HER STORY

Written by Gloria Rudd

Edited by Beth Zollars

10 Minute Read


Editors note

Welcome to the first feature post “Her Story”.

We all have a story.

Transitions, upheavals, the ebb and flow of abounding joy or devastating sorrow.

Flying bright or under the radar, you see her at the grocery store, your child’s school, chairing a fundraiser, working two jobs, or in high political office.

“Her Story” will take an in-depth look at twelve women (one per month) living life their way – on their terms. And as one of my icons would say –

“Unbought and Unbossed”

Shirley Chisolm

I haven’t known Gloria for a lifetime, but it sure feels like it when I’m in her company. Her personifying warmth – dazzling welcoming smile making you feel like her long lost bestie. Her “re-creations” inspire, epitomize and reveal a lesson Gloria learned early in life – ” Adapt or Perish”.

I’m sure her story will resonate with many of you as it did me.

Get cozy, grab a cup of coffee – Gloria Rudds “Her Story.”

FORGING A FAST FRIENDSHIP


GLORIA

Spending time in my adored father’s hairdressing salon in London, I was a precocious three-year-old on my way to creating my work ethic, diligently swinging the giant horseshoe-shaped magnet hanging from a string, intent on picking up all the loose hairpins. My first Job!

Later, back in the staff room, the pins were washed and re-used, no doubt endowing lasting impressions of frugality in my mind which I didn’t bring with me until my adult life.

I was the middle-child bookended by sister Jacqueline and brother Craig and came of age traversing and reconnoitering the London suburb of Chiswick establishing a strong sense of curiosity and independence.

Gloria in Chiswick

Walks with my grandmother along the Thames feeding the swans or perusing the botanicals at Kew Gardens were past-times shaping my life-long aesthetic of style, beauty and spending time with family. My parents, Louis and Minnie mirrored the sentiment by raising and instilling in their children tenacity and resiliency adding to the themed singularity of accomplishment and success regardless of our chosen path.

I am so grateful that my parents gave me a strong sense of self and self-esteem.  We were made to feel special and that we could accomplish anything we wanted to achieve. No question about it and to this day I still feel that way about anything I undertake.

My later teen years were spent in the leafy suburb of Surbiton, Surrey where boy crushes, studies, and makeup all contributed to the transitioning of childhood to young woman.

After my older sister Jacqueline immigrated to Canada, for the first time in my 16 years, I found myself in my own bedroom, much to my disheartenment, I found myself alone in my own bedroom. 

Nothing about it felt good, but it was the beginning of awareness of life’s transitions.

We adapt or perish – I am a survivor.

The house in Surbiton 2018

Fluent in French and excelling in my studies, my trajectory solidified in everyone’s mind but my own.

As a young resolute teen, I continued the pursuit of England’s intense three-year master stylist apprenticeship at my father’s salon on evenings and weekends, which allowed me to attain my master stylist certification at a younger age than had I waited until leaving school thus crystalizing my course and opting out of pursuing advanced degrees. 

At age 16 I became a hair stylist, joyfully landing exactly where I intended to be. Working beside my cherished father in a craft I so dearly loved and meeting the girl that was to become my lifelong, closest friend.

Along my life’s circuitous journey, one of my favorite people was a second cousin (Michael) who moved to the United States when I was four years old. 

The night before his family sailed for New York, their new home, my parents woke me up, took me out of bed, got me dressed and took me to an impromptu night time going away party.

NEVER had that before (nor did it ever happen again) and the memory of it stayed with me, attached to him as something / someone special. 

The family, coming back to England every few years always created great excitement – The American cousins were coming! Visiting the family several times during their visits forged inseparable ties lasting a lifetime.

While every boy in the world preferred playing with my tomboy sister, Michael always chose to play with me, whatever game I suggested seemed to be a good idea.

That’s me second from left age three- Mike age 8 second from right.

On one such trip to England, a nineteen-year-old Michael walked into the formal event both families attended.  At first unrecognizable to each other, but making a beeline to my sister and I (the two young women at the bar), it took only two seconds for us to realize who each other was. The rest is history.

I told my sister that night that I was going to marry him, she laughed hysterically.

