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Omaha Magazine

Mary and Tom Kerr

Jan 01, 2020 04:54PM ● By Mary Kerr

Mary Kerr

I was born and raised in Omaha and couldn’t wait to go away to college and experience something different and more exciting than home. I had two years in Washington, D.C. and two in Fort Collins, Colorado.

When I returned after college, I worked for a couple of years and then had an opportunity to move to New York City, where I began a career in the retail business in a buying office, then in the garment district as a showroom manager, and finally found my real calling: advertising sales.

I was fortunate to get an entry-level sales position at Mademoiselle Magazine, then on to Glamour Magazine, and Brides Magazine, all properties of Conde Nast Publishing Co. Seeing Anna Wintour of Vogue in the elevator was a common occurrence, as well as S.I. Newhouse, who didn’t wear shoes when he traveled in the elevator for meetings with all his magazines. Lastly, I worked at Departures Magazine, a property of the American Express Publishing Group sent only to the Platinum Card members as one of the perks of being a card holder at what was then the highest level of the American Express group of charge cards.

All these jobs came with the expectation of luxurious “wining and dining” clients, attending Broadway shows, and travelling. All of which a young woman from the Midwest normally only dreams of doing.

Then I met my husband, Tom Kerr, in NYC. We married and along came our daughter. At that point, all the wonderful entertaining that was required several evenings a week was no longer what I wanted to do, so Tom and I made a lifestyle decision to return to our Midwest roots.

We were able to get jobs at the local newspaper, raise our daughter in the “kindler gentler” Midwest, and become active members of the Omaha community. My job had flexible hours and a short commute from our house. I could schedule my days to fit meetings in for some committees or boards that I served on, and be at our daughter’s school to bring in the Halloween cupcakes.

Ultimately, Omaha was the more exciting place to be: to raise our daughter, serve the community, and enjoy all the perks the Midwest has to offer.

Mary and Tom Kerr at museum

Tom Kerr

Writing the answer to this question, I’m immediately taken back to the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland, smoking his hookah on a mushroom. For a child growing up in the ‘60s, it boggles the mind. Let’s put Timothy Leary to bed and answer the question.

I’m an artist and storyteller. I’m a husband. I’m a proud father.

I have spent the better part of my life working in positions that allow me to align with three essential things: creativity, children, and service. If fun is attached to it, all the better.

The creativity itch is scratched through my cartooning, caricatures, painting, portraiture, writing, book illustrating, design, and sculpting. If I get to draw with kids, so much the better.

My interest in working with children goes back to working as a camp counselor. After college, I taught for nearly a decade and also worked with WhyArts! here in Omaha. As a bonus, I have loved illustrating children’s books. I have also worked on the Boys and Girls Club board, Avenue Scholars Foundation, and gone into the classroom to teach basic drawing.

Want someone to read to the class? I’m your guy. Want someone to draw in the class? Let’s do this. I’m a huge proponent of a sound education, so that’s a big part of me.

I have served on the boards of The Rose Theater, Boys and Girls Clubs of the Midlands, Merrymakers, and Magdalene Omaha, and have worked with United Way, UNO, and Salvation Army among others.

As far as challenges go? The biggies? Divorce, losing my job with the New York Post, and leaving the newspaper industry.

I recall the dean of students during freshman year orientation saying that one of his wishes for all of the eager collegians was that we fail a course. At the time I was shocked, but it’s not so much how we deal with success but failure that really shows our mettle. I have learned to be flexible and resilient. I also have an amazing partner that tempers the bad, so you have to throw in grateful.

Some accomplishments I am most proud of:

1. I married the best.

2. My daughter (It’s a joint accomplishment, and a beautiful work in progress.)

3. In Australia , I created and animated a character called “Daddies” which was used during cricket broadcasts. It is still well-known to cricket lovers down under.

4. I designed Scruff, and drew McGruff the Crime Dog for about 10 years, doing website illustration, comic books, and posters for the National Crime Prevention Council.

5. I created the “O!” for the city of Omaha.

6. I bumped into the Queen of England (not really an accomplishment but it rounds out the list).

What brings me happiness? See No. 1.

My advice for aging gracefully is this: Picture the final scene of Dr. Strangelove in which the B-52 pilot played by Slim Pickens climbs aboard THE BOMB and rides it toward earth like it’s a bucking bronco. That’s how I’d like to do it. It’s more like living with gusto in the hopes that some grace falls my way.

One final note: if you feel good you look good. If you feel like crap, try to fake it.

This article was printed in the 60Plus section of the January/February 2020 issue of Omaha Magazine.

Kerrs' on O sculpture, Children's Museum