Countryside Village 'family' loses its patriarch

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Posted: Tuesday, April 2, 2013 12:00 am

Larry W. Myers, who operated Countryside Village shopping center at 87th and Pacific Streets with a personal touch after taking over the business from his parents, died Friday at his home.

Myers, 72, an attorney, also was one of the original members of the Nebraska Board of Parole when it was created in 1969. An opponent of capital punishment, he earned the 1996 Sorensen Award from Nebraskans Against the Death Penalty for organizing an effort to try to stop a 1994 execution.

Myers died unexpectedly at his home Friday after telling his wife that he didn't feel well, Mariana Myers said. An autopsy was to be performed.

Myers is also survived by a son, Andrew, who together with his mother owns Countryside Village, and by a sister, Sue Myers, an owner of Rockbrook Village, a shopping center that also was founded by the siblings' parents, Larry and Virgie Myers. The couple developed both shopping centers and residential neighborhoods in postwar Omaha.

Countryside Village tenants said Myers' death was like losing a family member.

“Larry made sure everyone here felt like they were part of a family,” said Diana Abbott, manager at the Bookworm. “This was not just a business operation.”

Shopkeepers said Myers was particular about whom he leased to, creating a diverse mix of locally owned businesses serving the families in surrounding neighborhoods.

“He wanted to make sure they would be part of the community and not just take over a space,” Abbott said.

Debi Walker, owner of the Stems at Countryside flower shop, said Myers personally shopped at Countryside Village merchants and often asked what he could do to help their businesses be successful.

Last fall, when the Myers family kicked off an exterior remodeling project to freshen the 1953 shopping center, Larry Myers told The World-Herald he thought of his parents as “visionaries” in development.

Myers took a lifelong pride in the property's physical appearance. As a teenager his job was to mow the lawn at the shopping center across the street from Westside High School, from which he graduated in 1958. More than 50 years later, Abbott said, he would still be there every Sunday, combing the parking lots for litter.

Myers attended Princeton University, where in the spring of his freshman year he was honored as the best debater in his class.

However, Myers transferred to the University of Nebraska in Lincoln to participate in a three-year undergraduate pre-law program that led into the NU College of Law, from which he graduated in 1964.

Myers met his future wife on campus in Lincoln, and they married in 1965, before Myers earned a master's in law at the University of Michigan.

The couple had two sons; David died in 1987 while a student at Princeton.

Myers devoted most of his career to management of the shopping centers. He co-owned Rockbrook Village and Countryside Village with his sister until 1986, when they divided the properties in an amicable business split.

Myers practiced business and real estate law, but as an attorney was most active fighting for “righteous causes,” said Omaha trial attorney Ed Fogarty.

“He would have been one of the great practicing lawyers in Omaha had he decided not to run his real estate investments,” Fogarty said. “He just has this passion for justice.”

He said Myers wrote briefs and contributed research on several of his cases and was especially passionate in taking on the death penalty, which he opposed. Myers contributed to the cases involving Carey Dean Moore, who murdered two cabdrivers in Omaha in 1979 and remains on death row, and Harold Otey, who was executed in 1994 for the rape and murder of an Omaha woman, Jane McManus.

Myers told The World-Herald in 1996 upon receiving the Sorensen Award that he was shaken by the 1959 execution of Charles Starkweather and appalled by the “circus atmosphere” around it.

“I just didn't want to see any executions in the state of Nebraska,” Myers said.

Myers' love of his home state extended to Husker football. As a boy he traveled with his father to to nearly every home game, a two-hour trip by station wagon before Interstate 80 was completed. He later became friends with 1972 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers, assisting with the writing of his book, “An Era of Greatness.”

“It was that attention to the humanity of people, and not what their job title was, is what made him unique,” Abbott said. “His presence will be so vitally missed.”

Contact the writer: 402-444-1336, barbara.soderlin@owh.com

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