Men are generally credited with shaping Omaha’s Old Market arts-culture hub but women have more than made their mark on the National Historic District, including Ree Kaneko, Catherine Ferguson, Vera Mercer, Lucile Schaaf, and Susan Clement Toberer. Another is Kat Moser, whose high-end Nouvelle Eve contemporary women’s clothing store has been a bastion of cutting-edge fashion for many years. She and her husband Jim Moser also had the Jackson Artworks gallery for a couple decades before closing it in 2010. She’s one of those persons who integrates her appreciation for art and design and beauty in every aspect of her life, from her work to her home to her clothes, et cetera. Moser’s own keen sense of style has helped make the Old Market a destination place for discerning people. I did this profile on her for Encounter Magazine in 2007, when she still had the art gallery, though it had recently suffered major damage in a storm.
Kat Moser, A Life by Her Own Design
©by Leo Adam Biga
Originally appeared in Encounter Magazine
A visit to the Old Market condo of Nouvelle Eve and Jackson Artworks owner Kat Moser and her husband Jim Moser reveals the couple’s sophisticated aesthetic. The street level entry opens onto a grand space with a soaring second-story loft. The 3,400 square-foot dwelling is rich in contemporary art and sleek furnishings.
Some of the art is by the Mosers themselves. She makes infrared photographs of female nudes in ethereal nature settings. He makes abstract metal sculptures. Also displayed are pieces by such artists as Jun Kaneko and Littleton Alston.
Painted white walls and ceilings are “the canvas” for the many black, gray and glass design accents and earth-fire-water elements adorning the posh home’s 9-rooms. Exposed wood beams, brick work and cement blocks lend a rough-hewn, historic, urban charm that expresses the building’s 19th century character and contrasts with the modern updates throughout.
Reminiscent of Moser’s ethereal imagery is the filtered sunlight that banks of windows and skylights let in. A sweeping living room fireplace serves as a welcome hearth to gather round. A small, southern exposure room up front has a built-in ledge that Moser grows plants in. Adjoining it is a sauna/steamroom.
The second-story kitchen, which overlooks the living room, is a spacious area of stainless steel appliances and glass-fronted cabinets. An atrium off the kitchen is where Moser, a yoga practitioner, begins her day. The large skylight above basks the room and its many plants in the glow of natural light. The atrium leads to the roof-top deck, where, weather-allowing, the Mosers spend time lounging in patio sofas and cooking on the built-in electric grill, complete with bright, tiled-counter.
A den, master bedroom, guest bedroom, office and bathroom complete the condo, which she calls her and Jim’s “sanctuary.” The pair enjoy quiet evenings reading.
“It’s right here for me. I really don’t have to go anywhere. I can have everything I want and probably much easier and more economically than if we moved to New York and tried to do the same thing,” she said.
First with Nouvelle Eve in ‘73, and then Jackson Artworks in ‘95, she’s made herself a major player in the Old Market’s vital cultural scene. The Mosers bought their building in ‘85 and after two years renovating it, moved in. Twenty years as Market dwellers make them newcomers in some circles but pioneers to the historic district’s newer residents. The couple welcome the growing downtown community.
Just as she likes it, the condo is situated right in the heart of things. A block away is her own high end women’s apparel store and literally next door to her home is Jackson, now one of the Market’s longest-lived galleries.
She didn’t intend to be an entrepreneur. Trained in textile/clothing merchandising at Iowa State University, she worked as a buyer with Dayton-Hudson, whose first independent boutique she ran, and Nebraska Clothing. Jim, an attorney by training and the owner of Omaha Standard, is the one who encouraged her to go in business for herself. She made the shop, which visiting celebs like Laura Dern and Sheryl Crow buy from, an edgy, contemporary place where lingerie is right out front.
“I’ve been really blessed with really great teachers,” she said. “And I’ve always had this wonderful guidance from people. My ability was just to listen, which is really important. I’ve always been very intuitive.”
Her intuition, she said, told her the Market “is where I wanted to be, and I was OK to…develop my business knowing I wasn’t going to make a huge killing, but this would give me time to show my skills and to really get my feet on the ground and then go with it. It just felt really good there. I liked the Mercers’ concept of bringing a little bit of Paris — my other favorite place in the world — to Omaha. Creatively, it was very exciting to me to be involved in that.”
