Tag Archives: Offutt Air Force Base

Alicia Sancho Scherich

March 5, 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.

Maj. Gen. Nina Armagno

November 22, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Nina Armagno grew up in suburban Chicago with a poster of Sally Ride in her bedroom and astronaut dreams on her mind. When her plans hit a roadblock, she became a two-star Air Force general who found her true calling—leading people in the service of our nation.

Maj. Gen. Armagno’s passion for hard work, leadership, and country has led her to the Omaha metro. Since June, she has been the director of plans and policy for the U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base near Bellevue.

Serving under Gen. John Hyten, head of U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base, Armagno and her joint staff work to deter and plan for nuclear war.

“It’s an overarching umbrella of deterrence and assurance,” Armagno says. “Implementing those plans is the last thing we want to do. The first thing we need to focus on is deterrence of adversaries and assurance of our allies.”

Such an awesome responsibility requires a thirst and capability for excellent leadership. Armagno sees her role as serving the nearly 500 people she commands, not the other way around.

“I envision myself more on the bottom of an upside-down pyramid with everyone else above me in importance,” she says. “I have example after example of coming into a leadership situation, assessing it, and then leading the team to heights that no one could imagine and no one could have done alone.”

Armagno’s leadership mantra is simple: It’s not all about you.

“If you are so busy thinking about yourself and your next career move, you are going to miss something pretty darn important. And you are going to miss it in the lives of your people and in your organization as a whole.”

From Astronaut Aspirations to Air Force General

Armagno recalls an early memory of watching the 1969 moon landing with her family. A love of the space program propelled the straight-A student to a degree from the Air Force Academy and a first assignment working with a ground-based radar crew. Weeks before the assignment, the Air Force disbanded its astronaut program. Armagno then pursued a master’s degree on her own dime with the thought of surrendering her commission and joining NASA.

Along the way in her Air Force life, however, she discovered her abilities as a leader.

“I fell in love with leading people,” she says. “When I first went to the Air Force, I was not 100 percent sure I would make the military a career. When I started falling in love with leading, then I knew I should stay.”

A Woman in a Man’s World

Aramagno is blunt about challenges women face moving up in the military. Women must prove themselves all of the time in ways most men don’t, she says.

“I believe it’s getting better, but it’s still something we need to be cognizant of,” she says. “I’ve felt like I’ve had to work harder than men, just to be honest. But it’s kind of paid off.”

She advises women who want to lead to “go for it.”

“As long as you care about people and get results, then your personal style or personality should take a backseat.”

Visit offutt.af.mil for more information.

This article appeared in the Winter 2018 issue of B2B.

Maj. Gen. Nina Armango

Omaha’s Korean Connection

June 7, 2017 by
Photography by Joshua Foo

Korean restaurants in Omaha have strong ties to the military community.

While many Offutt Air Force Base staffers developed penchants for Korean cuisine during Air Force deployments to South Korea, there are also many military spouses who relocated to Omaha from Korea. Some of these spouses have opened local restaurants.

The Korean Grill is a prime example. Its owner, Henim Stimson, used to operate a restaurant in Seoul. Her husband, Air Force veteran Scott Stimson, now helps her in the kitchen at 1408 Harlan Drive in Bellevue.

They often serve couples with similar U.S. military and Korean backgrounds.

While eating dinner recently at the Korean Grill, Cody Scott (an active-duty Air Force veteran) and his wife, Gi (who is originally from Tongyeong, South Korea), share their suggestions for finding authentic Korean food in the greater Omaha metro.

Cody grew up in Tennessee, and he studied Korean in California. The couple met after Cody relocated to Omaha. “We met at Maru Sushi and Korean Grill. Gi was working there as a waitress,” Cody says. They married in 2013 and reside in Bellevue.

The Scotts listed the Korean Grill as their favorite in Omaha. The restaurant’s lunch combo meals and to-go boxes attract a lot of military personnel and many Chinese students from nearby Bellevue University.

Suji’s offers a wide variety of dishes.

Eating Like a Korean

Korean meals are typically served with a variety of “banchan” (side dishes) in small portions. All banchan is communal. Featuring a wide range of seasonal vegetables, roots, tofu, or small seafood, banchan can be fermented, pickled, lightly seasoned, or braised in sauce. Kimchi, fermented napa cabbage, is the most common type of banchan.

