50 Women Over 50

Navigating Life As An Over 50 Widow

Episode Summary

Award winning newscaster Rita Rich describes her grief of suddenly becoming a widow. She tells us why she went back to broadcasting and shares her hopes for the future for her nation.

Episode Notes

Host Sherrilynne Starkie welcomes award winning newscaster Rita Rich to episode 15 of the 50 Women Over 50 podcast

Rita’s husband, fellow broadcaster Chuck Rich, was 12 years older than her when they got married in the 1980s. And as she entered her fifth decade, Rita’s career took a back seat as she became the primary carer for her aged parents-in-law. A short time after they both passed, Rita also lost the love of her life. Chuck died suddenly, and she found herself on her own for the first time ever.

“You go into a sense of shock. You'll always love them, but it takes a while to fall out of love,” explains Rita. “It’s one of those stages of mourning that I think people don't get until they're in it.” 

In this interview, Rita describes her grief of suddenly becoming a widow. She tells us why she went back to broadcasting and shares her hopes for the future for her nation. 

About Rita Rich: 

Award winning newscaster Rita Rich is the producer for the Rich Valdés America at Night show on Westwood One, the largest radio network in America. For many years she was the News Director and News Anchor on WNAV Annapolis. She has also held senior roles within client teams at Washington D.C. public relations agencies along with journalist and production roles at two USA national broadcasters. Her company Flatlands Avenue Productions provides a range of PR and podcast production services. 

Resources & Contact Information: 

About the 50 Women Over 50 Podcast: 

Sherrilynne Starkie started this show as a creative project with the goal of interviewing 50 women past their 50th birthday to learn how they see the world, what lessons they’ve learned and what advice they have for us all. She’s been blogging and podcasting for 18+ years as part of a successful marketing and communications career and looks forward to learning from the women she will interview. Subscribe to 50 Women Over 50 wherever you get your podcasts and please share it with your friends. 

Episode Transcription

Machine Generated Transcript

What follows is a machine generated transcript. It may contain errors and is not a substitute for listening to the podcast.

50 Women Over 50 Podcast Episode 15

Hello, and welcome to episode 15 of 50 women over 50 at podcast whose personal confidence is born of experience. I'm your host, Sherrilynne Starkie. My ambition for this podcast is to interview 50 women from all walks of life who are over 50 years of age. About what they've learned by their fifth decade so that we can all learn from them. 

Today, I'm welcoming to the show award-winning newscaster Rita Rich who is a producer for the Rich Valdez America at Night Show on Westwood One, the largest radio network in America. Rita’s husband, fellow broadcaster Chuck Rich was 12 years older than her when they got married in the 1980s. And as she entered her fifth decade, Rita’s career took a back seat when she became the primary carer for her aged parents in law. 

A short time after they both passed. Rita also lost the love of her life. Her husband Chuck died suddenly. And she found herself on her own for the first time ever. In this interview, Rita describes her grief of becoming a widow. And she tells us how and why she went back to work and shares her hopes for the future of her nation. 

[00:01:12] Sherrilynne: So, tell me about your 50th birthday. 

[00:01:15] Rita: My 50th birthday was not really memorable for me. When I turned 50, I was getting into caregiver mode and that was a few years ago.

That was, in 2014. And, at that time my mother-in-law was on a verge of passing and my step father-in-law passed a few months before then, and that was very sad. It was very, very sad. And, it was a time when I was the only, immediate family member that lived in the county in Maryland where my in-laws lived.

Yeah. And I was Rita on the spot because my husband used a wheelchair, and he couldn't beat Chuck on the spot. Right. Because it was more difficult for him,

so, I was my, my mother-in-law's, driver to various physicians, appointments. And, before then I was my step father-in-law's tech. Right. Okay. This man owned a computer company and when you reach a certain age, you forget a lot of stuff. Oh, I see, I see. And I had to help him update his internet and deal with different things.

So, I was running back and forth. So, this was after about 10 years of being in business for myself. Yeah. And, it was not fun. 

[00:02:35] Sherrilynne: You didn't do anything about your birthday. You were just too mired down in responsibility to be bothered even thinking about having a celebration 

[00:02:43] Rita: or anything.

There was nothing celebratory. My husband was going through a hard time. My birthday's in January. It was probably miserable weather to, to celebrate. We might have gone to a diner, in suburban DC and, and, very different than my, my 25th or 26th birthday where my husband and I were in Walt Disney World and, you know, having a, a lovely cupcake that, the staff brought me in having all the animated costumers, singing happy birthday. This was very different. So yeah, being 50 was, was not fun. It had a lot of challenges. I couldn't be there to push, push, push to get more work and clients. 

