Omaha Magazine article

At Home With … Frank and Anne Uryasz

A family cabin holds a revered spot in the minds and hearts of many who pass through its doors … lazy, play-filled summer days of cookouts, fishing, swimming and conversations and laughter that strengthen life-long family bonds.

Anne and Frank Uryasz became the third generation entrusted with just such a family jewel: a beloved log cabin dwelling near the shores of Willow Point Lake, a tranquil sandpit just across the Platte River from Linoma Beach off Highway 6 in Cass County.

The cabin has been in Anne Uryasz’s family since her grandfather, Pete Jeffries, bought the cabin—the first of its kind on the lake—in the early ’60s. The cabin was passed on to Jeffries’ son and his wife, Bob and Justine Jeffries, and then on to Anne and Frank when Frank made the “emotional purchase” of the cabin in 2002, Anne said.

So you can imagine the stir among dozens of Jeffries family members when Anne and Frank announced that the cabin—after functioning virtually unchanged for more than 40 years—would undergo a significant renovation.

The cabin, essentially four knotty pine walls and roof, had become dated and without many modern amenities, was impractical for extended stays.

Anne said family members were “nervous” about the renovation, especially the thought of removing the cabin’s trademark stovepipe stove.

“That didn’t make the family very happy, because when you pictured the cabin, that’s what they saw,” explained Anne, whose five siblings all live in Omaha and all have keys to the front door.

“It’s hard to change the things that we knew growing up.”

No one is nervous any more. With Paul Jeffrey (Anne’s brother) serving as architect and a small army of contractors, the humble cabin was transformed into an elegant, modern home that preserves its rustic roots.

“If you saw it before,” Bob Jeffries says, “you won’t recognize it now. It was four walls and a roof, and now it’s a home.”

Those four walls and roof didn’t change much, but nearly everything else did.

The nostalgic stove gave way to a large fireplace with a beautiful faux stone mantel. The simple tile floors were replaced with travertine pavers. Doors were added to the cabin’s two bedrooms that open out onto a newly built porch. The single bathroom was outfitted with a stacked washer-and-dryer set and a new shower, and a new refrigerator and barn-red cabinets with lit glass doors gave the kitchen a much-needed update. A wide, custom-made Dutch door now welcomes Jeffries’ family members. The cabin’s huge loft, the ideal getaway for generations of siblings and cousins, remained unchanged.

“My aunt (Bob’s sister) gave the biggest compliment. She said, ‘I’m so relieved it’s still a cabin.’”

The Willow Point Lake cabin has given the Jeffries family that sense of place that has helped keep the large family close. “It’s kept the family together for 30 years,” Bob said.

Despite owning a cabin that’s 20 minutes from west Omaha, Anne and Frank have lived for the past 19 years in Kansas City.

“The cabin brings us to Omaha a lot more than it would have otherwise,” says Anne.

Frank Uryasz and Anne Jeffries met while students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the early ’80s and, after they were married, moved south when Frank went to work for the NCAA in Overland Park, Kansas. When this collegiate athletics governing body moved its headquarters to Indianapolis, Frank became president of The National Center For Drug Free Sport, which performs drug testing on athletes. Anne works part time for the center and both are busy raising their three children: Justine, 19; Tim, 15; and Claire, 12.

The busy schedule of a couple with three teen-agers doesn’t keep them from making the drive from Kansas City to the family and lakeside home they love. Summers are filled with fishing, swimming and water-skiing, plus a large traditional Fourth of July gathering. A first-of-its-kind family gathering is planned for Christmas this year, Anne says.

“The cabin brings us here a lot more than it would have otherwise. The memories here are priceless.”