While many associate Korean food with Korean barbecue—thinly sliced meat dishes (both marinated and unmarinated) and vegetables cooked on a built-in table grill or a portable grill—rice, noodles, soup, and stew remain staples of Korean cuisine.

One of the most iconic offerings in Korean cuisine, “budae-jjigae” (army stew), is a spicy soup with Spam meat, hot dogs (or other scraps of meat), tofu, instant noodles, mixed vegetables, and sometimes a piece of Kraft cheese.

The Scotts order budae-jjigae and several of their other favorites while speaking with Omaha Magazine. The stew comes in a huge portion, best suited for two to share.

“Army stew” is an invention of South Koreans after the Korean War. As food shortages persisted, locals scrambled up surplus processed meats from the U.S. military and cooked them in a spicy soup with kimchi. Its standard ingredient—Spam meat—is beloved in South Korea. During Lunar New Year, the pork product is often packaged in a fancy box and given away as a gift.

“Gimbap” (Korean sushi) is another of the Scotts’ favorites. Gi explains the dish is akin to Korean takeout food; they would eat it on the go or at picnics. Unlike its Japanese cousin, the rice in gimbap is not seasoned with vinegar but salt and sesame oil. It does not require dipping in soy sauce or wasabi. To prevent leftover gimbap from drying out overnight, Gi suggests leaving the sushi rolls on the counter instead of in the refrigerator.

“Japchae” (a sweet potato starch noodle stir-fry) is another beloved Korean dish. Although usually served as a side dish, japchae can also be a stand-alone dish eaten with rice.

Korean Restaurants Around Town

First-timers to Korean food should take a quick crash course at Korean Grill. You will find a selection of assorted dishes displayed in a food-warmer cabinet; the owner readily offers honest advice and a generous portion to guarantee a good dining experience.

Cody recommends ordering “galbitang”—a clear soup with beef short ribs—and “doenjang-jjigae”—a spicy (if made traditionally), fermented soybean paste stew. Korean Grill offers three other famous dishes—“sundae,” a Korean-style blood sausage; “kkori gomtang,” an oxtail soup; and “jokbal,” a steamed pig feet dish. Those items are “hidden from the menu,” so diners must order in advance for such delicacies.

Gi’s top three picks for Korean eateries are Korean Grill, Korea King, and Maru. Rather than ordering soup, her go-to dishes usually contain some seafood, such as octopus.

Korea King offers communal family-style Korean food. The chef there used to work at Maru. “Their ‘ojingeo-bokkeum’ [spicy stir-fried squid], ‘kkori gomtang’ [oxtail soup] and ‘chicken bulgogi’ [bulgogi is a grilled meat dish] are good,” Gi says. “Maru, on the other hand, serves personal-size dishes. I like their chicken bulgogi, ‘jjamppong’ [Korean spicy seafood noodle soup], and ‘jajangmyeon’ [Korean black bean sauce noodles].”

“Go to Korean Grill for soup; go to Korean House Restaurant for grilled meat,” Cody advises. Korean House Restaurant is located right outside of Offutt Air Force Base and is known for its great prices. Cody recommends its grilled beef. You can also find Korean street food “tteok-bokki” (spicy Korean rice cake stir-fry) there. The restaurant is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and between 5 and 8 p.m.

Suji’s Korean Grill has recently reinvented its entire menu and introduced Korean built-in table grills to the Aksarben area. Cody says he has not been to the restaurant since its updates, but he used to enjoy the “Chipotle-style” Korean food Suji’s offered.

The 2.0 version of Suji’s is booming with business. On any given weeknight, a steady stream of diners awaits to feast on its $35-per-person endless Korean barbecue, which begins with a platter of high-quality fresh meats, including rib-eye, chicken breast, pork belly, flank steak, pork jowl, and brisket; complemented with a steamed egg dish, banchan, and bowls of rice. A picture of the meal on social media will guarantee meat envy.

In Ralston, you will find authentic Korean food at Korea Garden. Its banchan is all house-made and tastes delicious. Although the Scotts had not tried Korea Garden at the time of our interview, I highly recommend an order of the “nakji bokkeum” (stir-fried baby octopus) at Korea Garden.

