Tag Archives: couples

Vernetta Kosalka

January 20, 2017 by
Photography by Ani Luxe Photography

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

Being trusted with the most important day of a couple’s life or executing the planning of companies event or non-profit’s gala is humbling,” says event planner & designer Vernetta Kosalka, who began her first business in 2007. “In 2013, I added floral design services, the brand, Florist of Omaha, specializing in wedding and event design.

“Also in 2013, I began working with a committee to plan the Omaha Police Officer’s Ball, which ignited my passion for planning and designing full-time. We work annually to raise funds benefiting Special Olympics Nebraska.”

She turned her attention to helping nonprofit and corporate groups.

“I want to have a legacy known for being a trusted source in the management of events and design, helping nonprofits reach their goals. Additionally, I want to be known for giving back to the Omaha community by helping women realize their potential and leadership.”

She has realigned her business and services, additionally offering corporate/nonprofit event planning and design services. All services are aligned under the name, “VK Events | Floral | Planning.”

“I know couples and companies have a choice, and I am so thankful they choose me and my services to assist them,” says Kosalka. “Our clients appreciate and need professional help to guide the planning process.”

“Nearing the end of my senior year at College of Saint Mary, I landed a job at one of Omaha’s largest full-service hotels as a catering administrative assistant, assisting one of Omaha’s leading and sought-after event professionals.”

She says her company is a one-stop shop for couples and clients. “I also pride myself in taking an active role with my nonprofit and corporate clients by being active on the committee and boards. Therefore I fully understand the goals and guide the planning process internally.”

Her service and attention to detail keep referrals coming. “I take the planning off your shoulders but not out of your hands. My couples and clients know I will work hard to anticipate needs, follow through on responsibilities and protect their interests.”

She is the first in her family to graduate from college. “A quote that stands out to me most is by Catherine McAuley, ‘No work is more productive of good to society than the careful education of women.’”

Kosalka holds a Master of Science in organizational leadership from the College of Saint Mary, She received the college’s Queen of Heart Award based on values, character, and service.

And that’s not all of her bragging rights. She has received the Wedding Wire Couple’s Choice Award annually for Event Planning and Floral Design. She is the recipient of the 2016 Volunteer of the Year for the Ralston Chamber of Commerce.

“Our design work is regionally published in Nebraska Wedding Day Magazine: home of award winning services—The Wedding Planner Omaha LLC & Florist of Omaha,” she says.

“As a child, I knew I wanted to own businesses and plan events. ‘Wow’ that’s a big picture for a 7 year old,” says Kosalka. “Many of America’s greatest businesses were started in homes with a dream and faith.”

801 S. 75th St.
Omaha, NE 68114
402.510.2241
vernettakosalka.com

 

Let’s Dance!

June 20, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

For over 50 years, Dottie Dankof and her husband, Dan, have been partners in life as well as on the dance floor. The couple met while Dottie was an instructor with Arthur Murray Ballroom Dance. Today, Dottie says they try to go dancing four to six times a month. The Dankofs enjoy ballroom dancing, which includes the tango, the rumba, foxtrot, swing, and polka, among others. “We do all that stuff, but we favor the waltz,” she says.

One of the benefits of dancing that Dottie cites is the fact that it’s great exercise. “They say that it’s the one physical exercise you can do that works the whole body, and they’re right!” She also finds dance to be relaxing. “When you’re out dancing, you’re not thinking of all the other things [going on]. You’re just having so much fun!”

Gone are the days of seniors spending their retirement years rocking in the front-porch swing. Today, more and more folks ranging in age from their 60s to well into their 90s are doing swing moves on the dance floor.

“It’s really, really good exercise,” says Elizabeth Edwards, dance instructor and owner of Omaha Ballroom at 153rd and Q streets. “It’s [great] for memory, too.” Edwards explains that dancers have to remember a wide variety of dance steps and that keeps their minds and their bodies active. She shares that she and one of her students have a running joke: “When he forgets a dance move, he says he has waltz-heimers.”

Dottie and Dan Dankof

Dottie and Dan Dankof

Omaha Ballroom teaches all types of dance, but Edwards says that the seniors she works with are mainly interested in ballroom and swing. The instructors have also traveled to local retirement communities to teach lessons. Edwards is working on adding line dancing and Zumba Gold (Zumba for seniors) to their repertoire. She adds that such classes are good options for seniors who are single and may not feel comfortable dancing with an instructor.

