Elke Dickmeyer could have been killed.
War was raging in Germany and she and her young friends were playing outside. Suddenly, mothers ran out of their houses and hurried the children inside.
A war plane flew over her small town near the North Sea.
“If our mothers wouldn’t have known, we probably would have been shot,” she said.
Decades after World War II ended, Dickmeyer was among immigrants who took spoke during “Coming to America — Our Stories” on Sunday afternoon at Fremont Nazarene Church.
More than 230 people attended the fundraising event with proceeds going to toward a church mission trip to Papua New Guinea in the fall and for a youth missions trip to Detroit.
Speakers from nine countries shared their experiences. Whether they came from a war-torn or Communist nation or due to a college scholarship or after a fun trip to America, each speaker expressed their love and gratitude for the United States.
Living in war-torn Germany, Dickmeyer remembers the lack of food and going to her grandmother’s house to get potatoes. Her father, who’d been a soldier, ended up in a French prison for many years. Her parents divorced and her brother, who’d previously gone to the United States, urged Dickmeyer and her mother to come to America.
Dickmeyer was a teenager when they arrived by ship during which she was seasick for six of the 10-day trip. They ended up in Fremont where they bought a small, used trailer home.
“Later on we thought we had bought a castle, because we got a larger trailer house that was brand new. We thought we had it made,” she said.
Fremonters were very helpful as she was trying hard to learn the language.
About five years after coming to the United States, Dickmeyer gained her citizenship.
“I was so proud,” she said.
She later trained and studied to be certified and worked in surgery at what is now Fremont Health for 30 years.
Dickmeyer and her husband, Don, married in 1967 and had five children. She’s been in the U.S. for 63 years.
“I am so glad to be in America with all of you,” Dickmeyer said. “I’m more American than German.”
She returns to Germany about every 10 years.
“It’s good to see everybody and be home, but I’m always anxious to come back to America — my country.”
Just a few of the other speakers and their countries of origin include:
Khanhkeo Carol Noudaranouvong, who has been in the U.S. for 38 years, escaped from the Communist country of Laos in 1978.
“We stayed in a refugee camp in Thailand for two years,” she said.
Someone sponsored them to come to the United States in 1980. She went to New Mexico and then to Kansas, where she worked in a factory. After the factory closed, she returned to New Mexico where she worked in the kitchen of a Chinese restaurant for seven years. She’d live in California and Texas before moving to Tecumseh, where a cousin lived, and then to Fremont.
She worked for Hormel Foods Corp., for 17 years. When she broached the idea of opening a restaurant, her husband agreed. So they both quit Hormel and opened Savannakhet Asian Grill in downtown Fremont, where they serve Laotian, Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese food. The hours are long, but she enjoys her work.
“I love it here,” she said of America. “Everybody is real nice and welcomed us.”
Originally from Sweden, Kerstin O’Connor came to America with a group of young people for a trip to Minneapolis, Chicago and New York City.
“After I came home from this wonderful trip, I got the ‘American Fever,’” O’Connor said. “For three years, I prepped myself to come back and I did that by reading books about the United States. I listened to music. Elvis was very popular at that time and I also saw movies and I even made clothing that some of the movie stars wore in the movies. I think I fell in love with the glitzy parts of America and the happy people, and everything was just wonderful.”
In 1965, she and one of her girlfriends came to America and ended up being nannies in Westport, Conn. That September, O’Connor went on a blind date with her future husband, Vincent O’Connor Jr.
They married in Sweden in 1969 and have twins — a boy and girl. They eventually moved to Fremont. Today, they own Yankee Peddler West antique shop in downtown Fremont.
She likes Americans.
“They’re very chatty,” she said. “They are not afraid to say what they think. They are great at coming up with new ideas. I can tell you, it’s never been boring.”
Unlike O’Connor, Shelly Ann Litle didn’t get the American Fever — at first.
Litle, who is from Jamaica, was attending a university there when she had the opportunity to come to America and work for a summer through a cultural exchange program.
While in the U.S., she decided to visit a young American named Mitch whom she’d met and become friends with via the Internet while she was still in high school.
She went home and was in her final year in college when she had the chance to come to America again on a Visa.
“To be honest, it was never my dream to come to America,” Litle said. “I was going to become an accountant in Jamaica.”
But a friend prayed for her at church and quoted a Bible verse as he told her: “God said I should tell you, ‘Your ways are not my ways, your thoughts are not my thoughts.’”
After that, she began having the “American Dream.”
She has been in Nebraska for almost 10 years. She and her husband, Mitch, and family live in Fremont, and believes God’s plan for her life has been beneficial.
“I love Nebraska,” she also said. “Now when I talk about Nebraska you’d think I’m talking about Jamaica. I pride for this state and this town. Some of my Jamaican friends say I’m the Nebraskan and my husband is the Jamaican.”
She notes there are differences in food between the two countries, such as swordfish in Jamaica and variety of fruits.
“But after a while you realize with your children, you start loving spaghetti,” she said. “You realize lasagna is an easy meal to cook.”
Gladys Starkey of North Bend, originally from the Philippines, actually wanted to order spaghetti from McDonalds in the U.S.
That’s because the McDonalds restaurant in the Philippines offers spaghetti, rice and fried chicken.
But when she tried to order the traditional Italian dish in the U.S., she got a funny look from the clerk, who set the record straight.
It would be one more cultural experience for Starkey, who has been in the U.S. for nine years.
Starkey met her future husband, Tim, while she was working at a call center for Dish Network in Manilla. He wondered why he wasn’t get his HBO, Cinemax and Starz channels for free. She had to tell him those channels were only available at no cost for three months.
That call would lead to more and the two eventually married in the Philippines. Nine months later, she came to the U.S. It was her first time to fly on an airplane and be out of the Philippines.