“Vera (Mercer, the wife of Old Market visionary Mark Mercer) was a really big inspiration to me then,” she said. “I can remember seeing her in the Market photographing. I loved what she represented.”
The Mercers’ caution in leasing to tenants meant a long wait for the Mosers. “It took us almost a year to negotiate our lease, “ she said, “which involved going to the French Cafe for many, many dinners and then going to their apartment. It was a big process. It was very intensive those early years. I mean, they were picking their neighbors and they wanted only people who had the same concept they did.”
Fashion and art are Moser’s lifelong calling.
“It was always there. I really feel blessed that I never had that feeling of, Oh my God, what am I going to do? I always knew exactly what I wanted to do,” she said. “I don’t know where it came from. I never had to question it. I’m 61 in July and I still loving going to work every day.”
Since a May 5 storm-related roof collapse at Jackson, she’s had more than the usual hectic summer. She can’t afford to stop or look back while repairs continue. She’s trying to get it ready for a grand reopening while planning Nouvelle Eve’s 35th anniversary next year. That’s on top of the renovation slated for her and Jim’s condo. Like the new woman of her shop’s name, Moser is always reinventing herself.
- Artist Claudia Alvarez’s New Exhibition Considers Immigration (leoadambiga.wordpress.com)
- George Eisenberg’s Love for Omaha’s Old Market Never Grows Old (leoadambiga.wordpress.com)
There are many voices of University of Nebraska football. Head Coach bo Pelini. Husker Sports Network play-by-play man Greg Sharpe. Not to be forgotten though is Husker football’s Memorial Stadium public address announcer Patrick Combs, who lends his own signature personality to the goings-on inside that cathedral of college football without ever detracting from it. I did the piece a few years ago about Combs and his dream role as “The Voice of Husker Football.”
The Man Behind the Voice of Husker Football at Memorial Stadium
©by Leo Adam Biga
Originally appeared in Omaha Magazine
Patrick Combs, 41, lives a dream each Husker game day as the in-stadium announcer for Nebraska football. He grew up cheering Big Red at Memorial Stadium, where he and his late father, Lincoln, Neb. car dealer Woody Combs, bonded on Saturdays.
From age 13 on, he said, “it’s safe to say my dream was to be the Voice of the Huskers. I always thought how cool it would be someday to be that booming voice…”
When not living his dream he’s director of business development for NRG Media, a Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based company with 83 radio stations in seven states. Combs works out of the Omaha office, home to Waitt Radio Network. He loves radio, but despite a resonant voice he didn’t seek a career in broadcasting, it sought him.
Growing up he and his family were into horses. His father, whom Combs said “had a great voice,” announced area equestrian events, including those a young Pat rode in. Whenever his dad couldn’t do an event, Combs filled in. People would invariably tell him, “You should be an announcer.” Instead, he attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln intent on going into law or politics. He interned for then-Governor Bob Kerrey.
He ended up going to work for his dad. Recruited away by another dealer, he made general manager at 24. In 1993, he led a group of young American professionals to Taiwan for an international business summit and found a new calling.
“It was a life-changing month for me,” Combs said. “I realized very quickly how fortunate we are in this country with the freedoms we have and the abilties we have to be entrepeneurial. I came back idealistic and energized…and I decided to channel that by running for political office to try to make a difference.”
He entered the ‘94 U.S. Congressional race against Neb. Republican incumbant Doug Bereuter. Combs, a Democrat, was a 27-year-old unknown. But in a GOP-heavy state he managed 40 percent of the vote by campaigning every day and raising an unheard of $250,000 for his upstart bid. He failed to gain the same seat again in ‘96.
By then soured on selling cars and being denied a political career, he answered opportunity when KLIN in Lincoln asked him to co-host a talk show. The gig got in his blood and he learned the biz, laying the foundation for his 13-year radio career.
