Tag Archives: Cold War

Matthias Jeske

June 22, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Matthias Jeske sits at a red leather booth in The Diner in downtown Omaha looking like he belongs there. It’s his leather jacket, plastic-framed glasses, and plaid shirt that probably came off the rack of a Woolworth’s 50 years ago. On him, the shirt still looks so fresh, so cool.

“I’m a Cold War boy with a Buddy Holly style,” Jeske quips.

The 25-year old refers to things as “groovy” and “swell.” He owns numerous vintage furnishings, from a custom-made 1962 sectional sofa by designer Milo Baughman to a stereo console. You might even call him Mister 1960.

Listeners at MavRadio did. The recent UNO graduate spent the last four years spinning music of the early 1960s on his show, “The Waxx Museum by Mister 1960.”

It was this music that started his love of all things vintage.

MatthiasJeske2Jeske says, “My mom (Liz Jeske) would play Patsy Cline in the kitchen while she was making dinner. Then I fell in love with the cars in high school.”

His beloved ride is a 1960 Chevy Impala he named Black Betty. He evoked Danny Zucko in high school, sporting a pompadour while wearing dark jeans and a leather bomber jacket.

As he graduated from high school in 2009, he graduated from the post-war ideals of the 1950s into polished chrome and futuristic patterns. He began to favor tailored suits and skinny ties.

“I traded my pompadour for a side part. I fell more in love with the atomic era,” Jeske says. “The atomic era applies more to my every day life.”

A friendship with the general manager at MavRadio led to the opportunity to create his radio show in fall 2011, spinning the pre-1966 music he loves so well and joking around with his listeners. Professor Jodeen Brownlee entered his radio show into the Broadcasting Education Association Awards. In April 2014 he won Media Personality of the Year and flew to Las Vegas for the ceremony. He came back to Omaha, spun more pre-1966 records, and flew back to Las Vegas to pick up the same award in April 2015.

He picked up a theater minor at UNO and graduated from spinning records behind a booth to performing onstage. Even with the theater it’s been his love of retro that brought him to award-winning roles.

“I’d never done a show at the (Omaha Community) Playhouse before, but being a nerd, I’d always loved Monty Python.” Jeske says.

He landed seven supporting roles in Spamalot and won awards for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical from the Theater Arts Guild, Omaha Community Playhouse awards, and Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards.

“I felt like I was just running around being a goof, but the voters must have loved it,” Jeske says.

He also held the supporting role of John Burt in Frost vs. Nixon at the Blue Barn Theatre.

“The two theater parts I have played this year have been satisfying,” Jeske waxes. “At first I thought, ‘theater is great fun,’ but I have been pleasantly surprised by how great the theater community has been.”


Finally—A Final Resting Place for Veterans

May 25, 2016 by

It’s a long way from the early days of post-communist Ukraine to the silent, rolling hills of Sarpy County.

Today, Cindy Van Bibber is back in her native state, creating the Omaha National Cemetery southeast of where Highways 50 and 370 intersect. It’s just the second Department of Veterans Affairs national cemetery in Nebraska, a 236-acre tract that will serve the burial needs of area veterans and their families for the next 100 years.

It’s historic.

And in Van Bibber, the cemetery has a director who’s seen—and made—plenty of history herself.

She left Nebraska in 1983, a year after graduating from Grand Island High School. Plans to study for a career in the medical field fizzled, so she joined the Army and wound up serving for more than 10 years.

She began with the Cold War at its height. Part of her stint included an assignment with General John Shalikashvili, who later would become chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Van Bibber was part of a two-person communications team that would set up secure lines wherever Shalikashvili went. Like a hotel in the Ukraine.

“It was a pretty exciting job to be able to travel worldwide with him,” Van Bibber says. “Wouldn’t change it for the world.”

But change it did. After discharge she moved back to the U.S., to Virginia, and after taking one more stab at the medical field, landed her first job in a cemetery career. That was in Richmond, where she helped open a new state veterans’ cemetery. Van Bibber was there from its first burial in 1997 until 2006. She then joined the Department of Veteran’s Affairs and worked at four VA cemeteries, including Riverside National Cemetery in California.

Not until last year did she come back home, becoming director of the yet-to-be-created Omaha National Cemetery.

Peter Young, who mentored Van Bibber at Riverside National Cemetery, has full confidence in his one-time protege.

“She is a great cemetery director always trying to improve herself and her cemetery so they can provide the best possible service to our veterans and their families,” Young says.

For now, the can-do attitude is coming in most handy.

Work at the cemetery began last fall. That’s mostly involved “lots of moving the earth,” Van Bibber says. Her office is a trailer but some of the footings for the four main buildings have been poured. She’s also building the staff, hiring a program specialist and foreman. Nearly a dozen staff will work at the cemetery when it’s at full strength.

They project to have 500 burials a year once it opens. The first should come this September. Van Bibber says she plans to have a dedication ceremony followed by burials for someone from each service branch.

A vet herself, Van Bibber is where she seems to belong.

“Even when I was in Europe I visited all of the cemeteries to pay my respects for those lost in the great conflicts,” she says. “It was something to do on weekends, never once thinking I’d come back and work at a national cemetery.”

Here she is, though, far from home no more.