By Catherine Dunn Original Print Publication: July, 2007
Shari was kind, good-hearted and unbelievably tolerant of personality quirks. It made her a kind of “den mother” as the late Joe Nash used to describe her, to the lost, the loony, and the lonesome. –Friend Debra Anthony, from a blog remembering Shari Dawn Rettig.
“She spoke and everybody listened,” said friend Gladys Rodríguez, “even if she used broken Spanish she got her message through and everyone understood.”
Her friends knew the Christmas party would be at Shari’s house and that she would have the turkey and the stuffing ready. In April they would dye Easter eggs together. They knew she would be available to chat online, well into the pre-dawn hours. And she always knew exactly what to say, even if it was to “mind your own business.”
She was the kind of friend -- loyal and fearless -- who would take turns sleeping in your car to keep it from being stolen.
Shari Dawn Rettig, newswoman, confidante, straight-shooter, died in Mexico City on May 21 after she had been admitted to the hospital with a lung condition. She was 66.
She was born and raised in Ft. Worth, Texas where she grew up with her doting little sister, Dianne. She went away to Washington, DC for college, and, afterwards, took a job as a loan teller in a bank, said her sister, because the building was air-conditioned.
Then in the late 1960s, or early 1970s, Shari and her pal Dolores Anne Smith quit their jobs in Washington, jumped in a car with their dogs and took off. They were cruising the Texas coast after Christmas. It was growing cold; dust and ice storms on the Texas panhandle blocked the way to California. So they drove south into the Sierra Madres.
They had no place they had to be. “We were free,” Dolores Anne said.
Mexico and Shari suited each other. She loved earthquakes, “thought they were a joyride”, her friend Gladys Rodríguez said. She believed in the Virgin of Guadalupe, and several times walked pilgrimages to the Basílica, handing out money to needy people she passed along the way. She addressed the city’s idiosyncrasies with practicality. For example, she hung flags out her window to signal to the gas man and the water man if she needed them to stop by.
Shari’s career as a journalist spanned nearly the entire library of English-language publications based in Mexico City. At The News she became a managing editor, and when she left there, she worked at The Sun, The Mexico City Times, and then took the helm of El Universal’s English section called The Journal. When El Universal scratched plans to launch The Journal as a full-fledged daily, Shari founded a news website about Mexico called Mr.News.Mx.
When it launched in 1999, people in Mexico were asking “What’s a banner? What’s a button?,” recalled Gladys Rodríguez, who was also Shari’s business associate.
Although the business never brought commercial success, Shari tended it until she entered the hospital. Radios hummed throughout her house, her ears to the world. She culled headlines about her adopted country from the Web.
A night owl, Shari’s friends knew not to bother her from 9 to 10 pm every evening. That hour was set aside for her sister; the two would sign onto messenger and play electronic games of chess, checkers, poker and billiards. They also rehashed their childhoods, and spent years moving through the past until they caught up to the present. “We cleared things up, we talked, we joked, we played,” said Dianne Brocker, who lives in Ft. Worth. “We did everything like we were 9-years-old again.”
Since Shari died, decades-worth of friends have emailed her sister and brother-in-law, written about her in the newspaper, and on the blog established in her memory, recalling her patience, her wry humor, the sweatpants she wore around the house.
Dolores Anne, who lives in Ohio, has wondered who she’ll tell things to now at the end of the day.
“There are more than a few people who considered her their best friend,” Dolores Anne said. “I don’t know who she considered her best friend, but I know she was my best friend.”
A memorial service was held for Shari Rettig May 24, 2007 by the American Benevolent Society at Union Church. Her ashes will be buried in East Texas.