WANDA VILVEN OMER
(1927 - 2021)
On February 21, 2021, following a brief illness, Wanda ("Wendie") Omer passed away peacefully at her home in her beloved New Mexico. She was 93, had lived a long and rich life and was fortunate to have been surrounded by her close family and friends at the time of her passing. She was a wonderful Mother, Grandmother and Great Grandmother and will be dearly missed.
Wanda Vilven was the youngest child of Leyland and Velma Vilven of Wamego, Kansas. Born on November 12, 1927, Wendie was raised in Wamego with her older brother, Wallace Vilven, during the challenging years of the Great Depression and World War II. As a young girl in the 1930's she would love to visit her grandparent Kastner's farm where she learned the joy of raising vegetables and farm animals, and as a youth, where she learned to drive her grandpa's tractor long before she would earn her driver's license.
Wendie Vilven graduated from Wamego High School in 1945 and then continued her education at Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas. On an early visit back home to Wamego, Wendie met George E. Omer, Jr. at a church social, while he was home from the Army visiting his parents, and the two of them hit it off right away. George had been serving as an Army Surgical Technician since 1943 after completing his first year of Medical School in Kansas City, and was honorably discharged from the service in the Spring of 1945. Although George was planning to return to his medical studies at the University of Kansas, they somehow managed to see each other as often as they could over the next few years. Wendie graduated from Baker University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in January of 1949 and soon thereafter accepted a position as a flight attendant ("stewardess") with Mid-Continent Airlines in Kansas City. She loved being closer to George, but she also loved being with the airline and the opportunity it provided to travel as part of her work. She would reminisce about this time in her life with a wink and a smile, saying "It sure was great sleeping in a different bed every night." George and Wendie were married in Wamego on November 6, 1949, and shortly thereafter, George reenlisted in the Army Medical Corps as a commissioned officer in the Spring of 1950. For the next twenty plus years, George and Wendie would move around the country in the "Army Hospital circuit", giving birth to their oldest son, George Eric Omer at Ft. Benning, Georgia in February of 1952, followed by the birth of their youngest son, Michael Lee Omer at Ft. Sam Houston, Texas in February of 1954. They would have additional assignments in Texas, Kansas (with a solo tour to Korea by George in the late 1950's), Colorado, and Washington, D.C., before returning to Ft. Sam Houston in 1965 where George would become the senior officer in charge of the Orthopedic Service and Hand Surgery Division at Brooke Army Hospital during the height of the Vietnam War, before eventually retiring in the Summer of 1970 as one of the most prominent surgeons in the Army. George would later muse about his Army career saying, "I started out as a 'Buck' Private and ended up as a 'Bird' Colonel, and I can honestly say, the latter was better than the former".
In the summer of 1970, George, Wendie, and Mike moved to Albuquerque, where George would become the Chairman of the Department of Orthopedics and Division of Hand Surgery at the University of New Mexico Medical School. While their older son, Eric, remained in Texas to attend college, Mike finished high school at Albuquerque Academy, and would frequently bring members of the football team, track team, or anyone else interested, back to the Omer home where Wendie would happily provide cold drinks and frozen treats after a long day of practice. She enjoyed being Mom to, especially her "adopted" exchange student son, Cris, and is remembered fondly today by many of those gentlemen (now seniors themselves) as "Mom".
During the years between the early 1970's and the late 1990's, George would continue to gain nationwide respect and honors as one of the finest hand surgeons in the country. Following his retirement from the University of New Mexico School of Medicine in 1990, Dr. Omer continued his practice of medicine by lecturing, writing, consulting, and serving on national and international advisory boards, eventually serving as President of the American Orthopedic Society and the American Hand Society. With this renown, came many opportunities for Wendie and George to travel throughout the world in connection with his lectures and consultations, and they did so often. Eventually they decided to retire from George's medical career and focus their attention on their expanding family, which by the early 2000's consisted of six grandchildren, Adria, Tera, Greg, Miranda, Macy, and Cody. Wendie also continued to expand her collection of Native American art and collectables, while always tending to her flowers, vegetables and her loved hummingbirds.
Wendie was preceded in death by her beloved son, Eric in April of 2011 and then by her loving husband, George in November of 2014. She is survived by her son, Michael and daughter-in-law Marla; by her four granddaughters and their husbands, Adria and Kevin Sehringer, Tera and Robert Stoddard, Miranda and Jess Wilson, Macy and Tommy Moran; by her two grandsons, Greg Omer and Cody Omer; and her five great grandchildren, Sienna, Selene, Rocco, Wendy and James. She was cherished and loved by all as their dear "Gram".
Wanda Vilven Omer will be interred with her husband Col. George Elbert Omer, Jr. at the Ft. Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas at a private ceremony to be held later this year. The family asks that gifts in memoriam be donated to the "Wanda Vilven Omer Scholarship" at Baker University, P.O. Box 65, in Baldwin City, Kansas 66006.