Making a Difference: Nick and Nina Clooney

Nick & Nina say KET is a unifying force

Nick Clooney’s name is a familiar one. The television host and voice-over artist began his career as a news anchor in Lexington and then vaulted to national fame as host of The Money Maze.

For KET viewers, his voice should be a familiar one, as well. For nearly 20 years, Nick has been a part of numerous KET productions, most recently as narrator of The KET Story, which chronicles KET’s 50-year history. In 2007, Nick narrated Where the River Bends: A History of Northern Kentucky.

“We were very privileged to tell the very interesting story of Northern Kentucky,” Nick says.
Among his favorite KET productions that he has narrated are the In Their Own Words documentaries, which give voice to Kentucky veterans of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

“We loved the stories we were able to tell about our veterans,” Nick says. “Those were remarkable times, and those are and were remarkable people.”

Nick and Nina Clooney
In addition, in 1999 he hosted an episode of In Performance at the Governor’s Mansion that was a tribute to his famous sister, Rosemary.

When he wasn’t narrating KET programs, Nick says he and his family — his wife Nina and their children Ada and George — were often watching KET.

“Our daughter Ada loves history and was drawn to stories of our veterans,” Nick recalls. “George followed baseball and particularly liked the specials about baseball.”

Nina adds: “We always knew we could turn to KET and what they watched would be safe and enriching. KET aged as they aged, with good programs for every stage of their lives.”

Both Clooneys love life in small-town Kentucky. They call small communities “bite-size democracies,” where your mayor may also be your pharmacist and where life is lived out as American founding father Thomas Jefferson once envisioned.

“I have gotten 20 miles in 84 years,” jokes Nick, a smile revealing that this is a good thing. It’s his way of explaining that he was born in Maysville and he and Nina now live 20 miles away in Augusta with their rescue dog, Nate.

“I’m a Kentuckian. I’m a Kentucky boy. This is where I feel comfortable,” Nick says. “Any time I’m gone from Kentucky, I feel a slight sense of loss. Anytime I come home to Kentucky, I feel better.”

KET continues to help the Clooneys explore the state they love so much.

“Through KET, we saw the beauty of the Red River Gorge and the excitement of urban life in Louisville and Lexington. We learned about western Kentucky,” says Nick.

The Clooney’s Augusta home tells another part of their life story. The home brims with works of art from all over the world, unique lamps, movie posters featuring family members, shelves of books, and photos of their two children as they grew into adults.

“I can walk from room to room and watch myself age,” says Nick, laughing once again.

It is that laughter, plentiful and real, that the couple says is the basis of their 59-year marriage, their happy lives, and their long history of good works such as Nina’s work with refugees and as head of the Kentucky Film Commission.

Having watched public television in other states where they have lived over the years, Nick says that KET has really been a unifying force in Kentucky.

“This has been a very, very important part of holding us together and holding us together with our environs and with our history,” Nick says. “KET has done that.”

Nick and Nina will be honored at KET’s annual Martinis & Mistletoe event in December. Please see page 21 for more information.

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