15 year- old me crossing the English Channel after professing my intent to marry Mike

After seeing him several times while in London, we agreed to keep in touch and our long distance letter love affair began – writing for two years.  

Our love affair began by writing letters

Infrequent early innocent prose turned quickly into twice daily declarations of love.

Michael, in the Navy circumventing being drafted into the Army just pre-Vietnam, took leave to come to England to see me. One week later, as a newly engaged couple, he twenty-one and me seventeen, I immediately began the immigration process to join Michael in the US.

I wanted to leave immediately but could not immigrate alone, as an adult without a guardian, until I was eighteen years old

Mike on tour in the Navy

After a whirlwind two week visit to New York, (arriving on board the Queen Mary now sitting at Long Beach harbor) I fell in love with the city and adored the man I was going to marry. I hated to leave and travel to Toronto which was to be my interim home while Mike returned to the Navy.

My sister Jacqueline, now a resident of Toronto along with other extended family members, made the decision an easy one for me to join them while Michael finished up his military service. On the map, Toronto was only half an inch from New York and it seemed easy enough to see each other on weekends.  Obviously, that wasn’t to be. 

My love affair with New York is still strong today, calls to me, I love spending time with family and friends exploring everything the city has to offer.

I lived in Toronto for what seemed like fourteen excruciatingly long months with my sister and ultimately my parents and brother who immigrated to Canada after realizing both my sister and I would be living on the other side of the world – as North America seemed at that time if you lived in England. 

Nine weeks after leaving the Navy, Mr. and Mrs. Rudd moved to New Jersey. 

Happiness abounded as Michael left his job as a sales engineer and joined TWA with the hopes of becoming a pilot.  That didn’t materialize but a career in travel was born as was a fifteen-year career with TWA. 

Son Paul was born almost four years later and daughter Mandi two and a half years later. 

Life was perfect. 

I was born to be a Mom, it still fulfills me and is my favorite title of the many titles I have held.

The Rudds on the move! Westward Ho!

TWA moved the family to Kansas where we lived for fourteen months. It was a new adventure that afforded wall-to-wall carpeting, central air – no radiators, a two-car garage and lots of room, unlike our old east coast house. That house offered lots of history and not very much in the way of convenience.

A brand new western styled home, was a big deal and I was hooked.   

From there another promotion came and we moved to Orange County, California. 

I loved my life in California.  We lived at the confluence of Tustin, Irvine and Newport Beach, I could have lived there forever. 

The weather, the ocean, the mountains all spoke to me and my love of the ocean called me every Sunday. I would take the newspaper to read and the kids to play and when the dory fishermen came in at lunchtime, I’d buy fish and go home to cook.

While looking for a home in Tucson, due to another promotion we got word that Michael was wanted in Kansas City. It was a much bigger job, in a city where TWA had 6,000 employees and had a major presence. 

Back to the Midwest.

The job was for a mere three years – maximum, but thirty-nine years later I still call Kansas City home. 

I’ve changed immensely since those early days and reinvented myself many times over.

I recommend it to everyone.  It keeps us current, educated and vibrant which is much better than finding a permanent rut, furnishing it and getting comfortable.

Along with the importance of change and adapting, the people and friendships forged would not be in my life now were it not for all the different paths life has taken for me.

While Michaels career moved from TWA to British Airways and ultimately his own wholesale travel company I found myself with a hot tub/ spa company in a completely unplanned way. 

We had a hot tub in our yard in CA and after a couple of back surgeries the hot tub offered relief to my husband that overrode needing medicines. We planned on bringing one for our new house in Kansas City.

On our house-buying trip to KC, we sold two units… one to the builder and one to a partner of their realtor’s husband. They were not available in Kansas City but people who traveled to California and Colorado were familiar and frustrated that they had no buying access in the Midwest.  

Little did I realize that I was headed headlong into …

Re-Creation One.

Hot Tubs.

As I was still in the mode of “stay at home Mom” and in California thinking “that the garage is our extra room, cars can stay in the driveway” we planned to bring six hot tubs, and all the equipment, fittings and plumbing to operate them on our moving truck. 

I guess I have never done anything halfway.

