• Click here to watch the 2009 segment of the “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” TV program that featured Joe Tess Place.
William L. Falt turned a South Omaha tavern that served fish sandwiches into a nationally known, family-friendly fish mecca best known for its fried carp.
Falt grew up in the Brown Park neighborhood of South Omaha. As a boy, he cleaned and sold fish for Joe Tess, owner of Tess' tavern at 24th and U Streets.
Falt bought the bar from Mae Tess, Joe's widow, in about 1965.
“Joe Tess' tavern had been a neighborhood bar for years and everyone knew it as Tess', so Dad named it Joe Tess Place, and developed it into a family restaurant with a bar and lounge in the old front room,” said son Bill Falt of Bellevue.
The elder Falt, also of Bellevue, died Jan. 22 at Bellevue Medical Center of congestive heart failure and other heart problems, his son said. William Falt was 80.
Falt was operating Fresh Water Fish in South Omaha at the time he developed the restaurant. He moved that business inside the restaurant building and renamed it Falt Fisheries. “Dad built a modern fish-processing facility at the old Tess' place,” the son said.
“Carp, which are our speciality, are caught live in the Northern states and we buy them from commercial fishermen,” the son said. The fish was then cut and packaged on site.
When the Nebraska Department of Roads needed the old restaurant site for Kennedy Freeway expansion, the senior Falt acquired lots just north of the original building to provide a spot for a new restaurant.
The current Joe Tess Place, at 5424 S. 24th St., opened at its new location May 1, 1985.
At that time, the son said, the live hauling operation and fish processing plant were moved to Bellevue and continue to operate there.
Joe Tess Place was featured on the Food Network's “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” program in 2009.
“Dad was a good father, good hard worker and a shrewd businessman,” his son said. “He touched a lot of people. He made a lot of friends.”
William Falt grew up playing softball and baseball at Social Settlement in South Omaha and for the Omaha Metz Legion Team. He graduated from Omaha South High School in 1950 and served in the Army from 1953-55.
When there was time to do things as a family, his son said, “We'd go fishing — that was the closest thing to a hobby Dad had.”
In addition to his son Bill, Falt's survivors include his wife of 60 years, Marie, of Bellevue; sons David Falt and Dan Falt, both of Bellevue; and five grandchildren.
In accord with William Falt's wishes, no services are planned.
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