Season 2
46 Minutes

E76 | Andy Ruffner | How I Ended Up In A Tropical Beach Town

Andy Ruffner was born just outside of Cincinnati - and other than leaving town for undergraduate study and a M.A. in Community Counseling from the University of Maryland, Andy spent several of his adult decades back in Cincinnati. He worked in Healthcare, Workplace Training, HIV prevention, most recently as Project Director for the Early Intervention Program at the University of Cincinnati's Department of Emergency Medicine. Andy also taught Sociology, Education and Counseling as an Adjunct Professor at Xavier University, University of Cincinnati and the Art Academy of Cincinnati.

And then, in his early 50s, Andy and his now-husband David Weaver left all of this behind to live in a South Florida beach town. Andy did not move for the perfect next job or career advancement - Andy moved for a way of life. He relishes his new life in his beloved Hollywood Lakes neighborhood and currently serves as Director of Education for the World AIDS Museum in Ft. Lauderdale.

Links in this episode:


To help make this podcast more accessible to those who are hearing impaired or those who like to read rather than listen to podcasts, here are our show notes.

These show notes come via the service. The transcription is imperfect. But hopefully, it’s close enough – even with the errors – to give those who aren’t able or inclined to learn from audio interviews a way to participate.

Andy Ruffner  00:00

We wanted to make the move, not as a retirement piece, but to really establish ourselves in the community as functioning, you know, professionals in some way. So, the time was right both of our David and I are both the youngest kids in our families, all of our family was gone. Everybody in my family passed away. There was nothing really to keep me in Cincinnati at that point.

Achim Nowak  00:33

Hey, this is Achim Nowak, executive coach and host of the MY FOURTH ACT Podcast. If life is a FIVE ACT play, how will you spend your FOURTH ACT? I have conversations with exceptional humans who have created bold and unexpected FOURTH ACTS, listen, and to be inspired. And please rate us and subscribe on whatever platform you are listening on. Let’s get started. I am just delighted to welcome Andy Ruffner to the my fourth act podcast. And he has in many ways lived many people’s dreams after several decades of living and working in his hometown, Cincinnati. And he picked up in his early 50s with his now husband, David Weaver, and settled in a South Florida beach town. And he left behind friends and a history of compelling work in healthcare, training, counseling, and years of teaching at the college level. Unlike many corporate moves that are shaped by a work opportunity, Andy moved to Hollywood, Florida for a new way of life since 2019, and he has served as Director of Education for Fort Lauderdale World AIDS museum. And he’s actively exploring many other ways of serving his new community, and Hollywood, where I also live. So hello, Andy. Hello,

Andy Ruffner  02:05

thank you so much. I’m so glad to be able to do this. It’s quite a group of people that I am joining in this and I am so happy to be able to do this with you.

Achim Nowak  02:15

I am as well and US somebody who I respect and admire in our community we live probably a mile away from each other. Before we get to let me say this, how we ended up in sort of a dream destination. You know, we’re almost case studies of how you do that, and the fact that you can, but when you were a young boy or teenager growing up, and mom or dad or somebody asked you who do you want to be when you grow up, Andy, what was in your thoughts?

Andy Ruffner  02:50

You know, I think right off the bat, the first thing that comes to mind is I wanted to be David Cassidy. So on the Partridge Family that was that I really love, I kind of wore out the album, I think my parents were very sick of it. I really liked to watch TV when I was a kid. And I liked a lot of different shows. And I think I really, I really did want to be on TV or something. Initially, I had this sort of like idealistic view of that that was how life was supposed to be that way. So I think I held on to that for a long time. And then later on, new I wanted to go into some kind of psychiatry, psychology, psychiatry, maybe go to medical school, etc. But always around mental health and psychology. You know, when I was being real, that I wasn’t going to actually be on TV.

Achim Nowak  03:55

I have to chuckle when you mentioned David Cassidy because I remember him. And when I think of David Cassidy, I think of the hair. Right, there was long hair, and Andy Ruffner, at this stage in your life, you’re a bald fellow. So your hair is the opposite of David Cassidy. Right.

Andy Ruffner  04:11

Right. Right. And I thought he had really great hair when I was a kid, but now I know better. But yeah, that is that is kind of an ironic thing that, um, I don’t have hair at all now. So

Achim Nowak  04:25

now, I usually don’t ask my guests about the degrees they got. But I was struck by the fact that you have a graduate degree in community counseling. And my first reaction was, I don’t know what that is. So can you explain to us what community because I think a lot of your passions are aligned with what you actually studied. So could you explain that to us?