Local Korean Eats

Korean Grill
1408 Harlan Drive
Bellevue, NE 68005

Korean House Restaurant
2413 Lincoln Road
Bellevue, NE 68005

Korea King
4719 S. 96th St.
Omaha, NE 68127

Korea Garden Restaurant
5352 S. 72nd St.
Ralston, NE 6812

Maru Korean & Sushi Restaurant
5032 S. 108th St.
Omaha, NE 68137

Suji’s Korean Grill
1303 S. 72nd St., No. 101
Omaha, NE 68124

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

A selection of dishes from Suji’s.

Beth Raper

March 30, 2017 by

This sponsored content appears in the Winter 2017 edition of B2B. To view, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/b2b_0217_125/56

From 20 people to 50,000 people. Fun Services provides entertainment for groups of all sizes.

The 50,000 people? That would be the Offutt Open House and Air Show, where Fun Services supplies entertainment.

The company has been around 50 years, says Beth Raper, who runs Fun Services with her husband, Joey. They employ 40 people.

She says not only is Fun Services the oldest firm of its kind in Omaha, it’s the best equipped in all of Nebraska and western Iowa to help customers plan special events offering inflatable rides, concessions, and casino parties, as well as party rentals, tables, chairs, and canopies.

“We have been in the business so long that we have the inventory to accommodate the customer,” Raper says. “We help businesses, churches, and schools plan special events.”

“Some people call to rent a few things. Some call and say, ‘Would you guys help with everything? I’m planning a party for 500 people,’” she says. “People appreciate that we‘re a one-stop shop.”

She and her husband bought the family-owned business five years ago. He was familiar with Fun Services and what it could provide—with good reason, she says. They both were working at Fun Services while in high school, when they met. “That’s everyone’s favorite story about us,” she says.

After college graduation, she worked as a wedding planner for five years.  Of course, she planned her own wedding to Joey. It was a small, quiet wedding with friends and family. No inflatable rides. No concessions. Just fun.

Fun Services is a fun place for the college-age students currently employed. “We provide great part-time jobs for kids. They are part-time in college and work part-time for us. We take care of our employees and have parties throughout the year.”

Approximately 90 percent of her clientele are women. “A lot of women work in an environment where they are responsible for planning a party—perhaps a PTA mother or someone planning a church festival,” she says.

“I want to be known for the fact that I love what I do. Everybody has a great time at events we plan. I try to put my touch on everything I do,” says Raper.  “But when I am at home, I focus my time on family and kids.”

Raper goes from executive boss to mom in seconds when she walks out the Fun Services door.  She has one child and is expecting another baby in time for Christmas.

Separating the two worlds is important, she says. “I think women that are mothers but also have full-time jobs know it’s hard to balance. I try to leave work at work. And make sure when I am at home, I focus my time on family and kids.”

7535 D St.
Omaha, NE 68124

Woman-Owned Small Business Program

December 20, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

“To be considered economically disadvantaged, the woman must meet three economic criteria: personal net worth must be less than $750,000 annually, adjusted gross income averaged over the last three years must be less than $350,000, and personal assets must be less than $6 million.”

-Lisa Tedesco

Have you ever considered that the U.S. government is the world’s largest customer? The government buys a wide variety of products and is required by law to provide opportunities for small business owners. Fortunately for women entrepreneurs in Nebraska, this massive opportunity is made easier thanks to the Women-Owned Small Business Program.

The program, which is implemented and administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration, authorizes contracting officers to specifically limit or set aside certain requirements for competition solely amongst WOSBs or economically disadvantaged woman-owned small business, according to the administration’s website.

The WOSB program ensures a level playing field on which small business can compete for federal contracting opportunities.

“The program is still new enough that we haven’t seen quite the impact the program has had in Nebraska, but we predict it will continue to provide contracting opportunities for woman-owned businesses, particularly in those businesses and industries typically owned by men,” says Kathleen Piper, deputy district director of the Nebraska District Office of the Small Business Administration.

Other services offered by the SBA include contracting education and assistance, business development, and various business trainings for women wanting to start their own business.

“We have seen a trend of businesses being started by women that have traditionally been owned and run by men, particularly in construction and construction trades, cyber security, engineering, and facilities operation management,” Piper says.

Lisa Tedesco, lead business opportunity specialist at the SBA, says that in order to be considered for the program, a woman owner must be a 51 percent owner who controls the business on a full-time basis and be a U.S. citizen. “To be considered economically disadvantaged, the woman must meet three economic criteria: personal net worth must be less than $750,000 annually, adjusted gross income averaged over the last three years must be less than $350,000, and personal assets must be less than $6 million.”

