The milkman of Omaha

George Sorensen is en route to deliver a batch of milk fresh from his north Omaha, Neb. dairy operation, Sorensen Dairy, circa 1918-19. Sorensen provided milk to a large number of Omaha residents,  as well as a local hospital and the school in Millard. And his chocolate milk was said to be the best around, bar none.

The milkman of Omaha

His entrepreneurial spirit was big, but his heart was bigger.

Back in the day, George Sorensen was the local milkman of Omaha, Neb. He wasn’t just delivering bottled milk, though. On his dairy farm near 66th and Redick, Sorensen did it all — from milking the cows to running the processing plant, and even handling his own marketing campaign, passing out “Sorensen Dairy” bottle openers, ice cream scoops and other trinkets to customers.

“He was a hard worker, he always worked alongside his crew of hired men,” said Sorensen’s granddaughter Sue Arp of Kennard, Neb. “He wasn’t the person who just sat in the house and dictated things.

“He was a good employer.”

After purchasing his own farmland on Redick Avenue when he was just a teenager, Sorensen built his dairy enterprise from the ground up. From 1914 to 1967, he raised Guernsey dairy cows for the creamy butterfat in their milk, and had numerous milk routes in Omaha, in addition to selling dairy products made in the processing plant — sour cream, cottage cheese, buttermilk, etc.

Arp said her grandfather was notorious in town for his chocolate milk, too: “… and no one has duplicated (it) to date.”

But what stood out even more than the milks and cheeses was Sorensen’s charitable nature, and the attention and care he placed on his community from the very first days of Sorensen Dairy.

As his business expanded, Sorensen built several houses on the farm for his hired men to live in, complete with a full-time cook to provide their meals. He also purchased shoes for one of his employees who had a difficult time finding size 18 footwear, and bought a home for the widow of another employee.

“He really cared about his workers,” Arp said fondly. “He had a very kind heart.”

He extended that kindness to his customers, too. When hard times hit and they couldn’t pay for their family’s milk, he delivered it anyway. And oftentimes, they would pay him back by helping on the dairy farm when he could use extra hands for projects.

One customer was near and dear to Sorensen’s heart in particular — Immanuel Hospital. He delivered milk there for several years, Arp said, as she remembered how her grandfather would talk about the sisters who ran the hospital.

“He took a shine to them, and just loved what they were doing,” she added.

It was his dream, she said, to one day give back to Immanuel Hospital in a meaningful way.

When he was ready to retire from the dairy business, Sorensen finally got his chance. He sold the entire dairy to Immanuel, which enabled the hospital to relocate and expand after clearing the land.

“He was so proud when he sold the ground to the hospital,” Arp said. “And he was so excited because my brother was born in the new Immanuel Hospital. He always said his grandson was born in his pasture. We always thought that was a neat thing.

“We just enjoyed (grandpa) and were lucky to have him.”

Katy Moore can be reached at katy.moore@lee.net.

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