Tag Archives: Bill Eustice

Memories, Tradition, and Families

May 26, 2016 by
Myron Roker

Myron Roker

World War II ended 70 years ago, but Myron Roker still feels the pain of battle. He served with 324th Infantry Regiment of the 44th Infantry Division on VE Day. The 93-year-old now lives in Glenwood, Iowa, and still carries shrapnel from a wound sustained in France. His hearing is almost gone, stolen by explosions in war.

But the most painful wound he carries is the loss of friends in combat.

“Freedom is not free,” says Roker. “We have to pay for it. Those are the heroes. The wounded and the ones that gave their lives.”

Memorial Day has a deep, personal meaning for Roker.

“I lost a close buddy over in France to one of our own mines. Sometimes I still tear up,” Roker said.

He and his wife, Karen, spend Memorial Day at the graves of family members in their hometown of Clatonia, Nebraska.

A Family Tradition of Service

Thomas Shimerdla

Thomas Shimerdla

Thomas Shimerdla’s family has a proud military tradition. When he was fighting in Vietnam, so was his brother. His father served during World War II in the 14th Army Air Force. His grandfather fought in France during World War I.

When Shimerdla was a youngster,  Memorial Day meant visits to cemeteries with his father and grandfather to honor veterans.

Shimerdla enlisted in the U.S. Navy Seabees when he was 19. He spent two years serving in Vietnam, a war that took more than 58,000 American lives. “I lost classmates in Vietnam. I think about them on Memorial Day,” he says.

He fought in the devastating Tet Offensive in 1968 that turned Americans against the war. Many who fought faced danger in Vietnam and disdain in the United States.

For Shimerdla, Memorial Day is about spending time with his children and grandchildren.

Before suffering injuries in a motorcycle accident in October, he was part of the American Legion Riders, and rode with them to a cemetery on Memorial Day. “I was proud to be there, honoring soldiers who were killed,” he says.

The motorcycle enthusiast also rides with the Patriot Guard Riders, formed to provide shield from harassment at the funerals of “Fallen Heroes.”

Tradition and Family

Susan and Bill Eustice with son Sean

Susan and Bill Eustice with son Sean

Susan Eustice says tradition is a big part of her holiday. She agrees that time with family is what Memorial Day is about. For four generations, her family has spent Memorial Day at Lake Okoboji.

“My mother was six weeks old when she first spent the holiday at the lake,” Eustice says.

Her mother’s paternal grandparents, the Rectors, built a home at the beach. Eustice is also related to the Clarke family, who were among the first families to settle on Okoboji’s Omaha Beach.

This year Susan and her husband, attorney Bill Eustice, plan to enjoy  fireworks, boating, swimming, sailing, biking, and dinners with family members. He and his band, The Firm, will perform at the Barefoot Bar.

They haven’t missed a Memorial Day celebration at Lake Okoboji in three decades. For them, the day is about tradition.

An Omaha Christmas Story

December 23, 2014 by
Photography by The Nebraska State Historical Society

When Bill Eustice first saw the movie A Christmas Story, he thought, “I’ve been there. That’s me.”

Just like Ralphie in the classic holiday movie, Bill Eustice as a child was enthralled by a department store at Christmas. His store was Brandeis in downtown Omaha in the 1950s.

The anticipation of seeing Brandeis store windows light up for the holidays kept Eustice and his mother anxiously driving up and down 16th Street.

They were waiting. And waiting. Hoping to see the beautiful window displays finally appear. It was a major event in Omaha at the time.

“We drove around weekends until the day they were revealed,“ he says. “Brandeis was so secretive about it.”

Finally the day arrived. Eustice thinks it may have been right before Thanksgiving. Crowds formed to see inside the five windows. The brightly lit displays were left burning all night.

Eustice remembers mechanical Santas and reindeer in motion in the window displays. He became wide-eyed seeing a toy train run around and around.

“All the time, kids would be in front of the store, looking at the windows, gawking,” he says. “The windows got more elaborate as time went on over the years.”

Even today when he walks by the windows of the downtown Brandeis building just a few blocks from the law office where he is an attorney, memories come rushing back.

“It was a magical childhood. Everything was still new,” says Eustice. A visit to Santa Claus and his elves was another highlight. “It was kind of scary. Some kids cried.”

He says it’s an era that no longer exists. “Today you go to a shopping center, it’s just a small segment of the mall. Whereas with Brandeis, the whole store was magical.”

He remembers that his first ride on an escalator was at Brandeis. Escalators were something of a novelty at the time.

Now when he visits the Brandeis building—which closed as a department store in 1980—he spots the same Romanesque pillars that fascinated him when he was a boy. “And the Art Deco elevators haven’t changed.”

There was Toyland, a wonderland. “I used to hang around the toy department while my mom shopped,” he says.

And restaurants. “The basement had a restaurant called Hamburger Heaven. I thought it was a great name and still is for a kid.”

At times, he would go with his mother to her favorite Brandeis restaurant, The Tea Room, the “place to be” at the time. With six restaurants in the building, Brandeis fed 10,000 people a day and most likely more during the holiday season.

The wonderland that was Brandeis at Christmastime is a memory Eustice will never forget. “As a kid, you were seeing everything in black and white on TV,” he says. “Then you went downtown and saw those colorful displays.

“Life was simpler back then. Everything looked like Leave it to Beaver.”