Andy Ruffner  04:48

Yeah, I’m not really sure why the University of Maryland decided to call that that major, add the community to it. I think the thinking was that it was based on this idea that not only were you doing individual helping, you know, working with individual people, but that it was in this larger community context, and how you were developing around that. So I think I think that was what they were thinking. And it certainly was a good fit for me, even if I didn’t intentionally go after that, to define that I actually ended up at Maryland because someone I knew from the University of Rochester, I was where I’d gone to undergrad. She had taken the job at Maryland, and I was miserable in my first year out of undergrad, and I had a helping job where I was working in a group home for emotionally disturbed teenage boys. And it was just horrendous. I was complaining to her. And she said, Well, why don’t you come to Maryland and get your graduate degree? And I said, Oh, okay. So that’s what I did. I took a job at University of Maryland and the residence halls. And that’s how I financed the degree. And so

Achim Nowak  06:13

when I came to this country, and Germany, I lived in the Washington DC suburbs. So University of Maryland, I know exactly where that is. And the question that came up for me, because you? And this is a question that I think many people grapple with, you know, because you could have just said, Oh, let me stay in DC and live here and work here. But you went, you went home to Cincinnati, where you were from? And this is a big question for many people, do we go home? Or do we spread our wings and go to other, possibly more exotic places? What took you back home to Cincinnati?

Andy Ruffner  06:47

Well, the joke I always tell people about that is that when I was a kid, you know, the Bicentennial was in 1976. I was 11 years old. And my mom and dad took us on a trip up to the DC area. And I just fell in love with it. And I thought it would be the coolest place to live. And I had this dream of living as an adult in the DC area. And then the joke I always tell people is, but that dream was before I drove a car or paid rent. So I was just floored by how expensive it was and how crowded it was. I was in a relationship at the time. And my partner was also from Cincinnati. And he really didn’t like living there in DC. and Maryland. We lived in Greenbelt right next to the campus. And I mean, it was a great place for a couple of years. But I just realized I would never be able to have the kind of life that I wanted to have in terms of having a home and some little bit of land around it, etcetera. I wouldn’t be able to afford that in DC as a social work counseling type. So we move back.

Achim Nowak  08:11

Well, so you’ve done this wonderful variety of things professionally, I’m going to just just mention a few of them. And then want to ask you some questions related to it. What before you came to Florida, you were the project director of an early intervention program at the University of Cincinnati, Department of Emergency Medicine. And when I read it, it sounds like a community outreach program, you had worked for Blue Cross Blue Shield as a training team lead when you were younger. I’m also I because I was an adjunct college professor for a while as you were, but I’m struck by the by the range of stuff you taught you taught counseling, education, sociology. So you’re like this renaissance man, man of Cincinnati. This is how I see you. Just indulge this exercise, because I think many of us go through this, there are moments when we go. This is why I’m here. And this is why I love what I’m doing. But we also get to those moments like why the hell am I doing this and get me out of here. So if you think of the totality of your let’s focus on your professional life in Cincinnati, what what are some moments where you go, this is why I love what I’m doing, or this is why I love my life here.

Andy Ruffner  09:26

Yeah, you know, when I went to graduate school, and all through high school and college, I really did picture myself as a therapist sitting in an office, seeing client after client, you know, the 15 minute hour and I thought I wanted to do that 40 hours a week. And I very quickly realized I didn’t really want to do that. So when I started out because I had worked with kids and If you’re a guy and you have a social work counseling background and you want to get a job, you can walk right into any job that has working with kids. So I had to, I worked in a outpatient drug and alcohol program, doing assessments and family counseling with kids that had hit the juvenile court system. And I only did that for about a year and a half. But it was a lot. And then from there, I got more involved in went to work for a hospital based Employee Assistance Program, which allowed me to see lots and lots of clients. And it was great experience, but 40 hours a week of it, you did not want to be client number five and Andy’s day, it’s very hard work. If you’re doing it, I think if you’re doing it correctly, you really have to be very conscious of what you’re doing with the client. And it just over time, I didn’t feel like it was the was the right thing. So I sort of moved out of that and got into doing more training and consultation work with the employers that had contracts with this program. And going out into companies and doing presentations about mental health, for the company, and you know, brown bag lunches, those kinds of things, managing change and transition, that was a big one, because there was a lot of layoffs in Cincinnati due to the peace dividend in the 90s. We had a aircraft engines at GE manufacturing was a huge plant, and the hospital had a contract with them, and they they downsized very dramatically. And so we had a lot of that kind of stuff. And I found that I really liked that. And so it had a lot of flow to it, you know that I, as I look back on it, now, it all kind of makes sense about how it all developed. But while I was going through it, I just a lot of the changes that I made were based on wanting more flexibility, more leisure time. And that type of thing, rather than it being this sort of career hunger. And then. But as it all played out, it really did organize itself so that it just sort of sort of fit. And be

