Donora native, a TV success, committed to her hometown
By Ron Paglia
Published: Sunday, Jan. 11, 2009
Near the end of her presentation at the Donora Public Library on a recent Friday afternoon, Kim Moses paused to answer her cell phone.
She had not anticipated anyone's calling during the program and blushed as she responded to the call.
"It's my mother," Moses said with a poignant smile. "She wanted to make sure I got here OK."
Moses, a native of Donora who was at the library to speak about her role as executive producer of the hit CBS-TV show "Ghost Whisperer," then punched in the speaker phone button on her cell and told her mother, Beverly Moses Ford, who was at home in Carmel, Calif., "Mom, I'm at the library in Donora. Please say hello to everyone."
"Go, Donora," Ford responded cheerfully. "Hello."
The crowd of more than 100, which included many relatives and friends, laughed with appreciation and then applauded.
"She still checks up on me," Moses, a 1974 graduate of Monongahela Valley Catholic High School, said with a knowing smile after the program. "She knew I was coming here and wanted to be sure I got to the airport (Pittsburgh International) and then to Donora."
It's unlikely Moses, who also lives in California, will ever forget the way back home. A large part of her heart and soul remains in Donora, and the community has inspired her work as a TV producer, director and writer.
"There's so much to pull from (in Donora), great memories of good times and wonderful people," Moses said in response to a question about the impact life experiences have on her work.
Those influences are evident in "Ghost Whisperer" (Friday, 8 p.m., CBS), of which Moses and her husband, Ian Sander, are executive producers. Described as a drama-fantasy-thriller about the supernatural, the show was developed by spiritual medium James Van Praagh and created by John Gray. It stars Jennifer Love Hewitt as Melinda Gordon, who lives in Grandview, N.Y., and who has the ability to see and communicate with the dead.
A recurring scene at the beginning of "Ghost Whisperer" spotlights a war memorial in Grandview.
"I remembered seeing the beautiful war memorial in Donora," Moses recalled of the memorial at the south entrance to the community. "It is such an awesome structure, an inspiring and fitting tribute to the men and women of Donora who served our nation with dignity and honor. I knew it had to be part (of 'Ghost Whisperer')."
The pilot of "Ghost Whisperer" emphasized that point with Hewitt's character driving down a street and discovering the ghost of a soldier whose name is listed on the memorial.
"The memorial (in Grandview) is there every week as a reminder of Donora," Moses said.
She also said the tunnels leading from her late father's Irondale Hotel under the streets of Donora figure in the TV series.
John Moses, who died June 23, 2003, owned and operated the former Irondale Hotel at the corner of Sixth Street and McKean Avenue for many years before it was razed on Aug. 7, 1966 to make way for construction of a branch office of Pittsburgh National Bank.
According to the Donora Historical Society, the Irondale was the first licensed hotel to open in Donora in 1901. It was initially operated by Frank Cardon, and Nat Harris and Clarence L. Egbert were among those who preceded Moses, who also was retired as a road engineer with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, as the owner.
The hotel also was home to Kim Moses and her brothers, Jon (J.), Jeff and Mark.
"What a great experience that was living and growing up there," Kim said. "We met so many interesting people during those years."
The Irondale Hotel was used as the name of a hotel in a previous TV series produced by Moses on Fox Television. And the Moses siblings perpetuated the memory of their home by forming Irondale Productions Inc. in 1991.
Sandy Mauser, who was among those attending the program by Moses at the library, also recalled the Irondale Hotel and its restaurant/lounge with affection.
"I was just a young girl, maybe 5 or 6, when my father took me there for the first time," said Mauser, a longtime beautician in Donora. "We went to the show to see Bing Crosby in 'White Christmas,' and when we came out of the theater, it was snowing. My dad took me to the bar in the basement of the Irondale. I sat on one of the stools and had a bottle of soda pop, and I remember (the adults) enjoying deviled crabs."
Mauser, who has operated a beauty shop in her home for many years, also recalled Kim Moses as one of her customers.
"We did her hair when she was still in high school," Mauser said. "She's so beautiful, just look at her. And she's still that hometown girl. She's so down to earth. We're very proud of her."
