Tag Archives: Knights of Columbus

Jim Flowers

August 27, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Dapper Jim Flowers, with his trademark moustache and buttonhole flower, is a fixture in people’s lives after 31 years as an Omaha television meteorologist. This husband and father of two has invested himself in the community as a public speaker, Knights of Columbus volunteer, and churchgoer. He and his wife, Barb, are members of Mary Our Queen parish.

It all made the ugly rumors that surfaced about him after WOWT did not renew his contract last December more unsettling. With Flowers suddenly off the air and no official word from station management explaining his absence (due to contractual reasons), anonymous social media speculation filled the information void. The chatter was mostly innocuous, but some alleged Flowers had been caught in a 2012 FBI sting operation targeting a local massage parlor fronting for a prostitution ring. It’s not the image a public figure like Flowers can afford, especially when looking for a new job.

Flowers, who flatly denies involvement in any illegal activity, believes a parlor client used his name when procuring sexual services. Unfortunately, Flowers found his good name sullied when the sting broke.

“…in social media, people can say anything about anyone they please without identifying themselves or taking responsibility…just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s the truth.”

Despite the cloud, Flowers landed at KMTV. He debuted there June 3 as part of a long-term contract he reached with the station, thus making him perhaps the only on-camera talent to have worked at each of Omaha’s three major network affiliates.

The Ohio native and Penn State University grad came to Omaha in 1982 to work at KETV from a TV weathercaster post in South Carolina. After 10 years, he moved to WOWT. He was there 20 years, the last several as chief meteorologist.

He says he and his wife found Omaha to be “a great place to raise kids.” Even though their boys are now men, he says all the roots he and Barb put down here and all the relationships they built here make it a hard place to shake.

Barb and Jim relaxing at home.

Barb and Jim relaxing at home.

But in the wake of what happened over the winter, he seriously considered moving to another market.

With his exit from WOWT fueling the gossip mill, he posted Facebook and TVSpy responses that reflected his resolve to lay the tittle tattle to rest.

“…I have never been involved in a massage parlor prostitution investigation. I have not been arrested, questioned, or told by the authorities that I am a suspect [a statement confirmed by Omaha Magazine with Omaha Police Department public information officer Lt. Darci Tierney]…those lies have been very hurtful to me, my wife of 34 years, and our family…I appreciate the loyalty of the many fans who have continued to support me, and I want to assure them that there is nothing behind those rumors.”

He more extensively addressed the situation in June 3rd guest spots on the Todd-N-Tyler radio show and KM3’s own, The Morning Blend.

“Doing that interview with Todd-N-Tyler literally put an end to it,” he says.

But when the rumors were still fresh, they stung. “When this first happened, I was like my life has been an open book, people know me, who’s going to believe this stuff? Obviously, people do, and that was the surprising part of the whole thing. Some folks want to bring people down, for whatever reason. It’s the human psyche.”

“When this first happened, I was like my life has been an open book, people know me, who’s going to believe this stuff? Obviously, people do, and that was the surprising part of the whole thing.”

His initial reaction was to get mad.

“The first thing you feel is anger because you know you’re not a part of it. That’s what’s frustrating. It had an effect more on my wife and my family, especially my two boys. My two boys were angry…They wanted to find out who used my name, how the stuff got out there.”

His wife has had his back the whole way. She offered this statement about the rumors: “I knew it wasn’t true. It was hurtful to me and my family to think that people would believe those rumors about Jim. I would like to thank those that supported us with positive comments.”

Flowers, an outdoorsman who loves fishing, hunting, and chasing storms, isn’t the type to run scared, but there was little he could do about this.

He gained insight into how his name got dragged into the mud when he contacted authorities, none of whom could speak to the specific case, then active in the judicial system. However, they did lay out a likely scenario.

“I was told by the Omaha Police Department’s public information officer Lt. Darci Tierney that, in general, this is the way it works. The guys that go [to massage parlors] wind up on a list. They don’t use anything that will identify themselves. They don’t use credit cards, they don’t use checkbooks, and they don’t use their real names. She said, ‘Obviously, someone decided to use your name and guess what, now you’re a part of it.’ I said, ‘Is there anything I can do?’ and she said ‘no.’”

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He says the local FBI office and U.S. Attorney Jan Sharp confirmed the same.

Unfortunately for Flowers, someone used his familiar name. It comes with the territory of being a
public figure.

“Our exposure to this kind thing is not unusual, but this form and how it took off seemed to have a life of its own,” he says. “The constraints that exist for print, television, and radio don’t exist for social media. There are no checks and balances out there. So if there’s a lesson, it’s that, in social media, people can say anything about anyone they please without identifying themselves or taking responsibility. But just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s the truth.”

He’s satisfied with how he’s managed the incident. “You take the high ground and have faith that things will work out. The night before I went on The Blend and Todd-N-Tyler, I told my wife, ‘I’m starting tomorrow [on KM3], and I feel really excited about it. There’s all these opportunities. But the one thing that’s still out there is this whole rumor thing. I don’t know where, I don’t when, and I don’t know how, but at some point in time this thing will be put to rest.”

