Tag Archives: friendship

Beep Beep

August 11, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Beep Beep is no ordinary bus. It is a fully restored “sealing wax red” and white splitty Volkswagen (“splitty” refers to the two-panel windshield). The bus, named Beep Beep, was also its owner’s long-lost honeymoon ride.

BeepBeep1Beep Beep’s 86-year-old owner, John Adair, is a multifaceted businessperson. Adair calls himself an “educational entrepreneur” because of his experience starting several Montessori schools in Omaha. He is also the co-founder of U.S. Assets, a nearly 25-year-old tax business that buys delinquent property taxes from various states, pays them, and profits from penalty collections. The delinquent taxes, he explains, are crucial to funding schools. Adair also serves on a number of nonprofit boards.

Adair’s philosophy is not about profit. Rather, he believes in generosity, free-spiritedness, harmony, love, friendship, and family. These ideals, Adair says, are embodied in his choice of vehicle: a 1960 Volkswagen Microbus Deluxe-SO 22.

Auto restoration expert Mike Carroll, proprietor of Air Cooled Express in Bennington, helped to bring Beep Beep back to life. Carroll says the bus model is the “high line of (VW) busses,” characterized by “nice chrome and a fancy interior—all of the amenities offered back then, and from Germany.

He received Beep Beep from Adair via flatbed. When Carroll first saw the bus, he says it “looked like an unfixable wreck…It sat in a forest for 40 years.” The bus had changed owners many times since Adair’s initial possession. It had served many roles: from family van, to television sales vehicle, to being a storage container.

Adair rescued the abandoned, rusting, and hopelessly immobile Beep Beep from an Iowa forest in 2014. Long before that time, Beep Beep carried Adair and his wife, Rosemarie, across Germany during their 1960 honeymoon.

BeepBeep3Beep Beep was “born in Hanover (Germany), same as Rosemarie,” says Adair. He purchased the vehicle on behalf of his father with the agreement that he could use the bus on his wedding trip in Europe.

Beep Beep’s first outing was in the Swiss Alps. After the honeymoon, Adair relinquished Beep Beep to his father and subsequently became estranged from the vehicle until 40 years later, when a family friend asked what had become of the bus. They traced the bus to its resting place in the forest.

Carroll restored the bus with the help of mechanic Terry Wolfe. It took one-and-a-half years to complete the project. Carroll notes that parts for this bus are obscure or almost impossible to find. He faced the challenge of repairing original parts instead of replacing them.

“I repaired everything I could,” he says. Other parts he located internationally. Carroll accredits the upholstery to Sky’s Interior Shop, and the paint and body work to Extreme Paint (both of which are located in Fremont). Carroll says, “when we put that last piece in there, it just about brought a tear to your eye to see it.”

Since the complete restoration, the bus has earned first place in the Restored Class at the World of Wheels show in March 2016, and Best in Class and Best in Show in the Omaha VW Club show in June 2016. Adair says that Beep Beep “is symbolic of happiness” and “the free spirit of living.”

Adair says that Beep Beep “went from an ‘I can’ car to an ‘icon’ car.”

*Correction: Due to an editing error, the September/October 2016 print edition incorrectly identified Adair’s wife as deceased.

Visit omahavwclub.com for more information. B2B


Karen and Ron Baker

February 24, 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.”


Taking the “Special” Out of Special Needs

February 24, 2014 by

VODEC began in 1968 when a group of parents, educators, and others sought to implement a paradigm shift in how people with disabilities are perceived and, more vitally, how they interact with society. Loved ones with disabilities were too commonly all but invisible throughout the larger community. Many went to special schools. Some lived in special housing arrangements. The emphasis, it seemed, invariably centered on the concept of “special.”

“We serve people first and foremost as members of society,” says Daryn Richardson, the local nonprofit’s services development director. “Only secondarily do we see them as persons with disabilities, as persons with special needs.”

VODEC provides day programs, employment programs, and residential programs that are designed to meet most every need in helping individuals and communities reach their full potential through inclusion.

Originally known as the Vocational Development Center, VODEC today serves over 500 individuals with intellectual, developmental, and other disabilities.

“The core of our mission is to recognize each and every person’s full potential as just that—a person with unlimited potential,” says Richardson. “It’s the most basic of starting points in our thinking, and we want the community to think the same way. After all, these are our sons, our daughters, our neighbors, our friends.”

