By Mike Lacy
We all know the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.
But that’s boring. Life’s journey needs a side trip with a few hills and curves – and maybe a 9G blast through the sky with the Thunderbirds.
Rhonda Weidner has made many of those side trips and taken us along for the ride … but not anymore. After more than 30 years behind the desk and in front of the camera at WLOX-TV, she retired in December.
Now new side trips, just for herself, are beginning — and she is just as excited as she has ever been.
“Is retirement everything I thought it would be? Not sure yet,” she says. “I’m only a few weeks in. I have so much to look forward to.”
That includes simple pleasures that she hasn’t experienced in a while. Since 1989, she’s helped thousands of people start their day as anchor of “Good Morning Mississippi” and then start their early lunch as anchor of “The Midday Show.”
With 7,500 morning newscasts, that is about 13,000 hours of airtime.
“I’m still an early riser, but I definitely sleep later than I used to,” Weidner says. “I now get up with the sun instead of a 2 a.m. alarm.
“I love the early morning hours,” she adds. “It’s so peaceful. I start my day with a cup of coffee, and I open the windows so I can hear the birds singing. My cats enjoy that too. After that, I do whatever I want to do. That’s the best part of it all.”
During her career, she has earned many professional awards and plaudits, including being named Corporate Woman of the Year by Lighthouse Business and Professional Women in 2016. She also has been active with charity organizations like the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer campaign, local wildlife groups, the Gulf Coast Women’s Center for Non-Violence, the Humane Society and March of Dimes.
Why retire now? Many reasons.
“COVID-19 gave us all a lot to think about. Life is precious. Life is short. I just turned 60, and I want to enjoy the rest of my life on my terms.”
“I have also accomplished one of my main goals, to get my daughter through college,” Rhonda adds. “Alex will graduate with a bachelor’s degree from Ole Miss in May and will start two years of graduate school in the fall. She plans to become a speech therapist. I just want to take every opportunity I can to enjoy my time with Alex, my mom and with other family members and friends.”
She says she misses her colleagues and viewers but will keep connected through social media.
In the meantime, her immediate and long-term plans are in the making.
“As soon as it’s safer to do so, I plan to do some travelling; there are so many places I’d like to visit,” she says. “I’d also like to return to the community theater stage and maybe do some television acting.”
Weidner also sees some volunteer work in her future.
“I want to make sure I give back to the community that has given me so much over the years,” she says.
Lacy has been a journalist for 43 years. He is a multi-media journalist and weekend anchor at WLOX-TV.