The first career of an English, French-speaking, hairdresser from London, who became a stay-at-home Mom on both coasts opened a business.

No longer a part-time pastime to keep a stay-at-home mom busy, the inventory was moved from the garage to a showroom – thus the start of California Spas and Hot Tubs in Overland Park and I proceeded to run the company for five years. 

I got involved in writing codes for the hot water industry” which didn’t exist here. During that time I advertised continually on TV, radio and in print.  As the years went by I found that I loved the marketing of my company more than I loved running the business. 

After a couple of years, we weren’t the only game in town and as hot tubs became available locally, every carpenter that wanted a decking job sold hot tubs. We got so many frozen pipes and cracked unit repair calls from their customers and it wasn’t economically sound to hire the people needed to take care of other companies complaining clients.

And so I said goodbye to my first business.

Re-Creation Two.

 Advertising.

I decided to go into advertising since I loved the marketing of my company so much and using my creative talent again would be wonderful.

I chose electronic advertising and became a radio advertising sales rep for KUDL and WHB which were sister stations at the time.

I had no advertising degree which was a requirement but convinced my soon to be boss that I had the best perspective as a client and knew what mistakes radio reps made when trying to sell me advertising. 

It worked well for me and thus began a five-year career, working for Roy Disney who owned the stations under his Shamrock Broadcasting Company.  I became President of the Kansas City Media Professionals organization and became embedded in the industry. 

With the contacts that I made and the reputation I had built I was offered a new opportunity….

Love my power shoulders

Re-Creation Three.

Movin’ on up.

I became a Television advertising sales rep for ABRY. A young broadcasting company that was run by thirty-somethings with a matching aged board of directors that all graduated from Harvard together. 

Their business plan was to purchase underperforming, underfunded fifth stations in a five-station market. Their plan was simple, rename the station, infuse it with money and good programming and then sell it after five years.  Talk in the industry was that this was the place to be going forward and so I joined the company. 

With affiliates of NBC, ABC, CBS, and FOX, KZKC Channel 62 was an almost bankrupt independent fifth station barely hanging on in Kansas City. 

Its employees were paid with checks from a protected account, guaranteed to cash.  The programming was antiquated, to say the least. 

The station’s call letters were changed to KSMO, reflecting the two states we straddled, we moved to a beautiful suite of offices just south of downtown.  We had an up to date studio and edit suites, and we had a ton of new, popular programming to sell to advertisers.

It was a very exciting time to see the change in both the employees and the community, a palpable energy that was missing.  After two years I became local sales manager with a staff of twelve. 

One of my proudest moments was to set up the first job share in the market. 

 Two amazing women with young children, that worked for a competitor, did not want to work full time but had no other options until I invited them to join our sales staff. They became our number one team and they were brilliant and successful. 

At the five-year mark, ABRY’s five stations including KSMO was sold to Sinclair Broadcasting headquartered in Pittsburgh PA. During the following five Sinclair years, I became General Sales Manager with responsibility for local sales, national sales, production, business office, and advertising traffic department.

This also included our eleven national offices throughout the country.  I found it both a challenge and rewarding. During this time I met Will Shields from the Kansas City Chiefs. 

Over lunch, he told me about his foundation, Will to Succeed, a charity that supports women and children that are neglected and abused. Until then it was self-funded and we talked about how we could fundraise and not have to self-fund on a continual basis and ultimately I was invited to join his board.

Over the course of the next several years, I went from board member to Executive Director of his foundation.

My giving back persona emerged.

Stress at work was overriding challenge and dislike for my days overriding enjoyment.

With a lot of changes at Sinclair Broadcasting, I knew I would prefer to do “something professionally just for me” and not for a corporation.

The bullseye was off my back.

Re-Creation Four.

Boss Lady.

I decided that if I placed all electronic media for half a dozen of my clients I could office out of my home, not commute any further from the coffee pot in the kitchen to the office twenty feet away and make a substantial living. 

My background in both radio and television served me well and I was successful with newly found spare time. 

This morphed into becoming a full -service agency. I was one person with a network of colleagues that had done the same as I had, left their major jobs to work on their own. 

