Deadly Omaha fire ends a life spent nurturing growth -
Published Thursday, September 12, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 2:00 am
Deadly Omaha fire ends a life spent nurturing growth

Helen Jacobson told her son the night before she died about how well her beautiful hibiscus garden was growing. She counted 28 flowers that had bloomed.

She ended their call by saying she was excited to attend a family dinner planned for Wednesday night.

She never made it to the dinner to see her children and grandchildren.

The 82-year-old retired teacher died Wednesday morning when her home at 837 N. 76th St. caught fire, and she was unable to escape.

“We don't know anything yet on how it happened,'' said Reid Jacobson, 60, her son, who lives in the Keystone neighborhood northwest of his mother's house.

A neighbor called 911 at 6:18 a.m. to report smoke in the area, Battalion Chief John McCormick said. As firefighters approached the home north of Crossroads Mall, they reported seeing heavy smoke.

Douglas County 911 emergency dispatchers alerted them to the possibility that a person was trapped inside. Fire crews controlled the fire and found a victim in the kitchen.

Although the Fire Department didn't release the victim's name, Reid Jacobson confirmed that it was his mother, who lived alone.

Omaha Fire Capt. Christopher Fisher said investigators have not determined what caused the fire. He said it could take several days before the department's investigation is finished. McCormick said foul play is not suspected.

An autopsy will be performed today to determine the cause of death, Omaha Battalion Chief Tim McCaw said.

In addition to her son Reid, Jacobson is survived by her children Jim Jacobson, 59, and Lori Arias, 54; seven grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

Jacobson was born in Belfield, N.D. Her family settled in Omaha in the 1960s when her then-husband was stationed at Offutt Air Force Base, Reid said. He said that she was a strong woman who loved teaching and gardening.

She had several jobs through­out her career, and she spent more than 20 years working at Metropolitan Community College. Jacobson helped students obtain GEDs while working as an adult education specialist and an assistant at the college.

She retired from Metro in 2000 but continued to work there part-time until 2006.

Jacobson also worked for the Omaha Opportunities Industrialization Center and the Omaha Job Corps, Reid said.

She was interested in international issues and worked well with a diverse population, said Mary Wise, a former co-worker at Metro.

“She was passionate about culture and education,” Wise said. “She really enjoyed helping students work hard and be successful.”

Sarah Chamberlain, 30, who lives next door, described Jacobson as a good neighbor.

“I always felt safe coming home. She knew what was going on,'' Chamberlain said. “She always had lots of gardening tips.”

Contact the writer: Alissa Skelton    |   402-444-1066    |  

Alissa is a breaking news and general assignment reporter for

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