Life was good. He married, became a father of two, saw his career flourish at Waitt, which merged with NRG, and indulged his “passion” for riding Harleys. But two things were missing. The man he calls “my biggest idol and mentor” — his dad — died in 2001. And his dream job as Voice of Husker Nation seemed unattainable.
“I’d pretty much written off that job,” he said. Enter fate. In 2003 the job came open and Combs won it after auditioning, including calling that year’s Spring Game.
Going on his fifth year as the P.A. man, he said, “I’m still like a little kid in a candy store. I love it.” Though few know the name behind the voice, he said, “that’s OK. I’m just thrilled to be there. I’m humbled every day I walk into the stadium and to be part of such a storied program. There’s pressure to do a good job and I try very hard to do a good job. I do not want to let the fans down.” That’s why he preps hours before each contest. Calling a good game, he said, comes down “to being a facilitator of information and adding to the environment of the game.”
From the booth Combs imagines his dad, who got him started announcing, hearing him in the stands.
“I know he would be so proud his son is the Voice of the Huskers.”
- VIDEOS: Memorial Stadium Already Three Months Ahead Of Schedule (rantsports.com)
- Nebraska Football: Huskers Sell Stability with Bo Pelini Raise, Extension (bleacherreport.com)
- Nebraska Spring Game Canceled Due To Inclement Weather (sbnation.com)
- McKewon: Pelini plots for Year Two in Big Ten (omaha.com)
- Huskers assistant: Job safe, but I’ll curb stance (espn.go.com)
Like a lot of folks I have a wary attitude when it comes to the police and I’d rather only see them when I need them but I must say that the few encounters I’ve had with them have been positive. They obviously do an important and often thankless job and it’s certainly one I wouldn’t want to do myself. The following Omaha Magazine feature from the mid-2000s profiles some distinguished Omaha Police Department officers at the time. Some of them have since moved onto new positions. I recall being impressed by these law enforcement professionals as individuals and as a group.
©by Leo Adam Biga
Originally appeared in Omaha Magazine
Devotion. Desire. Duty. The men and women in uniform with the Omaha Police Department share these qualities in performing their public service mission. Each has his or her own story of what led them into law enforcement and what keeps them there. Some followed family legacies, others became the first in their family to carry the shield. Some worked different careers before coming to OPD, others joined right out of high school or college.
However they arrived at taking the oath to protect and to serve, they all regard their work in blue as a calling they can’t imagine their lives without.
Five OPD officers who’ve distinguished themselves on the job recently shared their stories. At a time when the department is still responding to last year’s sudden, massive wave of retired veterans, these five represent the current and future leadership of OPD. They are Omaha’s Dream Police.
Sgt. Anna Sewell
Dayton, Ohio native Sgt. Anna Sewell grew up an only child to a single mother who served as a volunteer neighborhood assistant officer with the Dayton police. Sewell cherished the close bonds of her small, cohesive family, whose ties she found the equivalent of in law enforcement.
“It was just something I was raised around and always knew,” she said. “Were there other options? I’m sure there were. Did I ever consider them? No.”
After high school she signed up for the law enforcement end of the Air Force. “I figured I would join the military and go see the world, and boy did I ever,” said Sewell, whose service career continues as a reservist.
The globe-trotter finally settled at Offutt Air Force Base. After giving the business world a whirl she applied with OPD, she said, “as a challenge to myself.” She passed with flying colors and joined the force in 1999. Being a cop felt right.
“We are in so many ways just like the military,” she said. “We have that brotherhood, that sense of family — territory I’m familiar with.”
About the time she entered the Omaha Police Training Academy she began accelerated studies at Bellevue University, where she made the Dean’s list and Who’s Who among college students. She graduated in 2000 with a bachelor’s in human resource management. Already the first in her family with a high school diploma she became the first with a college degree. She’s since earned a master’s in management and is now working on a second master’s in business.
The single Sewell is also an entrepreneur with her own security company.
“I’m basically breaking a whole lot of new ground in my family. In my mom’s eyes I am the example for my cousins to follow, which is fine.”
The Internal Affairs investigator reached the rank of sergeant in only six years. She learned of her promotion while in Iraq as a volunteer reserve medic.
The biracial Sewell said while her ethnicity has never been a barrier she feels she must work harder to stay competitive.