I now had a creative director, a website person, a brochure person, I was the copy-writer and buyer.  And so I functioned for a few years. My clients grew in scope and I became really busy, every day. 

Re-Creation Five.

Caretaker.

Late in 2007 my husband of 43 years was diagnosed with metastatic cancer.

And so began my eleven-month journey of full-time caretaker for Mike. 

I decided to pass 85% of my client list to associates, only keeping my two largest clients who oddly enough took less of my time than all of the others. 

Additionally resigning my position with Will To Succeed; it had been a beautiful term but Mike came first and I could no longer commit to giving the foundation my time.  

During the almost year of his illness both of my remaining clients were sold to their competition. Those companies had advertising agencies of their own. 

My business was gone – leaving me with dedicated time devoted totally to nursing my husband. 

He died the following year, October 2008.  I had looked after him day and night for almost a year.

The house was empty and I had more time on my hands than was healthy.

Re-Creation Six.

Healing.

Widow, no business, my beautiful children living out of town, one in New York and one in Denver.

I didn’t recognize my life.

My son was now a father and my daughter now a mother.  I spent the first eighteen months of widowhood traveling between the two of them and friends on the west coast.

In retrospect, I realize I was running away. 

It was lovely to come home to my beautiful house but after a week or so I needed to leave again. 

Without realizing it I was heading toward my next career.

Re-Creation Seven.

Big Slick

Like a knight in shining armor riding into my life, my son mentioned he was coming into town nine weeks later to co-host a fundraiser for Children’s Mercy Hospital; a poker tournament. 

I had heard nothing about it, told him so and he suggested I get in touch with the brother- in-law of Rob Riggle (I knew him from watching the Daily Show with Jon Stewart) who was heading it up. 

We had a phone conversation and by the time we had our first meeting Jason Sudeikis (who at the time was known for Saturday Night Live) was also going to co-host, they all grew up in Johnson County.

My years of Will to Succeed,  along with advertising experience, Rob’s brother- in- law’s experience in the hospitality industry and Jason’s Mom Kathy’s experience as a travel agent combined to give us the first Big Slick. 

I was energized, eager and productive once more. Thanks to that knight in shining armor I had a purpose.

Nine weeks later we were sold out of poker seats, and the VooDoo Lounge at Harrah’s Casino gave the fire department hives since we were pretty much over capacity for the party and auction we held that evening. 

I no longer had extra time on my hands. 

Will Ferrell was one of our first celebrity guests and for nine years we have held a Big Slick weekend every summer.  We’ve added a celebrity softball game at Kauffman Stadium; poker has been replaced with bowling and bocce.

The party has been at the Midland Theater for the past seven years and this year, our tenth will be at the Sprint Center.   

Our hosts have grown from the original three to five with the addition of Eric Stonestreet and David Koechner who are also locally raised. 

The boys all come home for Big Slick.

Our celebrities last year numbered forty-one. 

To date we have raised over $8 million for Pediatric Cancer Research and care at Children’s Mercy Hospital.

Re-Creation Eight.

Making new friends.

Might not seem like a career, but I put as much time and energy into the next phase of my life as I had in traditional career titles.

After eighteen months of floating, the work on Big Slick over, I determinedly set out to make new friends that didn’t know my husband.

I loved, and still love, our long-time friends; they stepped up socially, keeping me busy. We went to dinners and to movies but I couldn’t help but feel (real or imagined) that once in a while they would look at me with doe-eyes and I felt their pity for me which made me so sad. 

I wanted to be seen for me, not the unfortunate person who was dealt a bad set of cards. 

I wanted my marriage to be as much a part of my story as my moves from one coast to the other and to the Midwest, that I had two children and I was born in England. 

And so I accepted every invitation.

Went out at night by myself, which was really difficult for me but did it anyway.  Bit by bit I developed other friends, I became more independent. 

I now had a granddaughter to go with my two grandsons. It was difficult to grasp that my husband would never meet his granddaughter and that the little ones would have no memory of him. 

Never was it so obvious that life goes on.

Re-Creation Nine.

Downsizing.

Another non-traditional career, but It was a full-time endeavor for me.

My daughter relocated back to Kansas City and I was over the moon. 