Tedesco says there is no formal process for self-certifying as a woman-owned small business or an economically disadvantaged woman-owned small business: “Since it is a self-certifying program, the WOSB simply uploads the documentation providing eligibility into an SBA system, where it is housed if and when a contracting officer must verify eligibility prior to a WOSB award.”

“Starting a business is exciting, it can be financially rewarding, and it offers women a great deal of flexibility, but it is also risky, time-consuming, and a lot of hard work,” Piper says.

“The SBA and its network of resources partners (SCORE, the Nebraska Business Development Center, and REAP Women’s Business Center) exist to help business owners get free counseling, gain access to contracting programs, and obtain capital through SBA Guaranteed Loan Programs,” she explains.

Piper says Nebraska is full of opportunity for aspiring business owners. She mentions a robust lending community coupled with low interest rates that make this a good time to start a business.

She says that Nebraska’s business landscape is rich with things like excellent universities that are involved in world-class research with potential for new business and job growth. There are also multiple government contracting prospects thanks to the Offutt Air Force Base and United States Strategic Command, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, and other federal agencies buying goods and services for delivery locally and around the globe.

“Business ownership is a journey, and it is one that women do not have to take alone,” Piper says.

If only self-made Omaha business owner Melissa Stephens of The Cordial Cherry had contacted the SBA, she says she would have saved herself a lot of time and money. “I’ve problem-solved a lot on my own, and I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I probably should have reached out to an organization like the SBA just to help me adjust,” Stephens says.

During her journey to bring Omaha exquisite and unique chocolate-covered cherries, Stephens discovered having passion for her craft is absolutely necessary. “It’s not all roses and daisies every day. In fact, more often than not, it’s discouraging,” she says.

Stephens says it’s crucial to have resources and guidance like those provided by the SBA.

Her years of creating her own support system of friends and family helped her in her business. “I think any time your business requires you to adapt, having that guidance helps you avoid pitfalls that cost you both time and money,” she says.

Luckily for Nebraska women entrepreneurs, a support system—in the form of the SBA and the WOSB Program—is just a mouse click or a phone call away.

Visit certify.sba.gov for more information.


High on Jesus

October 12, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Getting high on Jesus in the Rocky Mountains, however, is always 100 percent legal.

The Front Range looms overhead as Dan and Dawne Broadfield sip their morning coffee. Towering at a height of 14,259 feet, the snow-capped Longs Peak is the highest point in the adjacent Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.

Residing at an elevation of nearly 1.5 miles above sea level, the Broadfields live on the forested grounds of Covenant Heights. The year-round Christian camp is located nine miles south of Estes Park, on the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park, near the base of Longs Peak.

estespark6The parents are career missionaries and together have visited Haiti, Mexico, Canada, England, France, Belgium, and Holland, among others. As assistant director of facilities, Dan helps to maintain the 65-acre Covenant Heights, while Dawne home-schools their three children: 18-year-old Darby, 14-year-old Dakota, and 11-year-old Max.

Their days are filled with hiking, fishing, backpacking, paddleboarding, archery, and kayaking. They have unfettered access to high ropes, zip lines, and a climbing wall—perks of living at a wilderness retreat. The same activities draw campers from across the country.

If the weather is nice, Dan and Dawne say they might go six to eight hours without seeing their offspring, and that’s fine for both parents and frolicking children alike.

In summer, nighttime unveils an infinite heaven of twinkling stars, with the Milky Way shining down on three hammocks arranged in a triangular formation in the trees. Each hammock cradles a Broadfield child, peacefully sleeping.


Once the weather turns chilly, they gather firewood for campfires. The winter season also brings snow-shoeing, ice hockey, and cross-country skiing.

Wildlife is an integral part of living at the campground, where animals also make their home. Coyotes, moose, and deer frequently wander through Covenant Heights. Herds of elk are common visitors; during the fall rut, the bulls’ high-pitched bugling will echo for miles.

“The other day, an elk walked through the middle of (the triangle of hammocks),” Dawne says. “Our youngest woke up and thought, ‘Uh, oh. This isn’t good.’ But the elk eventually moved along.”

estespark5The free-spirited mother of three does have one rule about sleeping outdoors. Her kids can’t have lipgloss, sunscreen, or other scented items in their pockets. Bears live in the neighborhood, and scented items or food will attract them. Dawne even brings her bird feeders inside at night so as not to attract unwelcome scavengers.