He says he and Barb put their “very strong faith in God” that this bad dream would disappear. “I’ve had people compliment me and say you handled it professionally.”

KMTV General Manager Chris Sehring is pleased how it all worked out, too. “Jim’s a great guy, and we are thrilled to finally have him on our KMTV Weather Alert team.”

“You take the high ground and have faith that things will work out…I don’t know where, I don’t when, and I don’t know how, but at some point in time this thing will be put to rest.”

Though Sehring couldn’t comment on what steps the station took or on how much the incident played in its hiring decision, he did say, “Journal Broadcast Group is second to none in its commitment to integrity and the highest ethical standards. I still believe we live in a society where one is innocent until proven guilty…It’s truly a shame Jim and his family have had to endure these unsubstantiated rumors and malicious speculation. After all, it could happen to any of us.”

Both Sehring and Flowers are focused on making KM3, currently in last place in the ratings, number one. Flowers helped bring both KETV and WOWT to the top spot and feels confident he can work magic a third time.

“I’ve been down this road before. I know what it takes to win,” says Flowers. “Whoever wins weather in Omaha wins the ratings; that’s what it boils down to. You can ask every general manager, and they’ll tell you the same thing. It’s not only in Omaha; it’s in a lot of weather-sensitive markets. I didn’t decide that, the public did.”

He feels his experience and attention to detail set him apart from other weathercasters in this market.

So do his fishing skills. Once a competitive bass tournament champion, he takes his boat and fishing gear out these days purely for relaxation. With the rumors behind him, he’s forecasting nothing but clear skies and calm waters ahead.

Read more of Leo Adam Biga’s work at leoadambiga.wordpress.com.

Turkey Fest

October 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

For many, the very mention of the holiday season brings about fond memories and anticipation. But for those without close family and friends, the holidays can be a very lonely time. This is exactly why D.D. Launderville is so passionate about her work as Director of Omaha’s Senior Services Department of The Salvation Army.

For the past 16 years, Launderville has headed up The Salvation Army’s annual Turkey Fest, an event which provides and delivers hot, homemade Thanksgiving meals for those 60 years of age and older, as well as the handicapped, regardless of income. “It’s for people who are alone or lonely and can’t cook anymore,” explains Launderville. “This ensures that they get a really good, healthy, hot meal on Thanksgiving Day. That’s tradition…it’s our holiday and we can’t ignore that.”

The meal is a traditional one, consisting of turkey, potatoes and gravy, green beans, cranberries, a roll, a banana, topped off with a homemade cookie. This year, the meals are being provided by the Knights of Columbus.

Chef Kevin Newlin and Major Catherine Thielke of The Salvation Army KROC Center.

Chef Kevin Newlin and Major Catherine Thielke of The Salvation Army KROC Center.

“We get a lot of Thank You cards and, of all things, it’s the cookie…it’s that homemade cookie, that [people respond to the most],” says Launderville. “You wouldn’t think it would be something like that, but this holiday is so tied into ritual and…brings up a lot of memories.” She says that the gratitude shown for the meal, as well as the personal delivery, touches her heart on many levels. “It lets me know that we do this right.”

Launderville says she is thankful for everyone that contributes their time and energy to the Turkey Fest: drivers, cooks, and those who assemble the dinners. The event, which has been serving Thanksgiving meals for nearly 20 years, is a joint effort between The Salvation Army, The Telephone Pioneers of Omaha, and the Knights of Columbus, as well as many other supporters throughout the community. “We get a lot of discounts [for the food]…community support is very strong.” She adds that several Boy Scout troops will help assemble the meals as well. “There are a lot of different people working as a team.”

Launderville credits the dedication of the volunteers to how smoothly the program runs. The meals are assembled at The Salvation Army’s Kroc Center on 27th and Y streets. Preparation begins Wednesday evening and starts up again at 6am on Thanksgiving morning. “We should be done by noon…delivery and everything.”

“It’s for people who are alone or lonely and can’t cook anymore. This ensures that they get a really good, healthy, hot meal on Thanksgiving Day. That’s tradition.” – D.D. Launderville, director of The Salvation Army’s Senior Services Department

“What’s so neat is that volunteer drivers can take a few meals to the older people, then go home and enjoy their own meal [with their family],” she says. “I know a lot of people with young kids enjoy doing this.”

Though The Salvation Army will take reservations for meals through November 19 (the Monday before Thanksgiving), the actual planning for the event began back in August. Launderville explains that those seniors who will be alone for the holiday can just call in to reserve a meal. “If they have a care-aid or a child that comes and checks on them, I’ll feed them too,” she says with a smile.

The first year of the Turkey Fest, Launderville says 300 meals were served; last year, 1,429 people received meals on Thanksgiving. This year, the group anticipates feeding about 1,500. “Omaha has a growing older population, and I think that every year, we see an increase.” In 2011, several hundred people volunteered to prepare and deliver the meals. They estimate similar numbers this year.

Turkey Fest meals can be reserved by calling 402-898-6023 beginning October 31. Those interested in volunteering to help deliver meals can contact Kay Weinstein, Metro Volunteer Director of The Salvation Army, at 402-898-6000.