. What surprised 

[00:03:29] Sherrilynne: you about life in your 

[00:03:31] Rita: fifties? How hard it would be.

I think that, when you're in the fifties, the stuff that your parents didn't talk to you about or share with you, suddenly you are experiencing on your own. And you are wondering, why didn't anybody tell me this stuff? Financial stuff, people dying. Yeah, that was hard. I married a man 12 years older than, than myself.

And who knew that paraplegics didn't really have that, you know, good of a lifespan and, and everything that was necessary to take care of him when I was done with my in-laws, then I had to continue on with my, my guy. You want to have that good life. You know, you want to be able to do what your parents did, but you didn't realize how much they sacrificed so that you could go to college, or you could have a, beautiful wedding you don't realize all the sacrifice your parents made until you're doing that for somebody else. Yeah. Or observing things. So, some of the hardest things to realize when you're in your fifties is that no, you're not in your forties, you're not in your thirties anymore.

Sometimes you could go and crouch, on the street in front of a Newsmaker and hold up your, your iPhone and get a statement. But try, try standing up again., try. There's that. And you, you might need help doing that. The body is not doing what your head says it can do. And, and that, that kind of sucks. I'm, you know, it's, it, it's a bad rap.

And you do have to, you do have to learn how to parcel out time for yourself, which I'm still trying to learn. I'm still trying to learn how to. 

If I'm working on a campaign, it's my campaign. It's not just yours. If I'm working on a podcast, it's my podcast, not just yours. Yeah. So, think exactly the same way. That's, yeah. So, there you go. I, I don't know what else can I say? One of some of the toughest realizations is that you are 50 until you know you can't do stuff that you used to be able to do.

[00:05:42] Sherrilynne: And how long ago is it now that you lost 

[00:05:45] Rita: Chuck? Five years. Oh, my goodness. Has it been five years? Yes. December 8th, 2017. Okay. Pretty much before noon on a Friday. And it was heartbreaking, of course. But, then, then you had to learn, not only is there this void in what you do every day, but all the plans and dreams you have with another person suddenly.

Poof. Where did they go? You go into a, a sense of shock and you, it takes a while to, you'll always love them, but it takes a while to fall out of love. Right. Which is one of those stages of mourning that I think people don't get until they're in it. And 

[00:06:33] Sherrilynne: tell me a little bit more about that. How are you 

[00:06:35] Rita: doing now?

Well, I still love the guy. I still. I don't have his clothes because he didn't care about his wardrobe. So that was the easiest thing to purge. But I have his books, his DVDs, a lot of DVDs and Blu-rays that he got because he was an entertainment reporter. I still have his record collection and his collection of CDs.

Nobody taught me that when your spouse dies, suddenly you've got to deal with a lifetime of his paperwork, financial or otherwise. Yeah. I started purging some of his earliest, writings because nobody wants them. I, you know, I take photographs and I scan the good stuff, the best of the best, but I have to start thinking, you know, I live in a house that he grew up in, so I've got two generations of memories and stuff.

Yeah. And I'm, I'm the last one here. I'm still here because there's no mortgage. I'm okay. Yeah. And that's nice. That's a good feeling. I have a, you know, a, a relatively new roof over my head because you got to replace those things.

Yeah. I'm still, you know, sinking money into a home. But I like it. I got two dogs. They could run around and chase the mailman, the u p s guy, the Amazon delivery people. 

I'm okay. But it's, you know, you go through the, the waves. Something is going to trigger something, a joke that you tell yourself that nobody would get if you said it out loud, but he would've, 

[00:08:10] Sherrilynne: yeah. You still miss 'em, of course. 

[00:08:13] Rita: Oh, yeah. Have 

[00:08:14] Sherrilynne: you, thought about getting back out there and meeting somebody else?

[00:08:18] Rita: I have. and it's so, it's creepy these days. Yeah. Everything's online. You don't know what you're getting. It's not like, okay, you'll buy something and then you can return it. How can you return a bad date? You can't do that. Or a creepy guy who just wants you, you know, just a hookup with you. Hooking up is, I miss men, I miss male companionships, but, covid kind of put the kabosh, okay, let's go to a bowling alley or a bar or, yes, yes, and all the good ones are taken, or they're married you know, what's a single woman to do?

And, yeah. So, you, you just, you have to smile and you, you just make good friends and, and you resume your friendships with people or your girlfriends from when you're a child. Right. Thank God, I have them. They know me since I was driving them around in a 1973 Ford Galaxy 500 V8 engine that guzzled gas, like you wouldn't believe, but it didn't matter as much.