Achim Nowak  12:29

let me test something you use one of my favorite words in that phrase, you said it had a lot of flow to it. This is what I hear when it goes with the Word Flow. Because it has two meanings to me one, everything happens effortlessly and with full involvement or engagement. But what I’m also hearing from you is that you valued flexibility, unpredictability, not doing the same thing every day. Are those are both of those things true for you?

Andy Ruffner  12:59

Definitely, definitely, yeah, I really do. Enjoy that. And I’m thinking I’m more more aware of that and more comfortable saying that today than I would have been, say 10 years ago, about myself. But I think that that’s that’s been a constant in my professional life.

Achim Nowak  13:22

Yeah. A lot of I think our listeners, especially if they’re in the fourth act, I have learned people have worked full time for a long time. They don’t want to do it anymore. But they liked the idea of doing something. Often it can mean consulting, using our word skills, but using them a different way. And you did for a while you left full time employment you did consulting, your consulting company in Cincinnati. And then you went back to do to getting a full time role. Many people are also terrified of consulting. So what what was it like for you to say, wait a minute, my next My next gig in life is I don’t want to work for somebody I want to consult. Is that part of the flexibility? Or where did that come in?

Andy Ruffner  14:12

Totally about the flexibility because what happened actually, I did have a job. I worked for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield. And it was a weird little foray I made into the world of it actually. I was a training supervisor, I managed a team of trainers to train up on a new case management software that Anthem had developed for itself. And it was across three different states. So it was a really weird job for me to do, but I was wanting more money that was kind of the place to go. I’ve been doing a lot of work with managed care companies, etc. So what happened is It was y2k. So we were getting ready to go into y2k. And my friends and I, my partner at the time, and my friends, we decided that we wanted to ring in y2k in Rome. I wasn’t allowed to take vacation, because we all had to be ready for whatever was going to happen to our computer systems for y2k. So I was walking my dog down in this business district that was next to my home in Cincinnati. And I saw this office space for rent sign. And I went in, I literally went into the building, the guy that owned the building was he was a tailor, he had a shop on the first floor of the building. And the office upstairs was an old apartment, it was a really one bedroom apartment that had French doors into this living room. And the rent was really reasonable. And I figured out that I could afford to do this, and I was already teaching part time on the side. So I thought, this will be enough to get started. So like, got in touch with a friend of mine. And we opened up a Counseling and Consultation practice, because I thought I could, I could swing it. So it was a really lean, it was a really lean first year. And I did a mix of doing therapy I had, I probably saw about six people a week, doing therapy, and then I was looking for different consulting gigs. And then I finally got a huge consulting gig with a hospital system to do a training on everybody in the system, all the employees of the system on professional boundaries and patient care. And that’s sort of how that all evolved. So what was going to be just this freelance, sort of corporate gypsy kind of life that I sort of envisioned for myself, and ended up being one major, major contract that ran for almost two and a half years.

Achim Nowak  17:12

What I appreciate about the story, that many things, but the sometimes a change in our lives is triggered by something simple, like, oh, this would be a great office, I like this, and I can afford it. So it was it seems almost, that’s not the right place to start. But in other ways, it’s the perfect place to start. Right? And right,

Andy Ruffner  17:31

yeah. If worst case scenario, I’d be out the money for the nice furniture I bought, you know. So it worked out for a long time. And then until it didn’t, the reason I stopped doing it is because I decided to go back to school and work on a doctorate in sociology. And so that’s what got me out of it, and then wandered into this other job at the university that sort of took over my life.

