among the new Karen arrivals.

Ner Clay and Paw Tha moved their family into an apartment complex in North Omaha, and the Karen families followed. Day after day, they labored to settle their own family and jobs while helping dozens of new refugee families translate their mail, make appointments, drive for errands, and function in an all-English world.

Ner Clay became associate pastor of the Karen Christian Revival Church with a growing parish of more than 400 families. In addition to spiritual support and recreational activities, the church became a resource center for the community, offering resettlement assistance, clothing and household items, job-seeking advice, and educational programs that help the families adjust to life in Omaha.

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Paw Tha is now an interpreter at Franklin Elementary School, and their daughters attend Springville Elementary School, both of which are in the Omaha Public Schools district. In a comfortable home in northwest Omaha, they continue to provide assistance to established and new refugees—explaining insurance policies, legal documents, housing requirements, and notes from the children’s schools. They feel very lucky to be in a position to help others succeed, and often repeat their own personal slogan: “We are blessed to be a blessing.”

Still, Paw Tha is concerned about some of the darker aspects of American culture. “In the camps, there is nothing to do, so there are many eyes on the children. Here, the children have so much more freedom and are exposed to many temptations,” she says. “I worry that they will lose respect for the ways of our culture.”

“Except for a few setbacks, things have turned out pretty much the way we hoped,” Ner Clay says. “Our people are finding success. They have bought more than 300 homes and have started new businesses—grocery stores, restaurants, clothing shops, and auto repair. We came here for freedom and citizenship, and we want to contribute to this great country. Anything is possible in America!”

This September, Ner Clay and Paw Tha became U.S. citizens, which granted automatic citizenship to their daughters. The couple agrees: “We hope our daughters will grab whatever opportunity they get in America.”

Family Success Story: The Goertzes

August 16, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Have you ever seen that family that carts around tons of kids and wondered, “How in the world do they do it?” Look no further than the Goertz family of Bennington.

Larry and Heather Goertz have four kids: Tayler, 20, Zachary, 16, Kassidy, 14, and Amber, 10. That might already sound like a crazy brood, but it gets crazier. You see, the Goertzes are also foster parents to two different sets of kids. There are the four “little ones”—siblings ages 15 mos., 3, 4, and 5—who don’t live with them, but whom they see every few weeks from morning until night. And then there are the “five”—siblings ages 2½, 8, 10, 12, and 15—who are with them full-time. Sound crazy yet?

“There are hard days,” says Heather, who’s an occupational therapist. “But when we’re all together, that’s when it’s the greatest.” She says that getting the okay from their kids was very important to her and Larry when they made the decision to get involved with foster care. “We’re a foster family, not foster parents.”

Their foster care adventure began in 2011 after their oldest daughter, Tayler, graduated from high school. “It was hard letting go of her,” Heather explains. “[But] we looked around and thought, ‘You know what? We’ve got happy, healthy kids. We’re good at this thing. We have a lot to offer.’”

Larry and Heather Goertz

Larry and Heather Goertz

It started with a boy from Latvia. “Unfortunately, we had more bad days than good with him,” she says. He only stayed 28 days with the family before they all realized it wasn’t the right fit. But then the “little ones” found them; the “five,” too. They fit with the Goertzes much better. “Even with 13 kids in the house at times, it kind of comes easily when you’re doing what you love.”

Although the Goertzes’ youngest daughter, Amber, had to learn quickly that she was no longer the baby in the family, Heather believes the adjustment went smoothly. “We’re still getting to know each other, but we intentionally try to have dinner together three nights a week to become a closer family.”

“We’re a foster family, not foster parents.” – Heather Goertz

Sometimes, however, dinner presents a challenge for Heather (in fact, she’d say meals in general present a challenge). “Our ‘normal’ is healthy food every day and junk food occasionally. The foster kids’ ‘normal’ is the opposite. It’s a struggle to raise these kids without letting my personal health views get in the way. I’m supposed to keep them safe and healthy, but to what standard?”

Even though she wants to help her foster kids live healthier lifestyles, she thinks that forcing them to change their lifestyles when they’ve already faced trauma isn’t helpful. “It all comes through in its own timing,” she says.

One of her favorite stories about their food struggles is about one of the “five” trying broccoli for the first time. “I told him he could have a quarter if he tried it. He said make it a dollar, so I made him a deal that if he ate all of his broccoli, then he could have a dollar. After he did it, he used that dollar to buy Flamin’ Hot Cheetos,” she laughs.

