Content provided by Robyn Murray, Freelance Writer
It takes a lot to get Patty Colombe down. Naturally sunny and cheerful, Colombe believes in staying positive in the face of adversity.
But, she’s had her share of trials. Over the last few years, Colombe lost her mother and nearly lost her grandson in a car accident. “When mom got sick and Dylan got hurt,” she recalled, “that was life changing.”
It all happened around the time Colombe started at CLS Investments as an administrative coordinator. It’s a position that requires taking care of people, and as a natural caregiver who likes to see the best in others, she’s a perfect fit.
Patty Colombe was born in Iowa, but she’s spent most of her life in Omaha, Neb. Her father sold life insurance and was transferred to the city when she was 7 years old. Her mother stayed home with her three daughters until they were in high school. Then she went to work at an ophthalmologist’s office as an administrative assistant.
Colombe is the youngest of the three daughters and — she added with a grin — “Dad’s only son.” A lifelong tomboy, Colombe says she was always the one called on to help her father with household projects. “Whenever there was something needed to be done,” she said, “I’d be out there swinging a sledgehammer or doing something in the yard.” Colombe’s outgoing personality also comes from her dad. “When my father entered a room, you knew he was there immediately,” she said.
Colombe took her first job when she was 14 manning the counter at Dairy Queen. At 15, she went to work for Hickory Farms and stayed there until she graduated high school. She later worked for a heavy duty parts supplier. But, after she was married with two small children at home, she decided — in a typically resourceful move — to run a daycare out of her house so she could be with her kids.
When her children were older, Colombe took a job as a sales assistant for an agricultural company. She didn’t stay in that position long. “I kept fixing computers,” she said, “so, they stole me out of sales and moved me to IT.” Colombe was ultimately promoted to IT manager and was in charge of 13 locations and 728 users.
But after 20 years there, the company was sold to China and started outsourcing positions. Colombe was laid off, and that was the beginning of some profound shifts in her life.
One of those shifts happened when her grandson crossed the street at a busy intersection in West Omaha. He was with a group, but he and a friend were trailing a little behind. The driver didn’t see them. She hit the two boys at 45 miles per hour. Dylan flew into the air, and his friend crashed into the windshield and hood of the car.
“But they had angels,” Colombe said. “There was a doctor and a nurse right there. Everyone got out of their cars, and they told them what to do with the boys while they called an ambulance.” Dylan’s friend is still getting facial reconstructive surgery, but he’s OK. Dylan spent three weeks in the hospital and three more at a Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln, and then went home in a wheelchair.
It wasn’t long after that Colombe’s mother became ill and went into hospice. Just a few months later, she passed away.
“Losing my job after 20 years, and then having all that happen . . .” Colombe trailed off. “The people are so nice here. It’s a wonderful group of people.” Her new colleagues at CLS kept her busy and gave her their support. She recalls coming to work shortly after the accident and being encouraged to go home and be with her family. “Family is very important here,” she said. “Everybody goes home and appreciates what they have at home, as well as what they have here.”
Today, Colombe’s grandson is playing baseball again, and her father recently celebrated his 87th birthday.
“Within that story,” she said, “is a story of survival.”
Colombe says she’s taken lessons from the experience. “You’ve got to like what you’re doing, and you can’t spend a whole lot of time worrying about the stupid stuff.” At CLS, she loves what she’s doing — and that’s mainly because she gets to take care of people. “I love people,” she said. “There’s something different about everyone. And most everyone, there’s something good.”
Colombe supports CLS’s CEO, Ryan Beach, and the CIO, Rusty Vanneman, as well as the Portfolio Management Team. She schedules calendars, makes travel arrangements, and files expenses. She also keeps the portfolio managers on top of their writing tasks and takes tedious assignments off their desks. “Little things,” she said. “I just help get their ducks in a row.”
Colombe’s ability to take care of things was noted in a recent strengths finder assessment at the company. She was the only employee with “Arranger” as her No. 1 strength. Arrangers, the description says, are organized and flexible. “They like to determine how all the pieces and resources can be arranged for maximum productivity.”
Colombe emailed the description to me. She doesn’t like talking about herself. She’s a doer, not a talker, she says. But, that’s why she gets things done. And, why Vanneman says she’s become an indispensable member of the team.
“I’m a caregiver,” she said. “I like to take care of things.”