Achim Nowak  18:04

So I want to bring the conversation to how you got to South Florida. And I want to set it up this way. When I tell people that I live in the south Florida beach town, I would say every other person. And I travel a lot to say, I want to do that sometime. You know, I’m tired of the cold winters. I’m tired of this. I’m tired of that. When this happens, then I will also move to Florida. And you were I moved to Florida when I was 48. You were a little older than I was in your life. I’m older than you now. But in terms of your life story. I think we both didn’t move here to retire. That’s so the old Florida cliche. We moved here to start something new. How did the idea of living in Florida start in how long did it take for you to get from the idea to saying Darn it, I think I’m going to do this.

Andy Ruffner  19:02

It’s a pretty old idea. I think for me, what happened is that I had a good friend that lived down here and hallandale and he had this beautiful condo, right on the Intracoastal that looked out on to where the diplomat is now I watched them build the diplomat when we would come down and visit him and so

Achim Nowak  19:23

for our non Florida listeners, a diplomat is a famous old hotel in Hollywood. It has had different iterations. But it’s a landmark in Hollywood beach.

Andy Ruffner  19:34

Yeah, contextually. It’s a My friend was the head of the design school at University of Cincinnati. And he had retired and so getting to watch this building go up. And it was it’s a very dramatic building. But like many people in our area, there’s a big headache in Hollywood where federal we’re us one crosses Hollywood Boulevard. There’s a US traffic circle. And, you know, we Americans can’t handle the traffic circle. It’s very, very stressful for people. So we cut through this neighborhood that I’m living in now called the lakes on Hollywood lakes. And I just couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. And it was, I’ve always had a really soft spot for pedestrian areas, you know, being able to live in an area where I can walk out of my house and go to dinner, or go to a movie, or, in this case, also go to the beach. And I just couldn’t believe how nice this neighborhood was and how reasonable it was in price at the top. So I, I started, you know, sort of pining over it almost 20 years ago, and looked around a lot of other types of communities, and up and down the coast and trying out different things. And David, also, my husband, he also loves the beach. So we started looking in earnest. It just was sort of like, I joke that an alarm clock went off when I was 50. And you know, it’s time to go to Florida. But like you, we wanted to make the move, not as a retirement piece, but to really establish ourselves in the community as functioning, you know, professionals in some way. So the time was right, both of our David and I are both the youngest kids and our families, all of our family was gone. Everybody in my family passed away, there was nothing really to keep me in Cincinnati at that point. And David’s Job was a national job so he could move, it didn’t matter because he worked from home.

Achim Nowak  21:57

A word from your sponsor. That’s me. I invite you to go to the website associated with this podcast Fourth, you will find other equally inspiring conversation with great humans. And you will also learn more about the my fourth act mastermind groups where cool people figure out how to chart their own fourth acts. Please check it out. And now back to the conversation. So the lakes, which is a beautiful neighborhood where you live, I live in an adjacent neighborhood. And I love your neighborhood. I love mine for different reasons. Boy, so I’m hearing it was was a long, slow seduction, and you kept coming back to it. I want to ask this question because we’re talking about the importance of place and how place calls us right. And the beauty of getting older is that we can make choices more around place than around career, right, which is what you did. But Hollywood, which is the city we’re talking about is wedged in between two bigger unknown places Fort Lauderdale to the north, Miami and Miami Beach to the south. And Fort Lauderdale. Especially gay men often go there because as well in manners, it’s a very gay identified City, Miami Beach and Miami has a lot of history. It’s Cosmo tovala International. And Hollywood for a long time. No longer was this little somewhat forgotten sleepy beach town in between. Did you consider other cities? Or was your heart really set on exactly what the lake center

Andy Ruffner  23:45

for? Pretty much pretty much heart set on the legs. But, you know, we went and looked in other places. We went to Savannah, Georgia, and looking at houses with a real estate agent. We also looked at Charleston. And I didn’t really have any interest in any other city in Florida, other than here, and I didn’t we didn’t want to be in either. We looked at neighborhoods to compare but I really think for me, some of the draw for this is I’m from originally a small town outside of Cincinnati and we lived in town was a farm town but we lived in the town and again, lots of walking. And I spent a lot of time there with my grandmother growing up in the summers. And I think that was the draw for this is that it was it felt like a small town and it really does a lot of times a joke with a lot of people that it’s like Mayberry in a way.