Kassidy, Tayler, Zachary, and Amber Goertz

Kassidy, Tayler, Zachary, and Amber Goertz

Nevertheless, when times get tough, Larry and Heather have their solid marriage. After 17 years together, they’ve found their relationship to be at the core of everything. “We’ve felt numb before, and we’ve worked through some really hard stuff, but every marriage that sticks together has its ups and downs. Still, our purpose always comes back to family and whatever children God gives us or brings to our doorstep,” she says.

Of course, Heather feels a strong faith and a positive attitude are the main components of getting through the challenges each day presents. “I’m constantly in prayer,” she adds. “I try to focus on the good things…Sometimes, I’ll just turn up the radio and start twirling in the kitchen. You just have to break that negative energy and let go of how you think things should be.”

So why do the Goertzes take on such a challenging opportunity? For one, they’re risk-takers. “We’d rather take risks to do what’s right,” says Heather. But mostly, it’s because they’ve been blessed with a good life, and they want to extend that good life to others. “This is our mission work right here.

“As these kids come, they aren’t just here for a little while. They’re in our hearts forever. And we know in some ways we’ll be with them forever.”

Family Success Story: The Dotsons

May 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

“Date night” is not a term often used in the Dotson household; however, “family” is. After 11 years of marriage, David and Susie Dotson have experienced more than any parents should, but they still find time to come together as a family and cherish the moments they have. “Our marriage has shaped us to be better parents,” Susie explains.

“Strength” is another word thrown around a lot when discussing the Dotsons. Their first child, Noah, was born with autism. “He suffered from anxiety [when he heard] any loud noise growing up. He didn’t develop his speech to explain his fears and anxiety until around age 4.” Susie became focused on trying to help Noah by going to autism events, getting involved in discussion groups, and doing her own research. The Millard Public Schools district was able to get Noah started with homebound help at age 2, and eventually into Halo, a gifted learning program at Wheeler Elementary School, where he continues to build his communication skills.

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A couple years after Noah’s birth, Lily was born five weeks early and had to stay in the NICU for two weeks. She went home on a heart monitor and eventually grew into a healthy baby girl. Five years later, however, Lily was suddenly diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a type of cancer common in childhood and characterized by the overproduction of immature white blood cells in the bone marrow.

Susie remembers the day they found out. “I felt all summer long that something wasn’t right with her. I had mother’s intuition.” After complaining of stomach aches and her legs hurting when she played sports, Susie took Lily out of gymnastics, soccer, and swimming. She thought the schedule may have been too daunting for her little girl. “After a couple of weeks into school, I noticed bruising,” she says, “After about two weeks of the bruising getting worse and showing up in places that you normally don’t bruise, I made an appointment.”

“I feel like we are still figuring it all out. There are days that are not pretty. One of my favorite quotes for my family is, ‘We may not have it all together, but together, we have it all.’” – Susie Dotson

The night before Lily’s doctor’s appointment, Susie decided to google her daughter’s symptoms. Every result came back the same: cancer. Susie’s heart sank. “I took a photo of her eating breakfast before school that morning, knowing that this is what a normal day looked like before cancer.” Later that day, after five minutes of examining Lily, their pediatrician told Susie that her daughter had cancer and needed to go to the emergency room immediately. “Within 24 hours, she started blood transfusions, chemo, spinal tap, and a bone marrow scan. She has had over a dozen platelet and whole blood transfusions. She was put on high risk and only a 40 percent chance of making it the first year. She is now up to 65-70 percent.”

Lily’s fight not only took a toll on her but also on the Dotson’s marriage and Susie’s relationship with Noah. “Communication is key, and we are slowly finding that. During the heavy treatment, it was very hard to have a meaningful relationship [with David or Noah] with the high demands of Lily’s cancer treatment. But we are now learning how to heal as a married couple. I’m also loving my ‘Noah time.’ I feel like I missed a whole year of his life. I missed him.”

Lily’s treatment doesn’t end until January 2014, but the heavy treatment portion concluded last July. Lily can now do daily chemo treatments at home and go to school.20130407_bs_0015 Medium Copy

While life is far less stressful than it was a year ago, Susie says, “No matter what day it is, cancer doesn’t let you forget you’re fighting it. Once your family is hit by cancer, you are constantly in the battle…You never get to leave the battlefield.” The Dotsons still find time to be a normal family, with Lily dressing up the family Maltese, Santana, and Noah writing letters to the family beta fish: Patrick, Sandy, Rainbow Buddy, and Red Nose Clown Nose. And maybe soon, Susie and David will finally get that date night.

“I feel like we are still figuring it all out. There are days that are not pretty. One of my favorite quotes for my family is, ‘We may not have it all together, but together, we have it all.’”

Love to Last a Lifetime

December 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

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.’