She loves life amongst the animals. In fact, her animal-watching pastime vaguely reminds her of childhood years spent in Omaha. “We went to the Henry Doorly Zoo about every two weeks,” says the one-time Omahan. Dawne’s father served in the Air Force at Offutt Air Force Base for three years, when she was in fifth through eighth grades.

Her adult life unfolded away from Omaha. Before relocating to Colorado in 2015, Dawne and Dan were living in San Antonio, Texas, where they ran an art gallery and online networking platform for artists called ArtLife.

“Here we are now in Estes Park because we felt like we ran out of space in San Antonio. We wanted to become more of a starving artists community,” says Dan. “We want to develop an artists community up here. I want to create a safe space for people to come and hone their skills. It’s the idea of not being in their normal circumstances.”

estespark4Surrounded by natural abundance, the family feels rich. Not so when it comes to the latest technological amenities. They have a satellite television, the only reliable phone is a landline, and mobile internet service is patchy from camp.

Dawne says “there’s a 20-minute window about twice a day” for internet access. An avid photographer, she posts almost daily on Instagram from her smartphone during those limited windows of online accessibility.

Her photo stream documents their neighbors, mostly the wildlife (@adeltadawne). “We have lots of moose that hang out,” she says. “The elk, the deer, the eagles, and then I sprinkle in family stuff.” If it is necessary to check something online, they head to a coffeeshop or the library in town. Dan and Dawne enjoy their wireless existence. “I kind of like the idea of being disconnected,” Dan says.

Christian wilderness retreats have a rich history on the Front Range near Covenant Heights. Even before Colorado was a state, missionaries were spreading the gospel across the landscape.

estespark3Summer encampments for the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) date back to the 1890s. The YMCA summer campsite from 1908 remains the site of the modern-day YMCA of the Rockies. Today, the organization hosts Christian gap-year programs for 18-to-24 year olds “seeking personal and spiritual growth while working in a seasonal job at Snow Mountain Ranch.”

On January 26, 1915, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Rocky Mountain National Park into existence, and the nationwide National Park Service came into being the following year (celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2016).

Covenant Heights arrived on the scene in the early 1930s through the fellowship of the Covenant Young Peoples and Sunday School Conference of Colorado and Wyoming. The coalition of Rocky Mountain churches sought to give “a concerted effort to provide inspiration, Christian fellowship, and evangelism for the young people of the churches in Colorado and Wyoming,” according to its website. Covenant Heights’ current permanent campsite became operational in 1948.

Separate from the YMCA or Covenant Heights, the nonprofit Wind River Ministries also runs the ongoing Wind River Ranch, a “Christian Family Guest Ranch Resort”complete with dude ranch.

Regardless of one’s spiritual inclination, the sweeping mountain vistas are inspiring throughout the vicinity of Estes Park.

In the wake of Colorado’s legalization of marijuana, residents of Estes Park voted to block the opening of recreational and medicinal dispensaries within the limits of town and Larimer County. It was a strategic move to preserve the region’s wholesome reputation as a family destination. Meanwhile, federal marijuana laws reign supreme over Rocky Mountain National Park and other federally owned lands.

Getting high on Jesus in the Rocky Mountains, however, is always 100 percent legal.

Visit covenantheights.org for more information.


The Holtzlanders

July 11, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Many parents understand the drive to and from activities, the shuttling of kids back and forth from one place to another, sometimes trying to be in two places at once. Parents in this country spend between 10 and 50 hours a month taking kids to extracurriculars.

Melissa Holtzlander, who, with her husband Gerald, is raising five children from the ages of 5 to 17, understands this concept well.

Daughter Michelle, 8, has soccer practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the same time as son Ryan, 7, practices football. Unfortunately, the practices are in different locations.

Holtzlanders2“Usually I go with Michelle and Gerald will take Ryan to his practices,” Melissa says. Then there’s Alexis, 17, who is the football manager and plays soccer; Caitlin, 15, who participates in show choir; and Samuel, 5, who plays soccer and tee ball. Michelle and Ryan also participate in bowling leagues, and Michelle plays softball while Ryan plays baseball and is a Boy Scout.  Everyone except Samuel takes dance lessons on Wednesdays. (“He didn’t want to for some reason,” Melissa says.)

