A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

People of NKY: Kate Nielsen is just good at life, living a great one in Covington’s Westside neighborhood

By Ginger Dawson
NKyTribune reporter

Some people are good at life. With an entirely open mind, they look out, and with a boundless curiosity, jump in for the experience. An ease with the unknown and its endless possibilities allow them to navigate without fear.

Kate Nielsen with Emmitt, the semi-rotten dog. He is a custom mix: beagle, basset and terrier. (Photo by Ginger Dawson)

Every morning, when Kate Nielsen wakes up, her first thought is, “What great thing is going to happen today? What will happen today that will be new and interesting?”

Kate Nielsen grew up in Enid, Oklahoma. She was a thoughtful kid, and at the age of 12, she started writing. She loved to write, and learning—driven by a healthy curiosity, was as natural to her as breathing.

After high school, she was anxious to pursue a writer’s education and wanted to study journalism. Her more practical-minded parents couldn’t see a future in that, and encouraged her to be an English major. After all, she could teach if she needed a job.

So, she started out studying English at the University of Oklahoma, in the city of Norman, not too far from Enid. After a fortunate opportunity with an excellent, somewhat unconventional and exacting writing instructor, she moved to journalism. He had drawn her out and challenged her thinking and writing. It was a good experience. She had new ideas.

This new outlook made Kate really anxious to get out into the world beyond Oklahoma, so she pushed herself to graduate in three years. She achieved a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1972. She was 20 years old.

As she saw it, “The world was my oyster!”

After getting out of school, Kate had different jobs, not always entailing writing as a part of the job description. It’s the time honored fate of many just getting out of college, and she was game for any opportunity.

She worked as a paralegal and took on jobs that were also entirely new to her. Without any prior experience, she joined the Oklahoma Symphony as their audience development director. This job had many facets and she really like getting to know the artistic, creative people that were there. This piqued her interest in the arts, and it became a life long pleasure.

Orchard Street in Covington’s Westside. Kate and Rob’s perfect place. (Photo by Ginger Dawson)

One free-lance job she had led to an amazing life experience that opened a window into another reality and an understanding that sometimes things happen that cannot be logically explained.

She was contributing to an independent publication that focused on local news, happenings and events. A friend suggested that an interview with a local tarot reader/psychic might yield an interesting story. Practicing due diligence, Kate set an appointment for her own reading as preliminary research.

During the course of this meeting, which the psychic recorded; three things in Kate’s future were laid out. One — her current relationship would end shortly. Two—within a year she would be living in another country. And three, and this is pretty troubling — between July 8 and August 8 of that year, she would be in a serious auto accident. Lord.

Her relationship did end — these things are not surprising.

In time, a serendipitous set of circumstances pointed her to being selected for a Rotary scholarship to York, England. Here, she studied British politics, edifying her college minor in English history. One could say that this was just good luck.

However, the accident was too pinpoint accurate.

Kate was helping her sister move. They were on the road and decided to stop for lunch. She told her sister about the psychic, and she happened to have the tape that was recorded with her. She played it for her sister, and they noted that that day was Aug. 8. “You won’t have to worry about this anymore after today,” her sister remarked. What a relief!

Kate during the return trip to the UK in 1983.

Getting back on the road, they continued on with the journey. It was a clear day. Out of nowhere, they were run down and rear-ended by a semi tractor-trailer, in which the operator had likely fallen asleep. This crushed the back of the car and sent them careening 200 yards off of the road in a wild, crazy path. The car stopped. It was amazing that they were still alive and not badly injured. The police officer who reported told them that he had seen fatalities with much less damage. Wow. It’s all gravy after that!

The experience affected her in an unforeseen way, and she made the decision to not write the story. She did not completely understand how it had happened (who would?) and did not want to trivialize it with speculation. Good judgment makes a good writer.

She became a real journalist in 1977 with the Oklahoma Business News, which covered the Oklahoma state legislature. She was assigned to cover the house of representatives. It was three articles a day, alongside all of the state and regional reporters. She loved it.