It was only 79 cents a gallon back there, 

[00:09:30] Sherrilynne: So just a second. Now I want to, I want to make sure I understand this. So, you've rekindled friendships that maybe with women that you hadn't seen since you were a 

[00:09:38] Rita: child, since you become Well, I tell you, it was a few years before my husband died that I, I rekindled those relationships, because they reached out to, to me, they live where I grew up about 300 miles away from me.

Everybody, you know, grows up, has relationships, children, spouses, You know, life happens, but they were always there. You know, the, these are the people, and we all have 'em. If we're lucky that you can pick up the phone and gab and it's like you haven't stopped being in touch. But I found out that, they still cared. And after all the water under the bridge doesn't matter. Yes. Anymore, the old arguments, the old disagreements, the old misconceptions, it just doesn't matter. 

[00:10:30] Sherrilynne: I totally agree with you with that.

You know, I've recently, let's say recently in the last couple of years, I've reconnected with some people that I'd deliberately distanced in, in my past life. And what you're saying is true. The old arguments, I don't have the energy for them. I mean, they were never resolved, but I don't care. Let's just like move past it.

We only, we're only on this rock a short time, and it takes a lot of energy. It's true to stay angry, right? You got to just get over it and move on. 

[00:10:59] Rita: Yeah. Yeah. It's very true. And for some of us, when we're sad, we convert that into anger. Oh, yes. And, and it, it's exhausting. It is totally exhausting. So that's, that's what's been going on.

I don't know, where do we go from here Sherrilynne when, you know, you and I have known each other roughly from what, 2001. And we have stayed in touch because we respected each other. Yeah. And that's pretty cool. And that's what I'm looking for. You, you asked me where about my relationships with men in the future.

I want a man who will respect me and clue me in. And when I have questions that even seem dumb, it's not because I'm dumb or I don't respect them. It's just that I like to know the nuance. 

[00:11:51] Sherrilynne: And so, have you been on any dates then or are you 

[00:11:53] Rita: just I've gone out not as, as dates with, with a couple of my husband's high school friends. I've gone and, and, and done things with them. One guy lived in Annapolis and still lives there, so if there was an interesting event in Annapolis, I'd invite him to go with me.

What about, you 

[00:12:13] Sherrilynne: know, something like Bumble or Tinder? You haven't tried anything 

[00:12:15] Rita: like that? Oh no. I tried one time and I found that so creepy. Bumble and Tinder sounds like. Hey, let's hook up I only know what I see on Hallmark Romance movies., yes, I'll meet the love of my life and end up moving into a shack in the middle of the woods for the simpler life,

Because sometimes you need that type of nonsense and yes, background, but, and it's not nonsense if it makes you happy. You know, believe me, we all need a little bit of happiness and what, what they're doing at Hallmark is interesting is that they're showing the parents, the widows and the widows hooking up or falling in love, or he was my husband's best friend and suddenly I'm going to go to your wedding with him.

. So anyway, 

[00:13:09] Sherrilynne: what, what advice would you give your 30 year old 

[00:13:11] Rita: self oof. You're stronger than you think.

You shouldn't be afraid to take the chances and speak up for yourself more. You shouldn't be afraid to travel more. And ask for time off. And your loyalties are probably not deserved. Oh, my goodness. 

[00:13:38] Sherrilynne: There's a lot to unpack there, 

[00:13:40] Rita: I know. Well, it's been a while, but I'm glad you asked me about it because I've been thinking about it.

Yeah. You think about the people you've, you dedicated a lot of energy supporting professionally. Yeah. And then you, you think about the people in your family whom you sacrificed time with while you were doing the other stuff, and people understand you got to make it, make a living. You got to earn, your salary.

, but they're not your family. They might not show up if you die. Yeah, that's right. Most likely they won't, they won't show up when you, if you need them. 

Yeah. You know, so be a little more selfish. It's okay. It's not going to, and, and you know, when they, they used to threaten you in school, your permanent record. This will go on your permanent record. Oh yes. It won't, it won't. Nobody cares who's going to look it up. Who's going to actually maintain your permanent record?

That's actually excellent advice. 

[00:14:50] Sherrilynne: Get your priorities straight earlier in life. Don't be fooled by misrepresentations. 

[00:14:57] Rita: Yeah, absolutely. And we're naive and we want to please, and we, we think that if we please people, they, they'll give us a raise. 