This juggling act intensifies at the end of the week.

“Saturdays are the crazy days, ’cause that’s when the games happen.”

If you see one, you generally see them all.  Melissa is a big believer in family supporting family. If one child has a sporting event, everyone comes to cheer on that child, and their team.

Sunny Brazda of Bellevue Dance Academy says, “Melissa and Gerald live a very busy life…throughout each busy day, they choose family first.”

Far from going crazy, however, Melissa handles the timetable with ease, even admitting to be in her element when no one is without a task.

Melissa wakes at 4:30 a.m. and performs an hour of cardio training before taking the children to school. She then works at her job until 6 p.m. That’s when she and Gerald shuttle the kids to various activities. When they family activities are done, Melissa and Gerald go to the gym and lift weights for about an hour.

Did I mention that Melissa is a competitive bodybuilder?

One might think the family has lived in Omaha for a long time. In reality, they have been in Omaha since December 2014, when Melissa was given orders to serve at Offutt Air Force Base. They were previously at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, where she was a paralegal and Gerald was a master chief cryptologic technician with the Navy. Gerald retired from the Navy and is employed at VTI Security.

The family enjoys their relaxed (if one can call it that) life here in Omaha.

“Nebraska has much nicer people, it’s a friendlier environment (than Washington D.C.),” says Melissa. “I know Omaha is a city, but it’s not the hustle and bustle of D.C.”

She has a hard time sitting still for too long, but she puts much of her extra energy into good deeds. She volunteers with Habitat for Humanity at every base at which she and her family have lived.

“It’s something that’s easy to volunteer for, but it’s a good way to give back to the community,” Melissa says. “We usually take part in the actual construction. I’ve painted, put on a roof, sometimes we’ve done demo.”

Easy, right?

“I actually feel like I’m doing something useful, not just lifting one finger, you know,” Melissa continues.

Holtzlanders3She participates with Habitat for Humanity even when she isn’t able to work construction. Six years ago, while pregnant with Samuel, she collected money from her fellow servicemen at Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio, where they were stationed, and bought lunch for the crew working on a home. She is a representative for CASA in Cass County and recently participated in her first court case. She voluntarily helps with physical training for other service people.

The idea of service is rubbing off on the other family members. Brazda said each of the Holtzlader children are hard workers, just like their parents.

Oldest daughter Alexis started participating in Habitat for Humanity projects this past year. (The minimum age for volunteering at Habitat is 16.)

“I had to carry a bunch of wood. I got to saw it all,” Alexis says. “Another lady would measure it and I just sawed it.”

The drive to serve their country is also a trait being passed to the next generation. Alexis is a leader in her Air Force ROTC group at school, an honor for which she was hand-selected. She also plans to apply to the military academies.

“When I see them do stuff, it makes me want to do stuff because they are so much busier than I am,” Alexis says.

Melissa’s goal? To keep her kids engaged in positive activities in order to keep them out of trouble.

“I truly believe that if you keep kids busy, they won’t get into drugs,” she says..”

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.


Sarpy, Sarpy, Sarpy!

March 15, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

In 1999, an online-banking company with a nonsensical name built a sprawling operation center next to the I-80 corridor on the edge of Papillion. Baffled passing commuters wondered how long a company named “PayPal” could possibly survive.

Six years later—to the delight of the region’s outdoor enthusiasts—Cabela’s opened a 128,000-square-foot sportsmen’s paradise that transformed the Cornhusker Street exit along I-80 into a bustling retail hotspot.

As the companies moved into the area, so did the employees, and the shoppers. Once boasting only sleepy rural charms, quaint main streets, and Offutt Air Force Base mystique, Nebraska’s smallest county by land mass is now also its fastest growing.

Indeed, while the rest of the state lost 3% of its population (or 55,000 people) between 2010 and 2014, Sarpy County added 13,000 people—an 8% increase.

How did it happen? Is there something to be learned by Nebraska’s other 92 counties?

Sarpy’s formula was a mix of nature and nurture: Aggressive leaders with vision and a willingness to deal. The good fortune of having open land next to a major metropolitan area and one of the nation’s major east-west corridors. Lots of nearby suburbanites with cash. Also, an educated work force within driving distance.


It was a perfect economic storm that even pulled off the outrageous and unthinkable: Dragging the Omaha Royals into the suburban Sarpy playground of the Omaha Stormchasers.

