Arthur C. Storz Jr., scion of a historic Omaha family who buzzed his neighborhood in a World War II bomber as a young man before growing old alone while preserving his wealthy ancestors' mansion, has died.
He was 89.
A vigil service will be held Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Heafey-Hoffmann-Dworak-Cutler Funeral Home, 7805 West Center Road. The funeral Mass is scheduled Wednesday at 10 a.m. at St. John Vianney Catholic Church, 5801 Oak Hills Drive.
Midtown neighbors and commuters may remember Storz as the man in a black baseball cap trimming hedges around a palatial stone home near 38th and Farnam Streets. They may be less aware of his place in a family long prominent in Omaha history and society.
Storz, who went by Art, was born April 20, 1920, to Arthur C. Storz Sr. and his wife, Margaret Hart Storz.
Art Storz Jr. lived in the Gottlieb Storz house at 3708 Farnam St. for much of his life between 1939 and 2002. It was the house that Storz beer built: Gottlieb Storz, grandfather of Art Storz Jr., founded Storz Brewery in the late 1800s and was one of early Omaha's great industrialists.
Art Storz's father was a wealthy and influential Omaha businessman as well. A World War I airman, Arthur C. Storz Sr. helped bring the Strategic Air Command to Offutt Air Force Base near Bellevue and has been credited with much of Eppley Airfield's early growth. The Storz Expressway is named for him.
Gottlieb built the 27-room mansion, now on the National Register of Historic Places, between 1904 and 1907. Arthur C. Storz Sr. and his wife, who went by Monnie, moved into the house in 1939, when Gottlieb Storz died.
Over the years, the mansion was the site of parties that drew such Hollywood celebrities as Jimmy Stewart and such military leaders as Gen. Curtis LeMay.
The Storz brewery pumped out 43 million gallons of beer a year and produced one-third of all the beer sold in Nebraska in 1960. Arthur C. Storz Sr. sold the company in 1966. It went out of business in 1972.
Art Storz Jr. followed family tradition by having a wide assortment of friends and acquaintances, from military leaders and entertainers to athletes and politicians.
Art Jr. attended Creighton Prep and St. John's Northwestern Military Academy in Wisconsin before studying business administration at Creighton University.
He inherited his father's love for flying and enlisted in the Army Air Forces soon after World War II started. He flew many planes. He was court-martialed for buzzing Omaha's Blackstone Hotel in a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber.
Recalling the buzzing in a 1983 interview, he said it “scared the hell out of everybody.”
Storz said he buzzed the hotel, which was a block from the mansion, because “I was really just trying to show people how well I could fly the airplane.”
Storz was recalled to duty in the Korean War, and he served in the Air Force Reserve for 29 years.
He worked in the family business for a time, rising to be the Storz Brewing Co.'s vice president of advertising, said a niece, Pam Berry of Omaha.
In the 1960s, Storz developed Go Big Red stadium seat cushions and rain ponchos, both bearing the Storz company logo. They became popular among fans and stimulated creation of more Big Red memorabilia.
Storz was a longtime contributor to Cornhusker athletics. Well before Husker games became sellouts, Storz annually purchased two dozen or more season tickets. In appreciation for his contributions, the university annually gave him a football autographed by Husker players and coaches.
After being divorced, Storz returned to live in the mansion. He cared for his parents as they grew old and ill and he managed the home.
Following the death of Storz's mother in 1981, the mansion and its contents were scheduled to be sold.
A group of family friends and associates, headed by Omaha's then postmaster, John “Red” Munnelly, formed the Storz Preservation Foundation. They got the auction canceled and raised enough money to keep the home intact and Art Storz Jr. as its caretaker-host. In a complicated legal maneuver, he renounced his inheritance. Ownership of the mansion shifted to his children, Kip and Kimberly.
Storz continued to live in the mansion, creating displays of memorabilia and guiding people on tours. It still was equipped with its chandeliers and other grand furnishings of old. The house's contents have since been sold.
Storz most reveled in showing visitors the family company's artifacts, from Storz beer matchbooks and postcards to beer coolers. For a time he rented parts of the mansion out for wedding receptions and other affairs to generate money to maintain the home. He helped cater parties and did the yard work.
Wearing a baseball cap he rarely took off, indoors or out, he was a familiar figure trimming the mansion's hedges along Farnam Street.
Storz said in a 1980s interview that he sometimes ran short of cash and had the telephone service and heat cut off because he could not pay bills. But he kept the house as a single-family residence through a period in which many Gold Coast mansions south of Dodge Street were divided into apartments or put to other uses.
Pam Berry said of her uncle: “He had great pride in what his father had done, in all of his accomplishments, and in what my father (Robert Hart Storz) had done, with all of his accomplishments. He wanted to preserve the family name and the family heritage.” Robert Hart Storz, Art Jr.'s brother, was a decorated WWII pilot.
A family friend, Michael Gaughan, bought the mansion out of tax foreclosure in 1989 so Storz could continue living there. Storz moved into a Millard-area nursing home in 2002 after a breaking his hip in a fall in the house. Gaughan, a Las Vegas casino owner and Creighton University graduate, then donated the mansion to Creighton.
Creighton sold the grand old home to an Omaha family in 2007.
Contact the writer: