David and Flora Rollerson wed at 17 and 14, and a marriage so young will never last. But theirs did — 81 1/2 years.

He died at 99, and received a great send-off Monday at Salem Baptist Church. She is 96, known affectionately to all as "Mother Rollerson."

When you die at 99, you have outlived your contemporaries. Usually, that means meager attendance at the funeral. But lots of people attended this one, many coming great distances.

The Rollersons had nine children, five still living, plus 40 grandchildren, 80 great-grandchildren, 114 great-great grandchildren and, yes, 14 great-great-greats. That's six generations.

"We just did a count," said daughter Susan Rollerson. "Our parents definitely have a legacy. Lots of our friends came to the funeral, too."

The couple grew up in Paris, Texas, but moved to Omaha to make a better life in 1942. David was a railroad man, working 40 years as a Pullman porter and a Red Cap. Flora did in-home health care.

"He was just a good, Godly man," said family friend Frankie Williams, 65. "He loved his family and he loved his yard."

Mother Rollerson, always active in church, dresses beautifully each Sunday, wearing a dress, nail polish and a hat.

"I have awesome parents," said Susan, a U.P. train dispatcher. "They had ups and downs, but they said they never went to bed mad."

Besides the grief of outliving four of their children, the Rollersons in July lost a great-grandson, Antwaun Rollerson, 24, who died in an auto accident at 42nd Street and Sorensen Parkway. He was five months short of graduating from UNO in finance and education, and served as a mentor at McMillan Magnet Center.

The Rollersons held a deep faith, and some of their children went into the ministry. Some were railroad engineers. The couple maintained high expectations.

Besides his wife and Susan, Rollerson is survived by sons Alton Rollerson and the Rev. Eddie Rollerson; and daughters Maurice Hawthorne and Joyce McCreary

"Our dad was gentle, but stern," Susan said. "With him, there were no excuses. The outpouring we've received in the time of grief has just been exuberant and showed what impact my dad had on friends and family alike. He was a very wise man."

***

With the national unemployment rate down to 5.1 percent, where are the best places in America to find a job? According to the website Business.com, they are Lincoln and Omaha.

With an unemployment rate of 2.1 percent, the Nebraska capital benefits from the jobs provided by the State of Nebraska and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the website noted in placing Lincoln No. 1.

At No. 2 and with a jobless rate of 2.8 percent, Omaha "has a lot going for it," the website said, including "plenty of big-name employers. Jobs are abundant in many fields, including transportation, health services and utilities."

Following Omaha on the list are Austin and Lubbock, Texas; Madison, Wisconsin; Irvine, California; San Antonio; Minneapolis; Honolulu; and Oklahoma City.

***

About 100 people from Omaha's sister city of Shizuoka, Japan, began arriving in Omaha on Friday for the 50th anniversary of the Omaha Sister Cities Association.

This also marks the golden vanniversary of the relationship with Shizuoka, Omaha's first sister city. Mayor Nobuhiro Tanabe leads the visitors' delegation.

Members of the Shizuoka Philharmonic will perform with the Omaha Symphony at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Holland Performing Arts Center. Maestros Nobuaki Nakata and Thomas Wilkins will conduct the free public concert, which has been called a "sellout" because all the tickets have been distributed.

The University of Nebraska at Omaha will host a luncheon Monday, and at 2 p.m. people will meet at the Durham Museum in the old Union Station to see an exhibit of the sister city relationship.

George Behringer of Omaha, chairman of the 50-year celebration, said about 440 people are expected for a dinner Monday at the Doubletree hotel downtown. It will include representatives of other Omaha sister cities: Braunschweig, Germany; Siauliai, Lithuania; Naas, Ireland; Xalapa, Mexico; and Yantai, China.

Visitors will see the Japanese garden at Omaha's botanical center, Lauritzen Gardens, which includes a replica of the Sunpu Castle gate donated a decade ago by Shizuoka. Omaha artist Jun Kaneko, a native of Japan, will host a private reception in the Old Market.

On Oct. 27, nearly 100 people from Omaha, including the UNO jazz band, will travel to Shizuoka. Behringer said Mayor Jean Stothert had hoped to go but will be unavailable, and has appointed City Councilman Pete Festersen to represent the City of Omaha.

A Kaneko sculpture that the Omaha Sister Cities Association will donate to Shizuoka is en route to Japan.

No taxpayer funds are used for Sister Cities activities, Behringer said. Either money is donated, or people pay their own way.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1132, michael.kelly@owh.com

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