After writing more than 210 columns over eight-plus years—winning two national awards along the way—Anita has decided to take a break and focus on other endeavors.

After more than eight years of getting to know some of our neighbors, I’ve decided to take a break and work on some other things that have been on my to-do list for years.

Before I move on, however, I’m happy to offer some updates.

TOD GOLDBERG: The ever-energetic Goldberg, a New York Times best-selling author and local educator, recently celebrated the publication of his latest collection, The Low Desert: Gangster Stories. Time magazine called it “a stirring portrait of the region.”

DEE WIERINGA AND PAT KAPLAN: These two powerhouses are as busy as ever. Wieringa is managing a senior-housing complex and continuing her work with health support groups, while Kaplan has fully realized Alzheimer’s Coachella Valley as a nonprofit that offers a variety of support groups, now including one for stroke survivors. Closer to my heart, both are still involved with the Dementia-Friendly Café, which met monthly for almost seven years prior to the pandemic. It has now been re-started on the third Wednesday of each month, from 3 to 5 p.m., at P.F. Chang’s at The River in Rancho Mirage.

CATHY GREENBLAT: The original catalyst for the Dementia-Friendly Café, Greenblat is still an active worldwide participant in spreading the word about relational care. She is off to join old friends in Nice, France, for the summer, before moving on to Arles for Les Rencontres de la Photographie.

MATTHEW SAM: “Matt the Master Barber” is pleased to report that as a result of being featured in this column, both online and in the Independent’s monthly print edition, his styling business is thriving.

CINDY MELCHOR: While her business was closed down for much of the past year due to the pandemic, Melchor is in a new El Paseo location in Palm Desert, and is fully open for business—with hair styling and a nail salon. Plus, Melchor is cancer-free. Her hair is fully regrown—and beautiful!

JEANIE RIBIERO: I got an e-mail one day from a man who asked if he could have Ribeiro’s contact information, after he found my article online. He claimed to have grown up with her and hadn’t seen her for many, many years. I passed on the information; Ribeiro contacted him; and they got together to renew an old acquaintance.

BILL MARX: This prolific composer, local pianist par excellence, and preserver of his father’s legacy (Harpo Marx) is going strong, recently completing a seven-minute composition for a symphony orchestra to celebrate the City of Hope. He’s also put a piano score to a restored 1925 film, Too Many Kisses, the first film in which Harpo appeared on his own.

DORYS FORRAY: Now in her 90s, Forray is as active as ever—and was also reunited with a reader who found my column about her on the web. We often wonder, “Whatever happened to …?” Sometimes, it’s not that hard to find out!

HELEN KLEIN: Another of the nonagenarian role models I’ve met and profiled, Helen Klein is still making sure that people don’t lose their creative selves, even though the pandemic put a halt to the “You Don’t Have to be Hemingway” writing club she started. She also began a singing group made up of residents in her senior apartment complex, but rehearsals and performances have had to wait for life to get back to normal. Klein is the person I want to be when I grow up.

BRAYAN MENDOZA: Still working at iHub Radio while finishing his college education and running a book club, Brayan Mendoza is still focused on making people think. “My advice is to do life like a resumé—always looking to learn a new skill to improve yourself.”

DR. DILANGANI (DANA) RATNAYAKE: Despite the pandemic stalling plans for so many of us, Dr. Ratnayake has opened her pain management practice in Palm Desert.

DORI SMITH: While she gave up her seat as the president of Democrats of the Desert, Smith is working with Jewish Family Services of the Desert, with their home-visit volunteers; she has tap-danced her way to the McCallum Theatre stage; and she has managed to golf her way through the pandemic.

Sadly, at least two of the friends I profiled are no longer among us: The Rev. BILL EDELEN and pianist/organist DAN WADDELL. These two men hold a special place in my heart; I am in awe of how centered they were within themselves.

There are so many others I got to know who are still making an impact in their various fields of endeavor.

I also had a chance to share my opinion on things like end-of-life choices; systemic racism and what white people can do about it; and feminist issues near and dear to my heart.

Over the years of writing this column, I developed a set of questions I used when interviewing someone, to discover how they became who they are:

• What’s your favorite childhood memory?

• What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?

• What’s a big mistake you made, and what did you learn from it?

• Who has had the most influence on how you’ve lived your life?

• What’s your most prized possession?

• What’s one thing you would change about yourself?

• What’s something you were wrong about?

• What bugs you?

• What scares you?

• If money weren’t an issue, what would you want to do?

• What makes you laugh? Cry?

• What’s on your bucket list?

• What would you tell your young self?

Finally, I want to acknowledge my editor, Jimmy Boegle, who gave me this opportunity, and who almost always made my writing much better … almost always.

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Anita Rufus

Anita Rufus is an award-winning columnist and talk radio host, known as “The Lovable Liberal.” She has a law degree, a master’s in education, and was a business executive before committing herself...

2 replies on “Know Your Neighbors: After Eight Years of Meeting Fellow Coachella Valley Residents, It’s Time for Me to Move On”

  1. Anita you will be SO missed! Your love of people shines through your words, and nobody writes like you. Thanks for accepting Jimmy’s challenge and brightening our Valley for eight years with your column! Hugs, VJ

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