Starkey would have many experiences, including seeing snow for the first time.
One experience occurred as Starkey and her husband were heading to their home in Morse Bluff and she saw an animal run across the road.
“Was that a goat?” she asked.
“No, that was a deer,” he said.
“Who let the deer run around?” she asked. “Who owns them anyway?”
“Mother Nature,” he said.
The Starkeys have two daughters, Marie and Olivia, and she has written a book called, “Pesos to Pennies — A Filipino Immigrant’s Memoir.”
She added one more thought to her talk:
“I am so grateful to live in a country that is welcoming and opens its doors to all immigrants or all people who want to know the taste of the American dream.”
Throughout Alex Lamme’s life he had a passion for running.
Not only was the 1993 graduate of Fremont High School a standout runner during his time on the Tigers track and field team, he also proved his passion and talent for the sport while at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
While on the Huskers track and field team, Lamme became a national champion as part of the school’s distance medley relay team at the 1996 NCAA Indoor Track Championships. He was also a two-time GTE First Team Academic All-American while in college.
“He wasn’t just an athlete, he was also quite a scholar,” his father Nick Lamme said.
Following Alex’s unexpected death while on a business trip in April 2013, Lamme’s family and friends found a way to honor his memory through the sport he loved by holding an annual 5K run and fundraiser.
Later this month the fourth annual Alex Lamme St. Partick’s Day Dash will again honor his life through a 5K run and one-mile family walk beginning at 11 a.m. at the Christensen Family YMCA Camp on March 17.
This year the event falls directly on St. Patrick’s Day, which according to his father Nick, is a holiday that Alex also enjoyed.
“He wasn’t a big drinker or anything, but he particularly like St. Paddy’s,” he said.
In addition, people are being asked to wear green “Irish” garb and are encouraged to stay after the race for food and refreshments.
“We have hot dogs afterward and a cold beer or a pop whatever you want, so it is kind of a social event whether you want to come out and run or not,” Nick Lamme said.
Registration costs $25 prior to March 8 and includes a long-sleeve T-shirt. Anyone registering after March 9 will be required to pay $30 and there will be no guarantee of a T-Shirt.
The 5K run is being divided into eight age-based categories, and the top male and female finisher from each division will be awarded a prize.
“Considering we do it early we have had great weather and have had a great response. Not only have we gotten a great response as far as fundraising, but we had over 200 runners last year,” Nick Lamme said.
Proceeds from the race go towards the Alex Lamme Athletic and Academic Achievement Award at UNL as well as Alexander N. Lamme Academic-Athletic Scholarship which is available to graduating seniors of Fremont High School who have been active members of the Fremont High track and field team or Fremont High School basketball team.
People are encouraged to register at the Fremont Family YMCA’s front desk, online at https://www.itsyourrace.com/event.aspx?id=10450, through the special events page at www.fremontfamilyymca.org or by mailing cash or checks to the Y, 810 N. Lincoln Ave. Checks should be made payable to the Fremont Family YMCA.
For more information, people are encouraged to contact the Fremont Family YMCA at 402-721-6952.
The Fremont Public Schools (FPS) Board of Education approved a request to buy new desktop computers for every classroom in the district, as well as laptop computers for all teaching staff members during its monthly meeting on Monday night.
The purchase of the desktop computers will not exceed $210,000, while the purchase of the laptops will not exceed $150,000.
The laptops currently in FPS classrooms are in their eight year of use, according to Technology Director Cliff Huss.
“This is the eighth year that they’ve been using it, which in technology terms, is forever,” Huss said. “We normally have a five-to-six year cycle, but because of other purchases that needed to happen, because of the legislature changing budgets, we’ve had to put purchases on hold, and so whenever we do that, it puts our five-to-six year cycle back.”
The FPS Technology Department has requested pricing from three different vendors. The intent was to have the details of the exact purchase ready for the board, but the monthly meeting was recently scheduled from later in the month to March 5. Huss will come back to the board for the April meeting with the precise details of the purchase.
“We’ll make a decision on the end of the week,” Huss said. “We’ll make a decision on what the hardware is, and from that we’ll look at the responses and choose the vendor or vendors for the purchase.”
For desktop computers, Huss is looking to purchase a Micro Form Factor, which are about eight inches by eight inches and an inch and a half to two inches thick.
“The great thing about it is that it can be mounted to the back of the monitor,” Huss told the board. “When you do that, it clears up desk space, cleans up the installation, but yet still provides us a connection point for projectors for interactive devices or document cameras or any other accessories they have in the classroom to hook up.”
The anticipated purchase would also include a 19 or 20 inch monitor and the mount to attach the computer. The desktops would be an upgrade in terms of processing and memory, Huss added.
In terms of portable devices, Huss is looking to purchase a Chromebook portable computer for each teacher, though there are two devices currently being considered. The first is a “laptop style” Chromebook that would only run Chrome OS, which is an operating system based around the Google Chrome web browser. The second is a Chromebook with a flip screen that can also operate like a tablet.
Huss has sent out multiple surveys to teachers about their hardware to determine what would work best.
“The assumption that we had going into it was we would be getting a laptop for teachers,” Huss said. “As we went through the surveys and reviewed the responses that came back, it was kind of amazing that there was a large population that was interested in having that desktop use in the classroom, as well as a large population that had an interest in having the laptop for mobility.”
FPS is also working with the Fremont Public Schools Foundation on a new initiative to begin working on providing every student in grades seven through 12 a device for school activities, according to FPS Superintendent Mark Shepard. The fifth and sixth grades already have enough devices.
“We talked about the fact that we’re really one purchase away from being there,” Shepard said.
The Foundation plans to “kick off a campaign” for the new devices in early April, Shepard said.