OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — "Monte was nothing of the ordinary person. He was just [an] amazing person, an amazing human being and fantastic artist and such a fixture in downtown Omaha,” said Najib Aitmassaoud, a friend of Monte Kruse.
Those who knew Kruse describe him as multidimensional.
He was a talented athlete, drafted by the Chicago White Sox, ultimately deciding to attend Creighton University and pitch for their team.
He was a veteran who served in the army, stationed in Germany.
But he was best known as a photographer — and as someone who had a family of friends — acting as a link and connecting people across the country.
“I will just say his name downtown and people will look at you with great value now. They will be with you like, 'Oh, Monte knows everybody, Monte is friends with anybody and everybody,'” said Aitmassaoud.
Kruse passed away suddenly on February 15 at the age of 65. He had recently finished a two-year project called Night Light, a surreal, haunting collection of photos that capture urban landscapes.
For decades, Kruse worked and lived in the original Bemis building downtown. He traveled and collaborated with people like Terry Rosenberg, a New York-based artist.
“He had an extraordinary sense of humor and he was a genuine artist and he really lived for his art," said Rosenberg.
While in New York, Kruse did portrait work of artists and performers over the age of 50 in a collection called National Treasures.
“He used recognizable things that photographs inherently capture to tell stories that are kind of open-ended,” said Rosenberg.
Kruse’s lifelong assistant, Arlene Lorre, said Kruse’s death will leave ripples of sorrow, inspiration and even self-examination for those that knew him — adding that Kruse would want people to not wait to really live.
Aitmassaoud shares that sentiment.
“I wish he was here with us but his soul and spirit will live,” said Aitmassaoud.