Achim Nowak  24:53

Hollywood has a small town feel to it even though we’re we have 160 170,000 people but It doesn’t feel that way right

Andy Ruffner  25:02

now. Yeah, yeah. And it’s Yeah. So I really do feel, you know, this, this was a major thing for us and a major accomplishment in our, in, in our relationship to, to come here and sort of realize this dream that we had had. And I think that makes both David and me feel really good about our lives and how how they worked out on.

Achim Nowak  25:32

Now my understanding is and I want to probe a little bit, your early 50s. And you you moved without having job security, right. And that’s a leap that can be terrifying to some people to really, you know, and I want to frame it as this was a lifestyle choice. It wasn’t a career choice. What kind of thoughts or feelings did you have around giving up? What I assumed was a fairly secure job for living in this enchanted neighborhood that you always pined for, but you didn’t have a job? Did that play out for you?

Andy Ruffner  26:07

Well, it was really, it was really bizarre, because I had been working in this public health prevention program that was in a hospital emergency department in Cincinnati. And three or four years before I left, the job is when the opioid epidemic hit Ohio. Yeah. And it was horrible, the effect that it had, and it took me back all the way to the first counseling job that I had in the drug and alcohol rehab. And just the difficulty in working with these patients and trying to, to intervene, and it, it really wore me out. And so I was really ready to not do anything with that anymore. And I thought, I’m really done with HIV. In terms of working in HIV, because I’ve been working on it. I’ve been around it my whole adult life. Yeah, I had lost two partners, to HIV, one in 1991, and then one in 2006, just before I went to work for the University, or right at the beginning of me working for the university. And so I never really thought I was in. Even though I was in these two relationships, and I lived through all this stuff. I never really thought I was part of it. I was part of the history or the story. And neither of them really wanted to really have a lot of public discussion about HIV. Yeah. So I got to this point in the job where I just felt like, I don’t need to do this anymore. Yeah. And like I said, it’s sort of worked out with these other things that the loss of my, my family of origin, and you know, David, we had just been through death after death after death for three or four years. And I just thought, well, let’s go. Let’s go see what happens. Because at least it will be beautiful. And so that’s what I did. I really, I really thought at that point that I would like to get a job in a plant nursery is what I really wanted to do. Yeah. And then I kind of wandered into back into HIV a little bit. Because once you work in HIV, you kind of get ruined for other careers, because of the brutally frank conversations that you end up having to have, yeah, to be able to work on this. And that’s when I started volunteering with a planning council for Ryan White services. It’s the Ryan White Program is an insurance program to make sure it’s a safety net for folks who are living with HIV if there’s no other health insurance. So I kind of volunteered my way back in and then was just networking with someone who happened to be the new executive director for the World AIDS Museum and ended up there.

Achim Nowak  29:23

So I want to dig some more because what I’m hearing when you’re saying is I wanted to get out of it, but then I was volunteering. There’s a part of you. Clearly that’s that loves to be of service in that world. Am I hearing that correctly?

Andy Ruffner  29:39

Yeah. Yeah, I think that that’s true. I definitely

Achim Nowak  29:44

the World AIDS museum. It’s an interesting and wonderful name. And again, I’ve been HIV positive since 88. And healthy thank goodness, but I’ve lived with this my whole life. And my thought around it is younger generations from me do not remember what happened on what it was like. So the idea of a museum makes sense to me. And I was startled to hear that that existed in Fort Lauderdale. But would you give us a sense of the sort of work or the mission of the museum and what you do an education there?

Andy Ruffner  30:19

It is a really interesting and important place. I think there’s sort of like there’s sort of a family of these kinds of museums of, you know, the National Holocaust museum would be another example, Cincinnati, we had the national Underground Railroad Freedom Center, and to really chronicle things that had happened. And I think a lot of people when they hear it, they’re sort of taken aback. When I say, I worked at the World AIDS Museum and educational center, they’re kind of like, what, you know, who would do that? Who would go to that. And the main mission of it is to chronicle this history, and really help people understand not only the loss factor, and the stigma, which really continues to fuel the pandemic worldwide of HIV, I mean, it’s, the stigma is what keeps us from getting anywhere. And, you know, the numbers don’t go down. We, it’s just so there’s this whole thing about, you know, those who don’t remember the past are condemned to relive it or the you know, I’m not saying that right, but, um, and I think that that’s the really important work of the museum. So like one of the really cool things that happened at the museum, there’s a professor at NOVA in the medical school and Optometry.

