Dear friends,

After 35 years of writing this column, it is with a combination of relief and regret that I have decided to hang it up.

From the time I was first able to pick up a pencil and form letters on paper, writing has been as normal and as necessary to me as breathing. A sort of Scribo Ergo Sum, if I may.

I wrote when there was no one else there to read it. For years I wrote long chatty letters to aunts and grandparents in New York, I wrote to uncles in the navy, and to pen pals in Germany and Wales. To this day I still have a pen pal, Diane, with whom I have been exchanging weekly letters for 20 years or more, although we live a scant mile apart as the crow flies (long story there).

I have written reams of mostly bad poetry and kept numerous journals (which I am still on the fence about keeping or destroying) into which I poured my thoughts and feelings for years when no other outlet was available.

My actual 1956 diary, a chronicling of my journey from childhood into adolescence, formed the basis of my very first published piece. Titled “The Diary,” it was published in The Providence Journal on Sunday of Dec. 26, 1956. Not only was it a major thrill, it paid me an incredible $150! I still have the check stub along with the ceremonial first dollar from when I cashed it.

My first and biggest thrill of all, however, had occurred months earlier when Tom Ward, then editor of the Sunday Woonsocket Call, hired me on to write a weekly column called “Personally Speaking.” But getting me onto the paper’s budget took until the following year, so I didn’t make my debut there until April of 1987. My relationship with The Call lasted more than 7 years, until the chaos of changing management and ownership (Tom had earlier left for another job) became more than I wanted to deal with and I resigned.

My second and best round of freelance employment began a little while later, when Tom Ward decided at long last to make a run at realizing his own big dream: owning and publishing his own newspaper, The Valley Breeze. He called and asked if I would come back to work for him, I said “of course,” and so it has come to pass that I have been sharing moments of “My Life” (the big, the small, and the ridiculous) with all of you here in The Breeze for just over 25 years now.

Writing this column has felt like sharing a conversation with old friends and much as I know I will miss it, nothing lasts forever. The time has come to say goodbye. Thank you all so much for your letters, your comments, and the affection I have felt flowing back and forth between us over the years.

I have been assured that should a great story start screaming in my head to be shared, I have permission to come back to tell it, but the weekly grind has come to a well-earned end.

Sincerely, yours truly, and with love, Rhea

Editor’s note: Turns out this isn’t the end after all. Rhea has one more story she would like to tell and will be back next week with her final column.

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