“As a minority I have to put my ethnicity and gender aside so that when you line me up I’m standing toe-to-toe right alongside everyone else,” she said. “You always have to prove yourself as a female in a predominantly male work field. It’s up to me to make sure I’m at the top of my game, that I’m not perceived as weak.”
She’s sampled many aspects of the department to prepare for her dream job. “Somewhere in my future there’s an office up on this floor that has lots of windows,” she said from the administrative suite. “It may not be top dog but it might not be too far. I’m thinking deputy chief.”
Officer Dawn Chizek
It’s easy for 24-year veteran Dawn Chizek to relate to the troubled kids she encounters as Millard South High School’s School Resource Officer (SRO). She grew up in a “pretty dysfunctional family.”
“I think the best police officers are people who’ve been a little on both sides. Empathy is probably one of the necessary requirements as a police officer. You’ve got to be able to put yourself in that situation and help effectively deal with that person and their need at that moment,” she said.
“I tell kids all the time, whatever that situation is they’re in, no matter how shitty it is, they can use it as an excuse to fail or as a reason to succeed. That’s my mantra, it truly is. It’s definitely about personal choice.”
Chizek’s hard times influenced her interest in being a cop. Why? “I think I saw a lot of injustice and unfairness in what I was dealt,” she said. Being a cop meant she could “go out and kick butt, take names and save the world.”
“All the studies say I should been a high school drop out, but I wanted more. I wanted better than the surroundings and the situation I was thrust into,” she said.
Proving herself was another thing.
“It was not easy,” she said. “You talk about three strikes against you, try being a blond, female 19-year-old recruit in 1984. But they didn’t know my story. I was much older than my years. I had a lot of real life experience.”
She jumped at the chance to be Millard South’s SRO, a job she calls “the most rewarding and fulfilling” of her career.
“This is where I live, this is where my kids go to school. I want to work in my community, where I have a stake in what happens. I want to have an impact where it means the most,” said Chizek, who’s married with two children.
Officially there to dismantle barriers between youth and police, she said she can be kids’ best buddy, but “if they cross the line they know dang well I’m going to hold them accountable. I do make arrests. Just like in the real world we spend 90 percent of our time dealing with 10 percent of the population.”
“I take very seriously my role here. I am very much in tune with what’s going on out in the community because the kids talk to me and tell me what goes on on the weekends, and what happens on the weekends carries over to school.”
Capt. Mark Martinez
Police work is a family inheritance for Mark Martinez. His father Al retired after 33 years with OPD. An uncle was a cop. His brothers Al and John are cops. Four cousins as well. Yet he said it was not a foregone conclusion he would be, too.
“I really didn’t know until I went to UNO and decided to study criminal justice,” he said.
He acknowledges this lineage in blue gave him a valuable perspective.
“My father was always community-oriented, civic-minded, always a contributor. So I think I had an idea I wanted to be a public servant, which is much more than arresting bad guys,” he said. “That attracted me.”
The South High grad only entered law enforcement after getting his degree at UNO. He was a Douglas County Sheriff’s Office crime lab technician before joining OPD in 1984. That same year he and wife Cindy got married. They have four children. “She’s the rock,” he said.
He terms his present duty as Southeast Precinct Captain “a dream job. I grew up in this precinct. I have family and friends here.” He said his “passion and ownership for the area” allows him to “get more done. I know the importance of building a relationship between the police and the community. It’s critical.”
Being a Latino in a predominantly Latino district helps.
“I think it goes a long way when the captain has a Spanish surname. I think it’s good for the people of our community. It’s good for our youth. I think I have the advantage of being able to reach out and do some things to build that bridge. I think we’re doing that.”
Martinez is proud of being a trailblazer.
“When I first came on I think the highest ranking Latino was a sergeant. I really felt the need to set some goals and to try to achieve those goals and one of them was to get promoted,” he said.
As the department’s first Latino captain consider that mission accomplished. Along the way he earned a master’s degreee. The Omaha Public School board member emphasizes school-police cooperation.
Retirement was an option last year but he stayed on for a reason.