But, what 

[00:15:06] Sherrilynne: are you doing to, to keep yourself amused these days? What are you doing for 

[00:15:09] Rita: fun? Very little. Evidently. I walk my dogs, I read books. I actually am reading a good book that I got.

It's called the Nazi Conspiracy. That doesn't sound like light reading. It's not. But I like histories and, and stuff. Okay. And, and, it's not light reading. Light reading gets a little boring to me.

Okay. This stuff is, it, you know, he's a nice guy named Brad Meltzer, and I found out he was born in a different section of the wonderful Borough, Kings County, New York, Brooklyn, where I was born in and had my roots. He was born in, lived in Sheepside Bay before he made his fortune writing books that eventually get into movies and, and me, I was born a little east of there.

So, it was nice to, to have that personal connection with this guy. What else do I do for fun? It, you know, it's a hard one because I have been, because of Covid doing less, stuff like athletic stuff or being in, in restaurants. I, I hardly eat out anymore. I need more fun. I walk the dogs, I play with the dogs. I, I talk on the phone with my friends, and I write stuff that's nobody reads this little amusements.

And I'm kind of low key. I think just traveling to see friends.

[00:16:37] Sherrilynne: I encourage you to set yourself a New Year's resolution to have more fun, because that's one of, one of the things that I did with this podcast because I recognize that I wasn't having any fun. Like, I, life was so boring because of the, the lockdown and increased isolation.

And I wasn't getting to hang out with my girls. And, and, I wanted 

[00:16:57] Rita: to do something. All your girls. Yeah. You just got beautiful grandkids. Oh, thank you. Thank you. Beautiful. I've seen in social media, man, They, they all have your spark, which is great. never lose that spark. 

[00:17:13] Sherrilynne: Back to the fun thing.

I was determined. I was determined that I had to get more fun in my life because I felt like, like a little flower on the shelf that was never getting any water. 

And I'm having such a good time doing it. 

[00:17:25] Rita: Well, I, thank you for the New Year's resolution, to have more fun.

I think it's a good one. I think it's very possible and I think instead of seeing, you know, The big thing is if I don't work, where does the money come from? Yeah. And I might have enough to not work as hard as I have been for the past quarter century. 

So, the money will come when I need it, or the money is there. Yeah. I mean, I, I, I have enough. I think that if I get old and it's inevitable, I hope, and I have a 92 going to a 93 year old dad. My mom lived until the ripe old age of 87., I can afford my longevity. No, that's, if I can't, somebody will.

and I'll be okay. I just got to stop worrying so much. So, when I'll stop worrying so much and try to have more fun. Good for you. Thank Sher. No, no, it's good for you because I, if we don't talk to each other about these things, I don't, we need each other to bolster each other, even if we're hundreds of miles away from one another.

Yeah. Women need to do that for each other. 

[00:18:43] Sherrilynne: And you need to, at this stage of our lives, redefine what fun is., like I had an epiphany because I was at the gym and I take a class, you know, one of these, on the step classes and, I found myself thinking to myself as it was over, Hey, that was fun. 

And I thought, just a sec, what exercise was fun? But now, now that it's fun, in my mind, I actually look forward to going to that class instead of thinking, oh God, I got to go to the gym. And, I see it as an opportunity to have fun. So, it actually, I never miss it. Right. Because I want to, I want to have fun. So, you kind of, kind of open your mind to, how you define fun.

. So, you kind of touched upon, your future there a little bit, but, you more specifically, where do you see yourself in 10 years?

[00:19:27] Rita: I don't, you can't see it? I can't, I can't see it. I, I really can't see it. I know what I'd like to do. I'd like to learn how to be a speech writer. I like being of public service, so maybe a government job for. a person with who, who I feel good in my soul about a, a good politician that I trust in life.

Oh, yes. Maybe I could do that. I, and I can't help it because politics is where a lot of the important decisions happen from whether your street gets paved or they replace the light bulbs and the municipal lighting in your area. Right. So, I think I like writing. Yes. And, you know, and I, I think I can, I've learned how to write in different people's voices over the years.

It'd be nice to find a way to home in on, on doing that, because I think people who find it hard to write and just open up a, a blank page. And scribble stuff down. Whereas I, I have an easy time of it. 

I think that might be in my future. And if it's not, 

[00:20:37] Sherrilynne: I think that's an achievable dream given where you live and the experience that you have and your natural gifts.

I feel like you could do 

[00:20:45] Rita: this. Mm-hmm. for sure. I think so. I just have to focus. And again, the problem with focusing on that is, well, you worry about where the next paycheck is going to come from and that that's a problem when you're a freelancer. But I got to have more faith that when I need it, it'll come and.

