Florida airport shooting victims have lakes area ties: South Long cabin community mourns loss
A married couple, victims of the shooting rampage Friday at a Florida airport, have longtime Brainerd lakes area ties. Mike Oehme, 57, and wife Kari Oehme, 55, of Council Bluffs, Iowa, were on their way to a Caribbean vacation on a cruise ship wh...
A married couple, victims of the shooting rampage Friday at a Florida airport, have longtime Brainerd lakes area ties.
Mike Oehme, 57, and wife Kari Oehme, 55, of Council Bluffs, Iowa, were on their way to a Caribbean vacation on a cruise ship when both were shot at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Mike Oehme was killed in the attack when alleged gunman Esteban Santiago opened fire in the baggage claim area. Kari Oehme was shot in the shoulder and will survive, according to Omaha television station WOWT.
While hailing from Iowa, the couple spent many summers southeast of Brainerd on the shores of Lower South Long Lake, where they own a cabin. Lake neighbor Carol Shallbetter, 84, has known three generations of Kari Oehme's family.
"Kari and Mike, they loved each other desperately," Shallbetter said. "They were so in love. And she is going to be so lost."
Shallbetter is friends with Kari Oehme's mother, Lucille Slosser, and said she called her as soon as she heard the news.
"After I got done crying, I called Lucille," Shallbetter said. "Fortunately, her granddaughter, Kari and Mike's daughter (Andrea Oehme), happens to be living at their home in Council Bluffs right now. ... It's a terrible blow for Lucille, Kari being her only child."
Kari Oehme has vacationed in the Brainerd lakes area since she was a young child, according to her own account in the recently published "History of Lower South Long Lake."
Oehme said her grandfather Harold Larsen bought the land and enough lumber to build a cabin from a door-to-door salesman for $400 in the 1930s. In the 1970s, Jim and Lucille Slosser, Kari's parents, took over ownership, which was passed along to the Oehmes in 2014.
"Dad passed away in 1999, leaving my mother as the sole owner," Kari Oehme wrote. "She continued to spend her summers at the cabin until just a couple of years ago when my husband, Mike Oehme, and I took over the cabins. Since we still both work, we still have a few years to go before we can enjoy our summers up north. ... The cabin holds a very special place in the hearts of my family. There are so many memories from the past almost 90 years and hopefully many more in the future."
Author of the historic account and president of the Lower South Long Lake Improvement Association, Mike O'Brien, described Mike Oehme's death as a sad loss for the lake community.
"Monday, I was watching the morning news when they named the victims," O'Brien said. "I was stunned when the reporter named the Oehmes."
Shallbetter said the family would be touched that the Brainerd Dispatch was interested in their story.
"The cabin was so much a part of all three generations of growing up on the lake," she said. "It was a very important part of their lives."
In addition to their love for the cabin, Shallbetter said the couple is known for their passion for rescuing black Labrador retrievers and their love of travel, particularly cruises. Shallbetter said she and her late husband also enjoyed taking cruises, a hobby that took them many times through the Fort Lauderdale airport.
"I think of the number of times that I've flown in and out of that airport," Shallbetter said. "I could see how it (a shooting) could happen ... everybody is in a holiday mood down there."
Reuters contributed to this report.