As an instructor, Edwards meets many people who come to her studio to learn a dance for various reasons. “Some people just want to dance socially,” she says. For those, Omaha Ballroom offers what they call practice parties every Friday night. “They get a lesson and then everyone dances until 10 p.m.”

For others, who wish to pursue dance on a competitive level, Edwards and her staff can help their students achieve their goals. “We just kind of see what they’re interested in and then get them started in the right direction.”

“They say that it’s the one physical exercise you can do that works the whole body, and they’re right!” – Dottie Dankof

What would ballroom dancing be without a big band to provide the music? Thanks to the Greg Spevak Orchestra and Lonny Lynn Orchestra, local dancers won’t have to find out.

The Greg Spevak Orchestra has been playing for 43 years. “We used to play at the Music Box downtown…it’s not there anymore,” Spevak adds wistfully. The Peony Park Ballroom is another lost favorite. But today’s dancers are making memories at some other local ballroom hotspots. Of course, the Wahoo Starlight Ballroom is a favorite, as are Omaha Post 1 American Legion Hall and the Bluffs Center across the river, just to name a few. Both Spevak and Lynn play at the regular Wednesday dances hosted by the Center.

While the Greg Spevak Orchestra plays a wide variety of music—from ballroom, Latin, country, swing, and popular music from the 1950s through the mid-80s the Lynnvts Orchestra tends to stay with the Big Band Era. “But we mix a lot of Latin in throughout the evening,” Lynn adds.

Both band leaders say that the majority of their audiences are in their 60s and 70s, though it’s not uncommon to see dancers in their 80s and 90s grace the dance floor as well.

“These people move great…they dance every dance,” says Spevak. “It’s an aerobic exercise. I don’t know if I can keep up with them, to tell you the truth,” he laughs.

“If there’s a dance, the seniors don’t miss it,” says Lynn. “It’s their recreation and their social get-together.”

 “We have five or six parties a year where we hire a band and invite a bunch of our closest friends.” – Linda Todd

Lynn likes the fact that he has come to know a lot of the people who come to hear them regularly. “The people we attract to the dances…they have become like family.” He says that while he can’t remember everyone’s name, “I look at their face, I can remember their favorite song.”

Bob and Linda Todd of Gretna are regulars on the ballroom dance circuit and are close friends with the Dankofs. “We’ve been married for 20 years, so we’ve probably been dancing for 25 years,” Linda says. The couple enjoys dancing so much that they’ve built a ballroom in their basement. “We have five or six parties a year where we hire a band and invite a bunch of our closest friends.”

She adds that while they have participated in local dance classes, she and Bob often use DVDs to learn new dance steps for the convenience. “We want to learn the Argentine Tango,” she says.

Both the Todds and the Dankofs travel around the metro area to meet their friends and fellow dancers several times a month. “We enjoy socializing with our friends,” Linda says, adding that their group of friends range in age from 50 to 90. “It’s just a lot of fun, and we love it!”

RV Sweet RV

April 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Fritz and Cheryl Steinhoff spent a lifetime teaching high school students, their longest tenure in Scribner, Neb. Fritz taught agriculture while Cheryl shared her talents as a music and piano teacher. They raised two sons. In 2005, when both were in their mid-50s, they started thinking about retirement and started looking at recreational vehicles.

“We like to travel, so we thought it would be a great way to do it,” says Fritz.

Three years ago, they made good on their plan, sold their “stick and brick house” and now spend half the year—the cold half—in their home-on-wheels in Mesa, Ariz. When the snow and frost are gone, the warm Nebraska weather beckons them back home where they set up at the KOA campsite in Gretna to be close their sons and grandchildren.

Dr. Marvin Johnson and Joy Johnson met in a mental hospital in Clarinda, Iowa, almost 40 years ago.

“That’s appropriate, don’t you think?” cracks Joy, who goes on to explain that Dr. Marv was the chaplain there while Joy conducted a program on death and dying. “I teamed up with the chaplain, and then we really teamed up!”

The couple founded Centering Corporation, the oldest and largest bereavement resource center in the country. As authors and lecturers on the grieving process, their lives were busy enough. But then Joy had to go and write a series of successful mystery/comedy novels set in Omaha called The Boob Girls (Burned Out Old Broads), which forced a change in their lifestyle.