It's okay, you know, I can, I can meet my obligations and, we'll see what happens. 

[00:21:12] Sherrilynne: Good. So, what are you, what are you most 

[00:21:14] Rita: hopeful about for the future? More free time and being able to enjoy it. That's what I'm hopeful for. I'm hopeful that, my country gets its act together. Do you think it will? I enjoy talking politics. I do not enjoy the way the conversations have been going for the past four or five years.

Yeah. and I, it has to get better. Yeah. And I don't think it's up to people it's up to the, the next generations to make it better because, you know, the, the older generation sold out and bought into the fear and the extremism and it's not healthy. It's really not healthy, do 

[00:22:02] Sherrilynne: you think that the, millennial generation and Gen Z are going to be able to, reverse 

[00:22:07] Rita: correct? Maybe not the millennials. Not gen, gen Y, not the millennials, maybe Gen Z because Gen Z likes it. When people are authentic and Gen Z, they just want to have the truth.

And they're also solution oriented they don't want to hear the same old bs they want solutions. 

Yes. So, there's a lot, there's a lot that, that I hope for. And, we have no choice. It's got to go uphill from here. It's got to, we're, I, I think people feel it's rock bottom. 

[00:22:45] Sherrilynne: So, what are you reading, watching, binging right now? 

[00:22:51] Rita: I’m binging Jack Ryan on Netflix because I like Yeah, well, John Kaczynski is kind of cute.

Uh huh, you know, so, and, and I, and I actually like binging, action and adventure. Been binging quite a few things. 

I actually got, a book about, how to purchase a handgun and how to make sure you're trained right, and you feel comfortable having them. Because I talked to a man who trains law enforcement officers and I said, I think I need to learn how to deal with handguns, so I'm not afraid of them because it seems like everybody has a handgun.

Or worse where I live these days, are you going to buy a handgun? I not without training first. And then I am not going to even think about buying one without learning. I want to learn how to take them apart and put 'em back together again so that I'm not afraid to confront somebody who's got a gun and threatening me.

Does that make sense? Yes. 

But as far as buying a gun, it, it's come to my attention that I might need to, but at least maybe I should get the training on how to, to use one without owning one so that, it doesn't scare me as much. And that gives, you know, when you're scared you lose your power. I don't want to do that anymore. And it's, is this because 

[00:24:19] Sherrilynne: you're, you're living on your own that you feel that it 

[00:24:21] Rita: might be, it's because I'm hearing more gunfire in my neighborhood. It seems to be such a commonplace thing and, in our society. You are, you're right 

[00:24:32] Sherrilynne: that there are incidences in other parts of the world, but you have the crown. 

[00:24:36] Rita: I'm sorry about that, is there 

[00:24:39] Sherrilynne: an app you couldn't 

[00:24:40] Rita: live without?

Hmm. I, I have so many on my phones social media has become such a big part of my life these days. I know people who are saying Elon Musk sucks and what are he is doing to Twitter. But still a lot of news sources post their press releases on Twitter first. Yes, that's right. And if I'm, and so there's probably my mail apps and my Gmail, that I, I just don't think I could live without.


[00:25:10] Sherrilynne: is there an over 50 life hack that you'd like to share? 

[00:25:15] Rita: No

Best answer ever. Sorry. We just gabbed the only iPad that I have is like, go keep moving forward. Keep moving forward because what choice do you have? You know? Go, keep going. Who's going to stop you? Good for you. 

And that's it for episode 15, this has been 50 women over 50 podcasts for women whose personal confidence is born of experience. And thank you to my old friend, Rita Rich, the award-winning newscaster.

I appreciate her generosity and sharing her very personal story and admire her Frank honesty about her experiences of loneliness and fearfulness. 

And I share her hopefulness that our young people will change the world in ways that our generation has failed to. Thank you, Rita. See the show notes to find out where you can connect with her online. I've included links to her website and her socials, along with some of the other things that we discussed on the show. 

And please join me for my next episode where I will be chatting with social media influencer, Candice Samson, who is the host of the, What She Said, talk radio program for women. Since her late forties, she's been going through a war of the roses level divorce. She shares with us what she's learned from the process and how now that she's in her fifties, she's never been happier and more excited about life. That's next week. In the meantime, please drop me a rating or a review on apple or wherever you get your podcasts. Let's connect and create a whole community of wise women over 50, by sharing a link to this show with your friends and connections. 

See you next time on 50 women over 50. I'm your host, Sherrilynne Starkie.