“There’s at least one other goal I want to achieve here,” he said. “I applied to be chief and I didn’t make the final cut but I’m still in line for promotion to deputy chief. We’ll see what happens.”
Officer Jonathan Gorden
Following the footsteps of a father (Michael Gorden) who logged 30 years with OPD, Jonathan Gorden felt the pull of police duty.
“Needless to say I grew up around the badge,” he said. “It was in my blood and it never left me.”
The 24-year-old just passed his first anniversary on the job.
“If you’re signing up for the gunfights, chases and wild and crazy things, this isn’t that,” he said. “I found out real quick you’re going to make a reputation for yourself more with a pen and paper than you are anything else. No investigation, no arrest is worth anything unless you know how to write a good report. It’s absolutely crucial to every part of the judicial system.”
The Creighton Prep-Creighton University grad draws on his education every day.
He tested the waters in the business world but a cop’s life called to him. “I just knew in my heart it was something I had to try. Until I did try it I would never be satisfied.”
His dad’s experiences told him “it’s not a normal 9-to-5. It’s a lifestyle. You’re a cop 24 hours a day and you’re held to a higher standard by your employer, by your city, and because of that you have to hold yourself to a higher standard. It takes a complete commitment from your family” he said.
Every day on the job he learns something.
“The biggest thing as a young officer is learning to be patient,” he said. “I’ve picked up from the veteran officers you have to let people vent a little bit. Emotions are usually pretty high and by just listening it does wonders.”
He can attest that rookies are scrutinized.
“You’re not immediately accepted into your crew and the job,” he said. “You’re definitely watched. Little by little, day by day, your skin gets a little bit thicker, you get a little more comfortable. It is a powerful bond being with ordinary men and women doing an extraordinary job. We’re trusting each other with our lives and that’s something you hold very dearly.”
Commendations are nice, he said, but the real rewards come from proving one’s self in the line of duty.
“Having your crew believe you’re capable really builds confidence,” he said.
Gorden has designs on one day teaching at the academy like his dad. He’s also “intrigued by” the detective bureau.
Lt. Tim Carmody
Going from a broken home to successful husband, father and commander of OPD’s Emergency Response Unit, Tim Carmody is proof one can overcome challenges.
“Even those negative environments can have a positive effect if you focus in the right direction,” he said.
He feels his background gives him insights into people and their issues. Said Carmody, “It helps me understand things.”
His path to law enforcement came via retail loss prevention work, which saw him identify and apprehend shoplifters for discount chain stores.
“I’ve always felt like serving people. I don’t like people being victimized.”
He studied criminal justice at UNO and Bellevue University. He first wore the badge at 22 as a deputy sheriff with the Sarpy County Sheriff’s Office. He joined OPD in 1988. It’s where he feels he’s meant to serve.
“I know the city, I’m a home grown kid. I love serving this community. I believe in this place. It’s a passion for me.”
His OPD career has been everything and more he thought it could be.
“I’ve been blessed with some of the best jobs this department has to offer.”
Today, as Emergency Response Unit commander, he oversees the SWAT, bomb response, canine explosives detection and Homeland Security teams. Much of his work involves collaborating with other agencies and disciplines. Cooperation is key. That goes for police-community relations as well.
“We can’t do this alone as a department,” he said. “Neighborhood associations, precinct committees — they are the key role players that help us understand what’s going on and what needs to be done.”
In the wake of so many OPD senior officers retiring he’s preparing young officers for future leadership roles. “I’m trying to mentor and lead people more,” he said, “and to share that knowledge to help them grow faster.” He enjoys teaching, which he’s also done away from work as a Boy Scouts Master and lay leader at his church. Faith and family are the anchors of his life.
“Spending time with my family and friends has a tremendous value in renergizing my batteries,” he said, “and in just staying grounded. It makes a huge difference.”
He needed that support after the Von Maur shooting last year. His command post was called to the scene and in the melee, he said, “everything’s on auto-pilot — you’re just functioning. Then, when I finally took a breath it all hit me, the reality of it all, and the people that died that day.”
“Those are the things that you’ll never forget.”
He calls the special fraternity he’s a part of “very fulfilling and rewarding. There’s nothing that compares to it.”
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