Roger R. Holthaus 1/4/19 01/06/19 10:55:23 PM
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|Roger R. HolthausAttorney Combined Love of Law and Swimming
Feb. 16, 1939 – Dec. 18, 2018
Retired Omaha attorney Roger Holthaus died December 18 at the age of 79.
He loved his law practice, but in his later years, Roger also relished being feted for his prowess at competitive swimming.
When he was 74, he brought home six medals – four gold and two silver – from the Nebraska Senior Games. His love of swimming started back in high school in Hastings, where he was state champion. In later years, he was a familiar figure at the “Y” keeping up with his swimming skills. He made sure that his son, David Randall Holthaus, and foster son, Scott Carroll, both were taught to swim by his own early coach. Scott developed into a nationally ranked swimmer.
Besides his athletic endeavors, Roger was also an Army lieutenant, a teacher, a Douglas County prosecutor, owner of Holthaus Law Offices and a member of the Coordinating Council of the Learning Community of Douglas and Sarpy Counties.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science at Carlton College in Minnesota, a master’s degree in political science at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln and a law degree at Creighton University.
He interrupted his studies at Carlton College, where his roommate was Garrick Utley, who gained fame covering the Vietnam War for NBC, to take a job in the Eisenhower White House in 1960. There he joined a number of other Nebraskans, including former Nebraska Gov. Val Peterson who was Federal Civil Defense Administrator, Secretary of the Interior Fred Seton (who owned the Hastings Tribune), and Bob Gray, special assistant to the President and fellow Hastings High alum. Gray was his boss in the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization. Holthaus told friends Gray would call him and say, “Ike’s out of town. Want to join me in the swimming pool?”
Roger often said he used to chat with Vice President Nixon’s secretary, Rose Mary Woods, when the VP was out of town. “Security was different then,” he remembered.
After he completed his undergraduate degree, he returned to the State Department, but was soon called up by the Selective Service. He applied for a commission and served as a lieutenant in the Army Medical Service Corps in the Korean Demilitarized Zone. That stint, much of it spent squatting in mud resulting in arthritis in his knees, clinched his commitment to swimming as his form of exercise.
After leaving the Army, he returned to school to earn his master’s at UNL, then taught political science for three years at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. Then he went to law school at Creighton and started his new career in 1972. His law practice primarily involved real estate, elder law, criminal law and personal injury.
He might be best remembered for his tireless advocacy on behalf of his client Andrew Evans, who became a quadriplegic when he was only 6 years old after an auto accident. He was seated in the front seat when the air bag deployed and broke his neck. His accident helped to raise awareness of the dangers of young children in the front seat of cars and led to both safety improvements by automobile manufacturers and laws regarding child safety. Despite his grave disabilities, Andrew graduated from high school on time, with honors, and was on track to graduate from Creighton University in 2013. He dreamed of becoming a lawyer, but he died of respiratory failure in 2012.
Roger secured a confidential settlement from DaimlerChrysler, which provided Andrew with a trust fund for his expenses. Holthaus remained a lifelong friend of Andrew and his grandmother, Sue Burgess, who raised him.
Roger loved old historic buildings. He selected them for his offices as well as his living spaces, most of them in downtown Omaha. He supported his bar associations, American, Nebraska State and Omaha. And he always had a smile and story for everyone he met.
He is survived by his son David and foster son Scott. A memorial service will be announced at a later date. Memorials will be directed by the family.
– By Lorraine Boyd