I didn’t want to live in the big house in the southern suburbs, close to schools and shopping but it was perfect for a young family.

It was agreed that I would fulfill a dream and move closer in to the Plaza and the southern Leawood house would once again be a happy and bustling place for my daughter and grandson. 

There was so much to do.

I moved from one block west of State Line to one block east of State Line albeit over one hundred blocks north. 

My days were spent getting a new drivers license, re-registering to vote, signing up for different utilities and to providing information to banks, medical, newspapers with a change of address etc etc etc.

I absolutely loved creating a home for myself that reflected nobody else’s taste but my own. 

That was a brand new experience. 

I went from my parents home to my married home and now living alone in my own home surrounded by furniture and art that reflected only my taste was something that felt liberating and heady. 

I made so many new friends that live in and close to my neighborhood. I have a full and rich life surrounded by people that love me as I love them. 

Re-Creation Ten.

Back to work.

In talking one night with a dear friend that had an event planning business in Kansas City but operated nationally, we had one of “those conversations”.

The one that starts “what would be your dream job be if you could create it?”

My thoughts, which became deeper as we got to the bottom of the bottle of wine we were drinking, I would like to create an event, empowering women and children, educating but informal.

Additionally, provide a gallery of tickets for the women and children most in need of hearing the message but couldn’t afford to buy tickets and attend.

Hoping major companies in Kansas City would support us and even provide mentorship for the young people.  His response was “let’s do it”.  It took a year until the time was right and we started a speaking program called CHAT. 

It was held at the Kauffman Performing Arts Center, but true to the name, was very informal. 

Deciding the first CHAT would be three separate conversations, a month apart and showcasing celebrities not typically known for making appearances in this genre. 

Launching The Chat Series

We wanted women having a passion for a cause resonating with our audience based on the theme of Empowering Women. 

We wanted them to stay for Q and A from the audience and they all agreed.

Our first guest was Amy Poehler who talked about her website Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls. Dedicated to helping girls become their authentic selves no matter their background or interests. 

Our second guest was Liz Murray who wrote a book based on her life that was then turned into a Hallmark film, “Homeless to Harvard.  Her story was unbelievably compelling.

Our third guest speaker was Geena Davis who spoke about the work she had been doing to provide better roles for women in media. 

It was a great success and we immediately set about creating the next series.  This was to be STEM-focused and on the power of education, especially for girls and our speaker was Malala Yousafzai and her father Ziauddin.

The Chat Series Launched

I was so proud of each of these evenings, we had no empty seats in the theater and I truly feel we made a difference. 

The questions from the audience were sometimes sad and difficult to hear but the advice from the stage and the invitation to reach out after the fact via email assured me we were making a difference. 

But like all good things it came to an end. 

A change of management and a change of focus in direction negated the support for our program so I added another business card to the stack I had created of titles gone by.

Re-Creation Eleven.

Traveling, writing, reflecting.

Certainly not the last but this chapter is who I am today, and where my life has taken me.

I travel now, not to escape but for the sheer joy of it. 

The major part of my life, my married life, was spent with a man in the travel industry and traveling was front and center in my world for as far back as I can remember.

Now I frequently reacquaint with friends on both coasts, my friends and cousins in England and I take trips to new places and create new experiences. 

I still have the need to stay connected to my business experience and so I provide talent for fundraisers, corporate meetings, whether it is authors or entertainers on a part-time basis.

I don’t advertise, (shame on me, with my background) but I don’t want to be so busy that it negates the ease of me leaving town whenever I want.

Now I have more time to spend with my daughter and grandson, I love our relationship. 

I recently adopted a nine-year old dog that is an old soul in a playful body; she is the new love in my life and I am so grateful that she found me.

I am enjoying my friends and get as much a thrill for their successes as I would for my own.

Life is good.

DOLLY


Wow.. truly one of my Shero’s.

Thank you, Gloria, for your beautiful and compelling life story and being our first featured woman telling “Her Story”.

You are most definitely a survivor!

If you would like to have your story featured, please email me at Hello.Elizabethbythesea@gmail.com.

And please comment below about Gloria’s amazing adventurful life!


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