Dr. Charles E. Stacey, a longtime educator in Donora and a retired superintendent of Ringgold School District, offered similar sentiments.
"Kim and her brothers have done very well for themselves," Stacey, a member of the library's board of directors, said after presenting Moses with commemorative souvenirs from her hometown. "They have brought distinction to our community. The (Moses) family were nice people."
Nostalgia notwithstanding, many questions from the audience focused on the characters and the story lines of "Ghost Whisperers," particularly Hewitt's character, Melinda, and her husband, Jim, played by David Conrad.
"We're always looking at the plots and how the characters interact," Moses said. "Jennifer and David have such amazing chemistry on screen. We try to follow our research of audience reaction to what is happening and go from there"
Her husband, Ian Sander, supported that position in November when he told writer Jim Halterman of www.thefutoncricic.com: "We know from the audiences that they have really fallen in love with these two characters (Melinda and Jim) and that it's obviously a very functional relationship with two people that are very supportive of each other. In real life that's somewhat unusual and certainly on television it's been somewhat unusual and audiences seems to have attached themselves to that relationship."
"Ghost Whisperer" premiered on CBS on Sept. 23, 2005 and has continued to gain popularity. It tied with "CSI" for No. 10 among the Top 20 network primetime series in the Nielsen Ratings for the week of December 22-28, garnering a 9.0 share of the 8 p.m. audience with 7,795,000 viewers. Other shows in the Top 10 included NBC Sunday Night Football, "60 Minutes," "Two and A Half Men," "Million Dollar Password," "Cold Case" and "CSI: Miami," putting "Ghost Whisperer" in select company.
"We're very pleased with the success," Moses said. "But you can never afford to rest on your laurels. You keep working (at maintaining the popularity) week after week."
In addition to the TV series, "Ghost Whisperer" has spawned other ventures for Moses and Sander. There are DVDs of the shows, a comic book, posters and the Ghost Whisperer Spirit Guide. The full-color guide offers information on how to communicate with ghosts in the real world as well as an in-depth look at the TV show including interviews, photos and summaries of the episodes.
Information about all of these aspects of "Ghost Whisperer" is available at www.sandermoses.com .
Myriad Internet links to Moses also can be found. They offer a filmography that includes her work on such TV series, movies and specials as "Frankenstein," "For The People," "Beast," "Profiler," "How'd They Do That," the "39th Annual Emmy Awards," "Ali: An American Hero," "America Behind Closed Doors," "Brimstone," "Chasing the Dragon," "Celebrate the Sprit!" "Disney's All-Star 4th of July Spectacular," "Disney's Christmas on Ice," "Extreme Edge," "How to Marry a Billionaire: A Christmas Tale," "John Denver's Christmas in Aspen," and "Super Bowl Saturday Night," to name only a few.
Moses got her first taste of national attention as a writer when she worked in the Sports Information Department at the University of Notre Dame in the mid-1970s. She was married at the time to quarterback Joe Montana, the Monongahela native who later became an NFL star and pro football Hall of Famer.
After their divorce, Moses went to Washington, D.C., and worked for former U.S. Rep. Austin J. Murphy, the House Science and Technology Committee, and then U.S. Sen. Al Gore. While in Washington, she also earned a paralegal degree and a bachelor's degree in liberal studies, both from Georgetown University.
She then lived and worked in New York City before moving to Los Angeles, where she was the talent coordinator on the MTV Music Video Awards and then a producer for MTV. In October 1991, she began working on her own and produced a CBS Christmas special that was a finalist for the International Monitors Award as best Entertainment Program in the World.
She hasn't looked back since then, compiling an impressive track record of success.
But she has accepted the achievements in a humble manner and is equally proud of the accomplishments of her brothers in their endeavors as entrepreneurs in such areas as communications, writing, producing, acting, restaurants and boutiques and jewelry.
Moses emphasized that growing up in Donora was a "great foundation" for the future for her and her brothers.
"We learned the true meaning of family values, strong work ethics, trust and friendship ... qualities that only a small town, a close-knit community and its people can provide," she said. "The experiences prepared us well for the world outside. Donora was a gift to us."
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