2011 OWH Year in Pictures — Rebecca S. Gratz

This year was full of events big and small, from major happenings like the Missouri River flood and the state basketball tournaments to personal stories — a mother in hospice care, a flood victim sleeping in her car.

In 2011, I tried to capture storytelling moments macro and micro. These are a few of the images that stand out. You can also view a slideshow of my favorite photos of 2011 here.

A layer of dried mud, left behind after the Missouri River floodwaters receded from Sally Burkhiser's home, cracked to reveal the blue living room carpet on Sept. 13.

The Missouri River flood was the major news story of the year in Omaha. Though photos from overhead showed the magnitude of the damage, one of my favorites focused on the detail. While revisiting Harbor 671 near Tekamah, Neb., I was amazed by the graphic beauty of the damage, as mud left behind in one home’s living room cracked to reveal the blue living room carpet.

 

As the sun rises, Patti Smalley sleeps in the back seat of her car on Oct. 5, 2011. Smalley was living out of her car since her Hamburg, Iowa home was damaged by the Missouri River flood and burned in an electrical fire in June.

For a story on a personal level of the flood’s toll, I spent some time with Patti Smalley, who was living out of her car for a period of time after her Hamburg, Iowa home flooded and was damaged in an electrical fire. To show readers how Patti was living, I spent the night in the front seat of her car as she slept in the back.

 

The Hillside Padres, including Dawson Kline, center, watch from the dugout during their game against the Memorial Gators at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha on Sunday, April 17, 2011.

This was a fun story.  The first athletes to compete in the brand new TD Ameritrade Park baseball stadium weren’t professionals, college students or even old enough to drive. Two little league teams — the Memorial Gators and the Hillside Padres — took the field for the first pitch, the first hit and the first slide into home plate.

 

Boho and Preppy styles fall in love.

With designer Ananda Spadt’s concept in mind, we concluded our fashion love story between Preppy and Boho styles with a marriage proposal. Since the photos were for the fall issue of The Look, we did the shoot in early August, when the weather was still hot and sticky. The models were good sports, however, as we swatted at bugs, dodged storms and sweat all day long.

 

Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr leaps into the end zone over Nebraska defenders Will Compton, left, and Austin Cassidy in the first quarter at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2011.

In my eight seasons shooting Husker football, I’ve been lucky enough not to get run over by players tumbling across the sidelines. But I came close during the Fresno State game, when quarterback Derek Carr dove over Nebraska defenders to score a touchdown. Fortunately, Carr merely brushed my arm as he landed right beside me, and he was kind enough to even ask if I was OK.

 

The Minden starters wait for their introductions before playing against Grand Island Central Catholic in a Class C-1 semifinal during the Nebraska boys state basketball tournament at the Devaney Center in Lincoln on March 12, 2011. The Whippets beat the Crusaders 70-66 in overtime.

For the boys and girls Nebraska state basketball tournaments, I spent a total of six days at the Devaney Center in Lincoln, shooting three games per day. After 18 games, my back hurt, but I saw some exciting games.

 

Wahoo's Sadie Murren, center, tries to shoot against Minden's Bailie Miller, left, and Jamie Kissinger in the second half of a Class C-1 semifinal of the Nebraska girls basketball state tournament at the Devaney Center in Lincoln on Friday, March 4, 2011.

Archbishop Bergan's Evan Stober, left, and Jerry Dolejs console each other following their 46-43 loss to Lincoln Christian in the Class C-2 championship in the Nebraska boys state basketball tournament at the Devaney Center in Lincoln on March 12, 2011.

Omaha Central players celebrate their 52-48 victory over Omaha Bryan in the Class A championship of the Nebraska boys state basketball tournament at the Devaney Center in Lincoln on March 12, 2011.

 

Sue Wefel holds her mother's hand and watches her breathe in Hospice House on April 28, 2011.

For Mother’s Day this year, reporter Erin Grace wrote a story about the reversal of roles as parents age and their children become their caretakers. The Schmidt family, of Omaha, was kind enough to allow us to observe and photograph the final days of Rosemary’s life in hospice care. I tried to capture moments that revealed the tenderness and love the family expressed, as they spent as much time with her as possible.

Sue Wefel, left, and her sister, Mary Schmidt, apply moisturizer for their mother, Rosemary Schmidt, 86.

Sue Wefel places a rosary into her mother's hands.

Sue Wefel makes a phone call from the bedside of her mother, Rosemary Schmidt.

Rebecca Gratz

About Rebecca Gratz

Originally from Ohio and a graduate of Ball State University, I moved to Nebraska to join the World-Herald staff in 2004. As a photojournalist, I'm privileged to meet interesting people, learn new things and travel around the country. Whether I'm walking knee-deep in floodwater, kneeling on the sideline of a Husker football game or flying with the Nebraska Air Guard to Germany, my goal is always to tell the story with photos.
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