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    Posted on Sat, Dec. 08, 2007 10:15 PM

    Omaha mall reopens, four days after shooting rampage


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A memorial decorates the mall entrance to the Von Maur department Store at the Westroads Mall in Omaha, Neb., where eight people were killed in a shooting  rampage Wednesday.
    A memorial decorates the mall entrance to the Von Maur department Store at the Westroads Mall in Omaha, Neb., where eight people were killed in a shooting rampage Wednesday.

    Close family members of Oldham, including a son and daughter in the Omaha area, have declined to talk to media, instead concentrating on the woman co-workers describe as somewhat quiet and kind to everyone.

    “Seemed like she likes to stay in the background, taking the phone calls,” said Hopkins, the co-worker.

    Oldham had suffered quite a bit of loss through the years. She lost her husband nearly 30 years ago, and one of her daughters died as a child, Norman Rupprecht, her brother-in-law, told the Omaha World-Herald.

    “Mickey’s just a very nice person,” Rupprecht told the newspaper.

    “She’s been through a lot of hardship, and she’s always stayed the same, just very pleasant, very nice.”

    Doctors have said that Oldham will likely need reconstructive surgery.

    Fred Wilson

    As Wilson sat slumped against a counter, his hand raised, co-workers who passed him knew it didn’t look good.

    “He looked like he was clinging to life,” Hopkins said. “He literally was.”

    Wilson had lost three-fourths of his blood and had no discernible pulse by the time he got to Nebraska Medical Center. He was shot in the chest, near an armpit.

    A trauma team pumped blood into his body and Wilson underwent six hours of surgery Wednesday. By Thursday he was upgraded to serious condition and by the end of the day he was trying to communicate with his family.

    “His sister whispered, ‘I love you’ to him and he was moving his mouth around the ventilator tube trying to say it back,” said Paul Baltes, hospital spokesman. “She was holding his hand and pulled it away not wanting to put too much pressure on it and he reached out and pulled her hand closer.”

    As a customer service manager at Von Maur, where longtime customers simply know him as the snazzy dresser “Fred,” Wilson was in his second career.

    He was a teacher for many years, teaching English and speech and drama in at least two schools in Iowa. Current and former colleagues say Wilson is a determined man who accomplishes things with passion. The news he was one of the Von Maur victims has hit many of them hard.

    Pam Lewis taught music at Shenandoah High School, where Wilson taught from 1985 to 1988. She remembers that when Wilson and his students took on the play “Children of a Lesser God,” they took months to learn sign language.

    “That’s the thing I remember the most, is how hard he and his students worked to learn sign language, and do it correctly,” Lewis said. “And have fun with it too.”

    Those who taught with him, or were taught by him, say humor has always been a big part of Wilson’s approach to life.

    “It was very easy for him to laugh,” said Amy Bopp, a former student.

    Wilson had some fake dog waste that he occasionally planted under students’ desks as a prank, Bopp said. He enjoyed making plays on words, too — as one of her classmates discovered after uttering a sentence that began, “That was funny, but …,” which turned into Funnybutt.

    At Von Maur, Wilson was all about efficiency, especially at Christmastime when he hired and supervised the gift wrappers. He didn’t want a customer to have to wait.

    And it’s his face that stays with those who walked by and saw their co-workers on the ground. His face was turned toward them, a red color still in his cheeks.

    “He’s just a bundle of energy,” Hopkins said. “Knowing Fred, he’s the type who will bounce back.”


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    The Star’s Melodee Hall Blobaum and The Associated Press contributed to this report.