The nonprofit offers a robust slate of programs. The business services unit offers packaging, assembly, shrink-wrapping, and other services staffed by VODEC’s people. Activities programs include dining out and trips to parks, museums, and other places of interest. Additional initiatives are aimed squarely at the idea that we are all social beings. Such topics as how to meet new friends, strategic thinking and problem solving skills, stranger danger, and understanding boundaries help open doors to a broader, richer world for all.

Creativity was the buzzword the day Omaha Magazine visited VODEC.

“WhyArts is here today (see related story on page 111) so they encountered a room full of artists,” says Richardson. “Sure, they also happen to be persons with disabilities, but today they are artists. We want to give them every opportunity to be themselves and experience life in new and rewarding ways. Tomorrow and next week and next month they will be something else, but today they are artists.”

VODEC's Pam Wyzykowksi with Greg Foster

Visit vodec.org for additional information.

Joslyn Art Museum Docents

February 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

If you don’t know the names, you recognize the faces. Visitors to Joslyn Art Museum on 24th and Dodge streets enjoy the tours offered by well-trained docents, and aficionados have their favorite guides. Surely, the face at the top of that list belongs to Norma Fuller. Last year she led well over 100 tours, and she’s been at it since 1970.

“I love it here,” she says simply. In addition to the Education Department, museum areas that have felt the “Norma touch” include the Board of Governors, Acquisition Committee, and Joslyn Art Museum Association (JAMA). Norma and husband Jim will be moving to Wyoming this spring; to say she’ll be missed is a monumental understatement.

When Fuller answered a newspaper ad for Joslyn docents 42 years ago, there was no Department of Education. Art enthusiasts planned tours among themselves over lunch, sharing tips, information, and friendship. She’d arrived three days prior, in tears over leaving Washington, D.C., a Masters in Art History program at Georgetown University, and studio classes at the Corcoran. What she found at Joslyn was “an oasis.”

“The Docent Program has so much to offer,” she says. Ask any of the docents, and their responses will be similar: The program inspires a love of art and learning, and a desire to share that passion with others; camaraderie; special opportunities and activities, plus discounts in the museum shop and cafe.20130116_bs_1058 copy

Susie Severson, Director of Adult Programs (including docent training), says, “In many respects, docents are the ‘face’ of the Museum—often the first warm welcome, the first smile, the first impression visitors have to the Museum and its collections. Last year—a record-setting year in terms of attendance—Joslyn docents conducted over 1400 individual tours. Within the past six months alone, they served over 7200 visitors. This quick reflection on the numbers confirms the docents’ role as amazing public servants. They are respected beyond measure.” But she cautions that it is a serious commitment. Candidates must complete a two-year series of classes in art history, touring techniques, and the Joslyn collection. Information and a downloadable application form (deadline August 23) are available at the website.

Sharon Jackson learned firsthand the challenge and the rewards during her second year of training. She’d chosen to study an 18th-century painting by Peyron but was disheartened to find what little information she could was in French. Remembering that Fuller offered a tour in French, she asked for help. Though the two had never met, Fuller translated the primary document, reviewed Jackson’s paper, and offered tips for its presentation. “She went way beyond expectations,” says Jackson. “She became a mentor.” Fuller responded, “That’s what docents do; we help each other.”

Docents bring varied backgrounds to the program, so you’re sure to find someone who can pronounce Danish names, explain lithography, or connect an art style to its political environment. Most docents relish study. Jane Precella, Joslyn’s retail manager, says, “I’ve seen Norma in the cafe studying for a tour like a grad student cramming for an exam.” Yet there’s variety in preparation, too. One docent always watched Saturday morning TV so that she was up on the latest superheroes.

“She went way beyond expectations. She became a mentor.” – Sharon Jackson, Joslyn Art Museum docent

Creative expression is another perk of the program. Docents delight in tailoring a tour, step by step, as they listen to their particular group, and some docents develop customized tours. Fuller has found special satisfaction in two adult programs, Art Encounters and Visualizing Literature Book Club. “Making just the right connection is as euphoric to me as making just the right brush stroke,” she says.

As Fuller’s time of making her mark on the Joslyn nears an end, Director Jack Becker comments, “Norma is a remarkable and talented person who for over 40 years has shared her love, passion, and knowledge of the visual arts to literally thousands and thousands of lucky individuals. Omaha owes her a huge thanks, and Joslyn Art Museum will miss her talent and inspiration.”

The next time you take a tour at Joslyn, put a name with the face and enjoy the unique perspective your docent brings to the tour. You’ll never get another just like it.