Around this time, she also completed her MA in Journalism, also from the University of Oklahoma. It was right after this that she went to England to study at the University of York on the Rotary scholarship.

The year flew by and it was time to go home, but she had met someone. This complicated things. She did come home, but romance compelled her to return.

Marriage and a move back to Oklahoma, and ultimately Washington D.C., found Kate in a marriage that ended with the dividends of two daughters.

Kate, Rob and daughters at the 2000 wedding in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. (Photo provided)

Aways working, she initially wrote for several newsletter companies that covered business in the nations’ capital. Committees on accounting, banking and finance were her beat. She thought it was fascinating to witness real legislative sessions, and in 1987 and 1988, the savings and loan fiasco was in full swing and the drama was real.

She ultimately ended up with a job at Freddie Mac, the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (FHLMC) where she was a writer for an editorial/communications group. It was a great place to work and she moved around Freddie Mac in many different jobs, always writing.

Working constantly, she found herself a single mother during the early wild west years of the internet. In an attempt to have some sort of social life, she joined America Online (AOL) and used the platform to communicate with her sister and to meet others. This was before the advent of dating websites along the lines of EHarmony, etc… You posted details about yourself and hoped for the best. A little scary!

Posting that she liked Jimmy Buffett, that rock idol near and dear to legions of Cincinnatians, a fellow parrot head reached out to her.

Rob Nielsen, said fellow parrot head, could have been anywhere in the U.S., of course. Amazingly, he was living three miles away! After conversing online for a period of time, they finally connected in person.

They saw each other periodically, continued to get along, and in fact, really enjoyed each other’s company. Kate felt completely comfortable with Rob and felt that she could say anything to him without judgment. This was a great thing.

Finally, with a potential separation (Rob had accepted a job in Richmond, Virginia), a tenuous living situation and ultimately — recognition that there must be something to how well they got along, they decided to commit.

It took two and a half years. As Kate recognized, “The universe was pushing us together.” And, after having had the experience with the psychic years before, I imagine she had learned it was a good idea to pay attention to messages from the universe.

And, finally, for Kate, seventeen years in the corporate culture of DC was enough— Rob, too. They both decided that they were done. It was time for something different.

California, clear on the other coast, was the place and real estate was the new career. There was family there, friendships formed and career opportunities evolved.

Ten years went by.

Kate and Rob looked at each other and realized that they were not going to live in California for the rest of their lives. “Too expensive; too stressful. We agreed that this was not how we saw our future.”

Rob and Kate Nielsen at the Metropolitan Club in a recent visit. (Photo provided)

That fearless curiosity that had always driven Kate, now influenced Rob as well. The unknown awaited!

Where to next?

The search was on and they explored the possibilities.

“We wanted someplace vibrant, diverse — somewhere near a big city, so we could have more access to the theatre and concerts; things that we liked.”

Athens, Georgia, looked appealing, and years back, Rob had worked in Cincinnati for a short while and had like it. He suggested, perhaps not Cincinnati, but over across the river in Northern Kentucky.

They scheduled a trip to visit these two places.

Northern Kentucky was the first stop. They never did make it to Athens, Georgia.

In 2017, over a period of about ten months, Kate visited five times, looking for the perfect place to live.

Nothing quite fit the bill until the fifth trip on the final day. A house in Covington’s Westside neighborhood that had just come on the market grabbed their attention.

They went to see it. It was a little smaller than what they were planning on, but they gave it the walking test. In a mile and a half stroll from Orchard St. in the Westside, to Hotel Covington on Madison and 7th, and then back across Covington to Gypsy’s, a bar in the Mainstrasse Village and back to Orchard St. did the trick.

In April of 2018, Kate and Rob moved to Covington. They love the neighborhood. Even though it is a tad more urban than they were accustomed to, it is exactly where they want to be.

As Kate says every morning when she wakes up, “What great thing is going to happen today?!”

When you are open to the future and its endless possibilities, good things happen!

Ginger Dawson writes about people — the neighbors you need to know and people you need to meet and understand. If you have ideas for subjects please share them with Ginger at ginger@fuse.net.

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