OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Some of you may have noticed that we recently welcomed a familiar face back to the newsroom. Mary Nelson is a KMTV veteran with a wide range of reporting, anchoring and TV hosting experience, but there's a lot you may not know about this TV dynamo.
Mary’s first opportunity to join KMTV came more than 18 years ago. As a reporter, she was on the ground in Hallam in 2004 shortly after an F4 tornado struck. She also covered the disappearance of 12-year-old Amber Harris in 2005.
The following year, Mary returned to her radio roots, but in 2007, joined KMTV again — this time as co-host of The Morning Blend with Mike DiGiacomo. Mary loved the show because it connected our communities with the good around us (and also provided some hearty belly laughs, like this skunk prank!).
The 'good’ is also what inspired Mary to come back to KMTV in 2021. In addition to co-anchoring 3 News Now This Morning, Mary enjoys reporting Positively the Heartland. Viewers have asked if it’s hard to come up with story ideas for the series. Mary says the hard part is deciding which stories to tell because, living in Eastern Nebraska, there’s so much good around us.
Mary met her husband Troy six months after moving to Omaha. They got married four years later. Mary admires Troy for his sense of humor, wit, smarts, savvy, work ethic and heart.
Troy grew up in Omaha (Millard North). Today, he’s a Tour caddie and has worked events all over the world, but nothing has topped caddying in his hometown at the U.S. Senior Open. Golf is a big part of their lives, but they make room for a few other sports. During football season, it’s all about the Huskers and Chiefs! When basketball season rolls around Mary and Troy cheer on the Jays and Kentucky Wildcats.
Action and Sparky rule the roost at Mary and Troy’s. They adopted Action, a schnauzer, from Nebraska Humane Society in 2008. Despite significant health challenges, Mary says, “Action has THE BEST attitude, and is so easy to love.” At Christmastime in 2019, during a visit to eastern Kentucky, Mary and Troy met Sparky. He was roaming the hills on three legs — the fourth was badly injured. He was malnourished, had a few tickborne diseases and had been sprayed by a skunk — twice! After two months of vet appointments and preparation, Mary and Troy brought Sparky home to Omaha and he filled a void that none of them realized existed. What kind of dog is he? Sparky’s doctor believes he’s a ‘golden mix’ — but Mary and Troy just describe him as a ‘mountain man.’
Mary is an enthusiastic DIYer! Her love of building was born years ago. She created a large painting on the cheap and needed a frame for it. She purchased a miter saw, which lead to the next project — molding — but she’d need a brad nailer. Her tool collection snowballed and, with each project, she’s developed new skills ranging from flooring to framing and drywall to woodworking. She also enjoys connecting with other DIYers and helpful pros! If you’d like to check out her projects, Mary posts pictures and videos on Instagram: @home_sweet_homaha.
Mary’s experience with design pre-dates her passion for projects. While she was still in high school, she enrolled in drafting classes and earned her AutoCAD certification. At the time, Mary planned to become an aeronautical engineer. Though her career path changed, drafting brought about experiences that shaped her future. She was elected Kentucky’s president of the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America (known as SkillsUSA today) and had the opportunity to travel the Bluegrass State and take her first trip to Washington, DC through the organization.
She attended Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky (she was on the dance team, thus the picture). A few years into her time at EKU, Mary’s focus shifted from engineering to broadcasting. Her mom always told her: “Don’t complain about something unless you’re willing to change it.” Mary was watching a local TV station when she saw a story that caught her attention. She felt it was incomplete and imagined how a more thoughtfully written story would have affected viewers. Instead of lamenting what was wrong, she set out to be part of what’s right. Mary began reporting for WSAZ in Huntington-Charleston, WV during her last semester and missed her own graduation because she was covering the keynote speaker at another university’s ceremony.
Mary and her brother, Mike, were raised by a superhero-of-a-single-mom. To say times were tough doesn’t cut it. She recalls first having running water at five years old. There was rarely talk of what they didn’t have — instead, favoring gratitude for what they did have. Their mom constantly reminded them how they were “rich in love.” She also emphasized the importance of learning. “If you can read and follow directions, you can do anything in life,” she’d say. With that in mind, Mary helped kickstart the Scripps Howard Foundation’s annual “If You Give A Child A Book” campaign. She’s so proud that, since 2016, more than half a million books have been donated and placed in the hands of economically at-risk children
Mary grew up in Greenup, Kentucky — where much of her family has lived since the 1800s. Cooking and connecting over a meal are central to their way of life. Mary’s family has published a few cookbooks featuring country-style recipes. The pages feature classic dishes including apple pie, and more curious recipes like Uncle Stacy’s stir-fried pokeshoots and fiddleheads, which Mary thinks he might’ve made up because he was fond of a tale.
Mary’s grandmother, also named Mary Nelson, encouraged her to write poetry and paint. Memaw wasn’t the only artist in the family. Mary’s grandfather, an uncle and an aunt also painted. This wall in Mary’s home office features some of their pieces.
If you’ve ever shopped with QVC, there’s a chance you’ll recognize Mary’s hands — before you recognize her face! She was a program host with the e-retailer after hosting The Morning Blend. Mary presented a range of products including jewelry, fashion, shoes, beauty and tools. Even among the home shopping set, working at QVC is a distinctly unique experience. “Truly, there’s nothing else in the world like it. And I got to do it!” Commonly asked by viewers:
Q: What is David Venable like?
A: Just what you’d imagine! With his big personality, he has a smile to everyone, and gives the best hugs. And, yes, he’s tall – 6’6” compared to Mary’s 5’4”.
Q: Who were your favorite famous people to work with?
A: The Property Brothers. Being a fan of HGTV helped, but Jonathan and Drew Scott are also warm and genuine guys – and not just to certain folks, but everyone on the team!
Q: Who does your hair and makeup?
A: While Mary worked at QVC, the company had an in-house salon that was staffed 24/7 with talented hair and makeup artists – helping hosts and guests alike get camera-ready. During the pandemic, the salon closed, so today’s hosts are left to their own devices.
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