Achim Nowak  31:48

And he said, and televise is a prominent university for our non Floridians here in Broward County, where by Lauderdale and Hollywood are just made some context,

Andy Ruffner  31:58

right? Yeah, yeah. So it at Nova Southeastern University, this professor sent his entire clinical practice class to the museum, they had to come and visit the museum and then write a paper about it, which I thought was really wonderful. And I wish more physicians would do that, because there’s so many pieces to the story of HIV AIDS that help inform a lot of things in medicine that we don’t even realize. So, for instance, universal precautions, in terms of gloving up. We didn’t do that. Pre 1985. Yeah, that wasn’t standard clinical practice. But it is now a lot of patient rights, things that come up, came up from the work of activists of people who were living with HIV. Who, who said, This is how we want to be treated, we sort of launched this whole patient rights movement. So there’s all these great things that I think people can learn from it. And we do all kinds of different programs to help people understand what the experience has been. And to, you know, the the tagline for it is document, remember and empower. I think the empowering thing is, is really incredible. And it’s one of the great things about working there, because you can see it happening. You can see people feeling that,

Achim Nowak  33:33

you know, you you just a minute or two ago use the phrase phrase loss and pandemic. And my first thought went to COVID, and a million people dying, and pandemic and the current modern context. But it also makes me think of the many differences and also the parallels right and global pandemic that we’ve been going through. Well, there’s so much we could talk about, just about the World AIDS museum, but in the spirit of the fourth act. You’ve been there since 2019. And I understand you’re about to embark on another professional transition where you’re going to continue to work with a with a World AIDS museum and a more consultant way and go back to your consultant days. Which to me as as you you’re in your late 50s. Now, as you chart your life makes sense to me, but can you help our listeners to understand your thinking process around? I hear flexibility and freedom, but I don’t want to impose that on you.

Andy Ruffner  34:38

Right? Yeah, so that’s definitely a piece of it. But I really am committed to Hollywood, honestly. And I really want to get more involved in my community here to help try to preserve what I perceived to be A way of life here that is somewhat threatened by development. And not necessarily that not that all the development is bad, but thinking about, you know, how can I get more involved in helping the city and really realize a lot of its potential, it’s got a lot of potential, but it could really easily be ruined by

Achim Nowak  35:36

what Hollywood is going through the classic tension between the need to develop, but without destroying What’s so special about it, and how how to figure that out is their conflicts, debates and disagreements. And it’s, it’s an especially as many of us don’t want to see what’s happened in some of the neighboring cities. Right? So we’re conscious of that. What are some specific ways in which you see yourself getting more involved in the community that can help shape the future of a, of a place that you’ve loved for a long time even be away before you came here?

Andy Ruffner  36:16

Yeah, I, um, I think what I’d like to work on is helping people to see what it is that makes this such a great place. And terms of I’ve been doing a lot of work on oral histories at the museum. Yeah. So in a similar way, I think that’s something that can be done here, to really make people fall in love with Hollywood again, or maybe for the first time. We’ve got a 100 year anniversary coming up in a few years for the city. And I think that’s a real opportunity to highlight what a great place it is. And I think that the whole, the whole thing here, I think is really fascinating, in terms of the way the community has developed over time. And this whole dilemma, like you said, of balancing, keeping what’s special here, but also growing it. What I’m looking to do is to help work with the Chamber of Commerce, I got involved in leadership, Hollywood, last year, I did that program, which is a nine month leadership program that you learn about yourself, you do team, a team service projects. And you learn all these things about the city. And I think that’s where I’d like to put myself is in some kind of a role that helps people to articulate and get this this message out about what makes it great. And that I think will increase civic engagement. So thinking about, you know, can we help train people to be able to serve on community boards and those kinds of things, or to run for public office? Here in Hollywood, I do not want to run for office myself. But I do want to contribute to the life of the city, because I want to keep it great. So I’m having a hard time. It’s a bit of a jump. But I really want to concentrate on that. And I feel like I’ve done enough with the HIV side that I can turn toward this now.

