The veteran teacher and her city official husband showed up at the new school, and the principal stared.
Here was Susie Landow in Converse sneakers and one of her trademark ball caps, which she wore to hide some of the permanent hair loss from radiation on a brain tumor years before.
Here was her husband, Paul, who that year — it was 2003 — everyone was calling “Mayor Landow,” even though Paul worked for the real mayor of Omaha, Mike Fahey, as his bulldog-in-chief.
The Landows were lugging in box after box. Children's books and puppets. Learning center doodads. A beautifully painted rocking chair seemingly out of “Alice in Wonderland.”
And all Principal Nancy Oberst could do was watch, mesmerized.
“Oh, my gosh,” she thought, “they're going to move in for days and days and days.”
Oberst said nothing about how this old bus barn, temporary quarters for the new Liberty Elementary, had no interior doors or finished ceilings. How cubicle walls divided the building into smaller-than-usual spaces for classrooms.
She felt as if she were watching a pair of pros: the teacher who left Millard to finish her teaching in this downtown Omaha Public Schools building and the husband who helped run the city during the day but at night was now schlepping boxes. With enthusiasm.
The pair worked like that through the final five years of Susie's long education career, which ended in 2008.
And though Paul stopped lugging boxes in and out of classrooms, he has spent the past year tending to Susie. The lifesaving radiation that had kept cancer at bay since 1996 had irreparably damaged her brain.
A car accident last April. Seizures on a trip to Washington, D.C., last June.
And then a downward spiral that left Susie an invalid and Paul rushing home to their Old Market apartment after teaching political science classes at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
He cared for her there until two weeks ago, when she entered hospice.
On Friday, Susie Landow died. She was 62.
A memorial service will be held next Saturday at 11 a.m. at Liberty Elementary, 20th Street and St. Mary's Avenue. Lunch will follow.
The place where Susie ended her teaching career is a fitting one from which to bid her farewell, her husband said.
“She had a lot of energy,” Paul Landow said. “She was creative, organized, smart, happy and always had a big smile on her face.”
She was showing 5-year-olds the way, he said, and she exulted in that.
Susie, a DeKalb, Ill., native, came to Omaha by way of Drake University in Des Moines. An education major, she told everyone in college that she'd teach at the first school that would take her.
So when OPS called, she said yes and moved to Omaha.
Her first assignment was Saratoga Elementary in north Omaha. A mutual friend set her up with Paul.
He remembers the friend saying he should call this teacher, he'd really like her.
“I did,” Paul said. “And I did!”
The two married, built a home in Elkhorn and raised their only child, a son named Charley who is now married and living in New York City.
As Paul's career took off in politics — he headed U.S. Rep. Peter Hoagland's Omaha office for six years and was active with the Democratic Party — Susie dedicated herself to children.
She earned a master's degree from UNO in early childhood education. She taught in OPS and Millard from 1972 to 1990 and again from 1999 to 2008. She did charity work for organizations such as the Omaha Children's Museum, Junior League of Omaha, National Council of Jewish Women and Omaha Education Association.
She broke from teaching in the 1990s to head Gov. Ben Nelson's Office of Children and Family Policy for a year. She then served as his scheduler, a job she loved, Paul said.
She returned to teaching and in 2003 found a job with OPS at the brand-new Liberty.
Her first year there was at the bus barn.
Susie had a knack for making even cubicle walls look magical. She transformed the space for her kindergartners, tapping her husband to cart out old items and bring in new as needed, given the tight space.
“Nobody had more energy than Susie,” said Oberst, who has retired from OPS and is now living in the Washington, D.C., area with husband Matt.
The Obersts and Landows became good friends and have spent recent years traveling together, including to Europe, where they saw Nancy and Matt's famous son, Conor, in concert.
Nancy Oberst said her friend had “the best laugh” and “a childlike lightness about things.”
Susie was a constant presence at Liberty, putting in long hours and weekends. She mentored teachers and teacher aides. She visited sick students at the hospital and attended umpteen baptisms of the siblings of her young students.
“I could rate the engagement of teachers,” Oberst said, “by how many baptisms you got to go to.”
When Susie's condition worsened and friends, helpless, sat by, Paul told them: No meals, but thank you. No flowers, but thank you.
He asked instead that people honor his wife by giving to a fund he set up in her name.
The Susan K. Landow Fund, administered by the Omaha Public Schools Foundation (c/o Toba Cohen-Dunning at TAC, 3215 Cuming St.), will help the mostly immigrant children at Liberty and Jackson Elementary Schools.
Contact the writer: 402-444-1136, firstname.lastname@example.org