BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - For 32 years, many of you in South Mississippi have been sharing your morning cup of coffee with Rhonda Weidner on Good Morning Mississippi.
Her long, illustrious television career comes to an end Friday morning at 7 a.m., when she starts her new journey into retirement.
We sat down with Rhonda this week to talk about her years covering news in South Mississippi and what she is planning to do next.
“It’s every little girls dream come true to do the job you’ve always wanted to do,” said Rhonda.
And being a news anchor was that dream come true for Rhonda Weidner. She walked through the door at WLOX in 1989, doing 15 minute cut-ins on the morning anchor desk and some field reporting.
She covered everything from the opening of shrimp season to tightrope walkers and live Mardi Gras coverage with longtime morning co-host and weatherman Tommy Richards.
Rhonda quickly won the hearts of South Mississippi, and those those morning cut-ins soon blossomed into 30 minutes, then an hour, working up to the two-and-a-half hour broadcast it is today.
She has no doubt seen and covered a lot over the last three decades. She remembers Hurricane Katrina as one of her most significant moments as a journalist.
“It’s the storm that changed the Mississippi Coast forever,” she recalled. “I didn’t think I’d see a storm like that in my lifetime.”
But through all of the news, some of her most rewarding moments came through the time she dedicated to telling the stories of those in the community and her volunteer work.
From reading to kids at school to the Muscular Dystrophy Association and St. Jude telethons and singing in the American Heart Association’s Sounds of the Holidays.
" I got to sing with you [Karen Abernathy]...Meggan [Gray]....Rebecca Powers. That was great getting all of us together for these events, all for a good cause,” she recalled.
Some of her most enjoyable moments on television had to do with celebrities, like when she got to go behind the scenes at Good Morning America or when she interviewed Pat Sajak and Vanna White.
And then, there was the WWE.
“The last ten years, all the wrestlers would come in and we had so much fun,” she said with a smile. “Those guys get down!”
She even had the opportunity to interview Hollywood legend Micky Rooney.
“To get to sit down with him and talk to him about Judy Garland and his relationship with her. That was special,” she said.
Her work on television led to numerous accolades. She was featured in several magazines, even being named Gulf Coast Career Woman of the year twice.
And while she’s proud of her career, her proudest, most cherished moment has nothing to do with television. It was the birth of her daughter Alexandra.
“All of South Mississippi watched my pregnancy...and watching her grow up has been my greatest joy,” said Rhonda.
And don’t forget, doing the morning show meant getting up and out out of the house at 2 a.m. five days a week, not just for Rhonda but Alex, as well.
“Kids go with the flow. I was dragging her out of bed every morning in the wee hours, taking her to wherever she was going to stay, but she adapted so well.”
Now that Alex is graduating from college, Rhonda says it’s the right time for her to retire.
“I’m like everyone else when it comes to retirement,” she said. “Most of all, I’m looking forward to spending more time with family and friends. And to appreciate what we have right here in our own backyards. I don’t have a bucket list just yet but I definitely will!”
But before she goes, Rhonda had this message for South Mississippi and the viewers she loves.
“Thank you for being there for me, always encouraging me,” she said. “It’s something that made me want to get up and deliver the news for South Mississippi. It’s truly what I’ve enjoyed for more than 30 years.”
The WLOX family will miss Rhonda and wishes her the very best in her retirement.
To watch her final sign-off, tune in to Good Morning Mississippi on WLOX at 6 am. Friday, Dec. 11.