Achim Nowak  38:42

I appreciate how you’re connecting some of your work to the ways in which you want to be helpful in the city and the connections are pretty obvious to me. I just want to take you to a personal question, because you and your husband, David Weaver, who you mentioned repeatedly, we’ve moved here together, you’re starting to live, but he actually got married here just a little over two years ago, in the lakes I’ve seen as a beautiful photo, the moment and the ceremony, and that the location where you got married. I’ve driven by it so many times. I know this spot really well. I’m curious, had you plan to get married when you moved here? Did that emerge out of the journey of making a big change together? How did that come about?

Andy Ruffner  39:31

Well, that’s really interesting. I don’t think either of us. Were really that hot on the idea of getting married or felt like that it was really important. For me. I think some of my own hesitation about it was after losing two partners. I kind of just felt like it didn’t make any sense to do it. And it was sort of it felt False to me. Either you are committed or you’re not. And I was. So what happened for us is that, honestly, of George Floyd, this is gonna sound really bizarre, but during the lockdown and everything and then seeing that moment, yeah, George Floyd. And the way that the reactions went with that, and just the rhetoric that was starting to go around, we thought we better do this, because it might go away. And it’s, it’s something that it just seemed like the right time. And then the other thing that I joke about is that we probably also watch too much Hallmark. But it just seemed like it just sort of came to us that this was the right thing to do. And I, I’m, I’m glad that we did. But I really don’t think it changed anything for me and my thinking about it. And nor did it for David, because I very much understand and feel like I can make a commitment without that.

Achim Nowak  41:20

Yeah. But I just so appreciate the way you said that. Yeah. It’s a question I asked every guest I’m curious based on. And I think as we’re listening to you, we get a sense that you’ve, you’ve experienced a bunch of loss in your life with with your partners and family. You’re in a wonderfully committed relationship. You’re in a town you’ve been wanting to live in for a long time. And you made that happen. Based on what you know, now, if you had a chance to whisper some advice into the ears of younger Andy not to change anything in his life, but But what have you learned that what you would want him to know about life?

Andy Ruffner  42:02

Wow, that’s, you know, that’s? That’s a tough question. I mean, I don’t I don’t want to say that. I feel like it’s something like don’t worry about the future. You know, things will work out. Whatever, whatever happens, which is funny, because when I was a little kid, I used to love to sing at the piano with my mom. And our big song was K serasa. Ra. I don’t think it gets any gayer than that. But it really, I think that that really is true. And that would be the advice that I would give to myself, because, you know, I’m kind of a worrier, and about what the future is going to hold. And you know, you just can’t You can’t predict what it will be. I mean, it’s an it’s, it’s, whatever it is, it’s going to happen. So stop worrying about it.

Achim Nowak  43:18

As we wrap up, first of all, thank you for the gift of this conversation. But I, we just scratched the surface of the wonderful work of the World AIDS museum. It’s important work. So if anybody’s curious and wants to learn more about the work you and your colleagues are doing there, where would you like to direct them?

Andy Ruffner  43:36

We have a website, it’s the World AIDS And we were having trouble with it yesterday, it was down, but it’s got a lot of great information on it. And it’s a work in development. And they can also visit the museum in person if they’re here in Fort Lauderdale. We’re open Monday through Friday from 11 to five right now. We’ll be expanding into some Saturday hours, I think after the new year, but I really encourage people to have a look at it because the great thing we’re in a incredible building. It’s a cultural hub. It’s called Art serve on here in Fort Lauderdale that houses another museum, the Stonewall National Museum and Archives as well as other arts organizations. So there’s this really great cross section of experiences that people can have when they come to see us in the building. What ends up happening is that people who didn’t mean to come to the World AIDS museum kind of wander in and then they start reading and seeing the exhibits. And the main thing of the museum is sort of a chronology and then they realize all these things that they had never known before about it. So that’s been a really great thing. So I would encourage people to Even if you’re not gay or if you don’t have HIV or have been around HIV, there’s an incredible story there if you let yourself check it out.

Achim Nowak  45:11

Thank you so much, Andy. And continue to enjoy your bike rides to the beach. Okay. All right. Thank you. Bye bye for now. I like what you heard. Please go to my fourth And subscribe to receive my updates on upcoming episodes. Please also subscribe to us on the platform of your choice. Rate us give us your review and let us all create some magical fourth acts together. Ciao


Stay Connected to Get The Latest Podcast Alerts

Congratulations! You have successfully subscribed. We look forward to staying connected with you!