And now, in 2016, it’s all about synergy. Momentum. Winning begets more winning.

Ernie Goss, a Creighton University professor of economics, says that when county leaders are successful in building a concentration of development like the one in Sarpy County, it becomes a catalyst for more growth.

“There’s the impact of what we call clustering, Goss says.

The perpetual motion machine is paying off for the county and state. PayPal alone generated $736,930.00 in tax revenue in 2014, more than any other commercial business in the region.

Goss says the presence of PayPal and Cabela’s, among others, has undoubtedly propelled more development. After all, people want to be where the jobs and rooftops are.

There’s a lot to be said for clustering and that’s what we’re seeing out there,” he says.

Embassy Suites Conference Center in La Vista, developed in 2004, has brought in tourism dollars from conventions and weddings. Those tourism dollars also mean more people viewing the city, which builds awareness of the hotel and convention center, which, of course, increases chances that people will spread the word to other shoppers and convention organizers.

Goss says the boom will continue as long as the benefits of providing essential services—such as sewers and roads—in support of new development exceeds the marginal costs. Once those infrastructure elements are in place, he says, the marginal costs tend to decrease and that, in turn, spurs more development.

“It’s the initial development that’s very costly in providing things like fire and police services and other government services.”

Typically, he says, providing services becomes cheaper as the area grows more densely populated. That’s what’s happening in Sarpy County, where a growing resident and business tax base is helping make development cost effective.

The area also benefits from ready access to interstate highways that feed into the Omaha-Lincoln metroplex. Goss says Sarpy is situated just enough outside the urban congestion sprawl to give it a semi-country, away-from-it-all appeal while being near enough to still share in the big city orbit.


“It has a lot to do with interstate access,” he says.

And convenience.

“A lot of folks out west of Omaha find it easier driving to a conference at the Embassy Suites in La Vista than having to drive to the Embassy Suites in the Old Market,” Goss says. “That’s certainly part of it.”

All this growth, too, has come amid a national economy that has generally lagged. But, as the economy sputters, interest rates remain low. In the environment of the last decade, the cost and major development has remained lower as interest rates continue to hover around 4%.

The surge is not slowing.

La Vista anticipates yet another spike once the Nebraska Multisport Complex is built on 184 acres to encompass a natatorium with Olympic regulation pools, an indoor-outdoor tennis center, and soccer fields with field turf and lighting. The facilities will be available to local teams, clubs, schools, and nonprofits. Hosting regional-national tournaments is a massive money generator as families follow players for long weekends of play. Projections estimate the complex would generate $17.8 million in new economic impact and attracting 1.2 million visitors annually.

The win streak extended down the road to the edge of Gretna, where the massive Nebraska Crossing Outlets defied the doubters by doing $140 million in sales in its first year of operation. Within a year of its 2013 opening, the $112 million, 335,000-square-foot mall featuring buzz-worthy brand name stores was planning a major expansion. A new $15 million complex of stores is scheduled to open by Christmas.

Karen Gibler, president of the Sarpy County Chamber of Commerce, says there soon will be announcements about coming neighborhoods and businesses spurred by the new Highway 34 bridge, 84th Street developments, new I-80 exits, and planned sewer and transportation projects.

Gibler cites many reasons why investors and residents choose to work and live there:

“Quality of education and life keeps residents looking to move into our area,” she says. “This growth has opened the eyes of developers. Our leadership in the cities and county are a contributing factor. Land availability and easy access to good highways and the interstate make it easy to access from around the area.” Smart planning helps, as do plentiful jobs and affordable home prices. And people feel safe.”

That success has brought recognition. Papillion now ranks second on Money Magazine’s Best Places to Live for its high median income ($75,000), job growth (10%), thriving cultural life, and great access to the big-city amenities of Omaha.

National awards show up in national magazines and websites. People and companies looking for good homes read about this happenin’ place called Sarpy County in Nebraska.

And so, the wheels of progress keep on turning.

Once you can get it going, Goss says, “one activity draws another activity or one company draws another company.

“They have it all going in the right direction right now,” Goss says.


Dave Webber

February 9, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Dave Webber covered all five Big Red national championships during a broadcast career that spanned 46 years; but he will never shake free from the “Legend of the Lucky Corncob.”

