CT man’s memoir recounts love found after 45 years and other amazing stories


Rich Flanders of Madison didn’t set out to write his memoir, but as the pandemic forced him inside, he began an inward journey of reflection.

The greatest story of his life is that of love, lost and found. Amid tumultuous world events in 1968, the aspiring actor met a smart and beautiful young woman, Anne Tarpey, on his first day at American Music and Dramatic Academy in New York City. The two quickly fell in love, but their romance didn’t end “happily forever,” at least not then.

“We were very much in love, we saw each other in each other’s souls and we really knew who we were,” he said. A week after bringing him home to meet his family, his father died of a heart attack and the resulting grief and turmoil turned everything upside down, sending them down different paths. Each separated their careers and families for the next 45 years until fate brought them together again.

One day Richard was leafing through an old address book and reconnecting with old friends and came across Anne’s name and reached out. By a stroke of luck, he grabbed her the day before he left New York City and the two reconnected as friends, emailing jokes. A few years later, after the death of his wife, Amy, the two met in person for dinner and it was as if the previous 45 years had never happened.

Madison resident Rich Flanders will publish a memoir in late January.

© Edwina Stevenson2021 / Contribution photo

“We have had a great life since and just celebrated our 8th anniversary yesterday,” he said. Anne wrote a show about their love story, “Lost and Found,” and the two performed it together, interweaving their stories amid hits from the Great American Songbook by George Gershwin, Cole Porter and Rodgers & Hammerstein.

He decided to write this and some of the other interesting stories in his life, initially only to share them with those around him. As he continued to write, he realized that there was a common thread that tied these experiences together. Several months and 191 pages later he had a book, “Under the great elm: a life of luck and wonder”, which is expected to be released on January 24.

“I was trying to make sense of all the extremely diverse experiences in my life,” he said. “As I started to write down some experiences, I started to realize that there were some pretty amazing stories and I started to see a guideline as I wrote. “

The fact that he realized he had shaped his life was luck and maintaining an attitude of wonder, hence the book’s subtitle. Maybe these were all the westerns he watched when he was growing up in the 40s and 50s? Describing classic westerns as morality games, he said the good guys win by being positive, expecting good results, and working for them. It’s an approach he’s taken in his life to “trust life and see what’s going on.”

Madison resident Rich Flanders will publish a memoir in late January.

Madison resident Rich Flanders will publish a memoir in late January.

Courtesy of Rich Flanders

Luck and wonder shaped his life and befriended a pair of wolves while he worked at the San Francisco Zoo, and hand-fed them, at his time in the military or at his visit to the Gaza Strip.

Some of the experiences he recounts in his book were a bit poignant, others were fortuitous, and there was a lot of luck. By sharing his stories, he hopes to convey the need to maintain an air of wonder in the face of life.

“That the way you live your life… is going to determine what happens,” he said. “For me, a lifetime of luck and wonder describes the whole process of just being in the flow. I hate to use hackneyed terms but the process of letting go and not trying to be too much in control in life just being in the flow and waiting for good results is where the luck starts to come in. to arrive.

Richard’s theatrical career and his love of travel have taken him all over the world. Some of his favorite early roles were Bobby in “Company” and John Adams in “1776” at the Theater by the Sea in Rhode Island. One memorable experience was when he was performing in “Shenandoah” on Broadway in the fall of 1975, when a musician’s strike shut down Broadway shows for 25 days.

“A story you can probably relate to right now because it’s still relevant today.” [to the recent pandemic-shutdown of Broadway shows] that’s when ‘Shenandoah’ finally reopened, ”he said, noting that several Broadway shows couldn’t hold and closed permanently during the strike.

He says he will never forget the day the room reopens, after the strike.

“The show opens with a picture of the Civil War, the Confederates on one side and the Union on the other and they are frozen in position. The curtain rises slowly and the whole audience, which is packed with standing places, stood up at the same time, screaming and applauding wildly because we had survived, ”he said. “It was one of the most exciting theater times I have ever had. It was an amazing moment because it meant we had survived, it was about resilience like today. The parallels with the pandemic are quite stark. “