“We lived in the Mayfair Building at 12th and Howard in Omaha,” says Joy. “We were on the road so much because of my Boob Girls speaking engagements that we decided to go full-time in an RV.”

The Johnsons use Orlando as a base of operation during the winter and return to Nebraska in April, staying off I-80 at the Pine Grove RV Park in Greenwood.

Dr. Marvin and Joy Johnson with their travel companion, Barney, at a campsite in Orlando, Fla.

Dr. Marvin and Joy Johnson with their travel companion, Barney, at a campsite in Orlando, Fla.

Linda and Dean Erickson, both in their mid-60s, are busy downsizing and getting their duplex in Blair, Neb., ready to sell. Years of weekend camping in state parks in Nebraska and Iowa as members of the local Jayco Club led them to the next stage in their lives.

“We’ve decided to go RVing full-time,” explains Linda, who retired in February from the local phone company, while Dean finished up a long career in the HVAC industry. They are the parents of two sets of twins, born nine years apart.

“We’ll probably be in Texas or Arizona pretty soon,” says Dean. “We’re looking at RV sites around McCallum, Texas. From what I understand, there are hundreds of RV parks within 50 miles of there.”

The three couples don’t know each other personally, but they have a lot in common. They are among the estimated 30 million RV enthusiasts in this country, according to the Recreational Vehicle Information Association. The mobile home of choice for each couple is a fifth wheel—a large trailer that hitches onto the bed of a pickup truck and is towed. They love the freedom the RV lifestyle affords them.

All are instinctively outgoing and have no problem making new friends.

“We aren’t parked more than two minutes before 10 to 15 people will be knocking on our door. Doesn’t matter where we are,” says Fritz Steinhoff, who adorns their $85,000 Mobile Suite by DRV with Nebraska logos. “And you’d be surprised at all the people from the Dakotas and Iowa who are Husker fans.”

Perhaps the most endearing similarity among the couples is they still love each other.

“We aren’t parked more than two minutes before 10 to 15 people will be knocking on our door. Doesn’t matter where we are.” – Fritz Steinhoff

“[Marv and I] are great travel buddies,” says Joy Johnson, 75. “That’s the most important part. You have to enjoy each other.”

The Johnsons also enjoy the company of their 125-pound Bernese Mountain dog, Barney. He happily sits in the backseat of their diesel-fueled Chevy pickup as it tows the 40-foot-long Jayco Pinnacle—a rolling testament to American engineering and design.

The hundreds of motor home manufacturers in the U.S. (Winnebago is still the largest) have listened closely to their customers since the recession hammered the industry. According to the RV Association, sales are surging again thanks, in part, to features like cherry cabinets, oodles of flat-screen TVs, convection ovens, top-quality countertops, surround-sound systems, satellite dishes, and washers and dryers. A standard floor plan for a fifth wheel includes living room, dining area, kitchen with an island, and a master bedroom with a full bathroom.

“We call it camping, but in reality we think it’s roughing it when we can’t get satellite reception,” chuckles Dean Erickson. Their upgrade to a $38,000 used, 37-foot Jayco Designer with four slides (rooms that slide outwards to expand living space once you’re parked) nearly resulted in disaster.

“First time out, I’m going down Nebraska Street (in Blair), and a guy passing by starts waving his arms like crazy. I stop and say, ‘What’s going on?’ And he says, ‘One of your slides is still out!’ Didn’t realize I had so many.”

What about the all-important economics of RVing vs. owning a home?

“We call it camping, but in reality we think it’s roughing it when we can’t get satellite reception.” – Dean Erickson

“It’s been fantastic,” says Fritz. “There are less taxes. No upkeep. And if the wind isn’t blowing at me, I can average 13 mpg.”

“Fuel economy has definitely gotten better over the years,” adds Dean, who figures he and Linda will be better off economically.

Short-term campers usually pay a flat fee to plug in at a site while those who stay in RV parks for long stretches have a meter and pay for electricity, along with rent of $300-$400 a month. Most commercial campgrounds provide Wi-Fi.

For those who still may be on the fence about the RV lifestyle, final words of wisdom from Joy Johnson: “If you don’t like the place you’re staying at, you can just leave.”

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.’