The story started in 1995 toward the end of the Orange Bowl championship game against the Miami Hurricanes. A fan in the stands pleaded with Webber, “You have to will the team to victory.”

Obligingly, the then-WOWT sports director picked up a corncob that happened to be in the end zone and held it up for fans to see.

Dave-Webber-2“A few minutes later, they scored the touchdown that won the game late in the fourth quarter,” he remembers. “I got chills. I couldn’t watch.” 

The Huskers came from behind to win.It was the Big Red’s first national title since 1971 and the first for Coach Tom Osborne.

“I put that sucker in my pocket and took it next year to the 1996 Fiesta Bowl,” he says.

Nebraska was again trailing, this time against the Florida Gators, so Webber pulled out the lucky corncob. Whaddaya know—the Cornhuskers won the national championship.

Some WOWT viewers credit the lucky corn cob with Nebraska’s back-to-back championships. Tom Osborne says otherwise.

“One of Osborne’s favorite sayings is, ‘This guy actually thinks his corncob won the game,’” laughs Webber.

Superstitious fans have asked to buy the corny icon, now framed and displayed at Webber’s home. “Every single day during football season, somebody mentions the lucky corncob,” says its proud owner.

The story of the well-known sportscaster began when a two-year assignment at Offutt Air Force Base brought him to the Omaha area in 1964. His duty was to guard the SAC Underground as a member of the elite guard. After retiring from the military, Webber attended the University of Omaha (now University of Nebraska at Omaha).

For two years starting in 1967, he performed as a full-time folk singer at the Swinging Door Saloon, following a year working on-air at KBON radio. But then he married Terri and began seeking a “real job.” 

Webber joined KFAB as an announcer and also covered Big Red championship games in 1970, 1971, and 1972.

A move to Sioux City, Iowa, in 1973 to cover sports news for KMEG-TV brought with it a second quirky job. He was asked to portray “Pops,” a popular children’s show character.

Dave Webber 3

“Pops was a retired custodian for the Bijou Theater. The camera would show me sweeping, then the stage door would open, and we would show cartoons and movies like Little Rascals and Laurel and Hardy,” he says.

He was only 29 years old at the time. Forty years later, viewers haven’t forgotten the character.

“People come up to me still today and say ‘I was a kid in Sioux City. Were you Pops?’” says Webber.

He returned to Omaha in 1977 to cover sports news for KMTV. A year later, he moved down the street to WOWT as assistant to then-sports director John Knicely. When Knicely left for a St. Louis television station in 1981 (returning to Omaha three years later), Webber became sports director.

That’s only one story from the life of the multitalented Webber, whose mellifluous voice has won over crowds for more than 40 years as he hosted and emceed more than 1,000 banquets and fundraisers.

“You name a disease and I’ve done a fundraiser for it,” jokes the affable personality who is more likely to greet you with a hug than a handshake.

Webber has been a longtime presence at major Omaha events. For 22 years, he has braved wind, rain, and sun as master of ceremonies for the Fourth of July Memorial Park concert in front of as many as 80,000 people. His favorite group to perform there was the Beach Boys.

During the Christmas holiday, he takes his emceeing indoors. Webber has been singing, dancing, and making jokes for 20 years as host for the Omaha Symphony’s Christmas Spectacular.

“The year I took over, my biggest job was to keep the kids on stage from goofing around,” he remembers.

Meeting sports figures that he idolized as a youngster was payback for his volunteer work with a fundraising golf tournament hosted by baseball Hall of Famer Bob Gibson.

One volunteer stint he looks forward to is at the end of a pleasant hour-long drive to Harlan, Iowa, where Webber has judged an estimated 1,000 pies over 20 years at the Shelby County Fair pie-baking contest.

“Every year, it’s like seeing old friends. I play guitar and sing. I walk around and say ‘hi’ to every single person.”

He and Terri have three adult children and three grandchildren. Today he is spokesperson for Baxter Auto Group. Although “retired” (sort of), he still gets calls from WOWT to fill in on newscasts.

As a sideline, Webber delights in being asked to conduct holiday tours (15 so far) to destinations such as Hawaii, Ireland, and the Canadian Rockies.

Three years ago, heart surgery left him 50 pounds lighter and with a renewed zeal for life.

“I enjoy every minute of every day,” says the TV sports guy, singer, guitarist, emcee, symphony host, pie-contest judge—and lucky corncob owner.

Visit wowt.com to learn more.