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Gary Rima settling into retirement quickly
Voice of the Panthers was hesitant to step away, but think he’s going to be “OK” now
Gary Rima had just finished baseball practice with his 60-and-over team. A round of golf was planned later in the afternoon Tuesday.
He’s officially two days into this retirement as the voice of UNI football and men’s basketball and he’s settling in.
Settling in very nicely, it turns out.
Rima admitted he was a bit worried about retirement. The 66-year-old who grew up in Strawberry Point thought he’d work until his 70s and thoroughly enjoyed his time behind the mike calling UNI football, basketball and, once upon a time, baseball games.
He’s a man who likes to be on the move, enjoys staying active. He was a bit scared of the term “retirement.”
But it didn’t take long to fully embrace this next chapter in his life.
“Just living life,” Rima said during a phone conversation from The Villages, a 55-and-older retirement “city” in the “heart of Florida.”
On his first full day of retirement, Rima put this message on Facebook:
“... I’m getting a chance to see my granddaughter play her first ever softball game in Florida!! I think this retirement thing is going to be ok!!”
It appears it’s going to be better than OK.
His last season with the Panthers was a bit of a whirlwind, to say the least. He and his wife, Marla Kay, had already moved to Florida in anticipation of the retirement, so every week during the fall, he’d fly out on a Thursday, call a UNI football game on a Saturday, then return to his new home on Sunday.
“It really didn’t work out too bad,” he said.
Because basketball games can be played almost any night of the week, he lived in Iowa during the winter and got home when he could. On his final road trip with UNI, he traveled to Provo, Utah, for a second-round NIT game on Saturday, flew back to Iowa with the team on Sunday, then ended the day in Florida late that night.
“I was in three different time zones,” he said with a laugh.
Believe it or not, traveling with the Panthers is one of the things he’s going to miss most. He loved all the trips, but especially to places like Cancun and the Bahamas with the basketball team or trips to California with the football team.
“That was pretty special for a small-town boy from Strawberry Point,” he said.
He’ll miss his “buddies” — color commentators Scott Peterson in football and Kevin Boyle in basketball — as well as the UNI coaches and athletes.
“I’ll miss game days,” he said. “... calling a game ... trying to paint the picture for those who couldn’t be there.
“I love all that.”
He has had many memorable moments over his 29 years, but at the top of his list is the 2010 NCAA men’s basketball tournament win over top-ranked Kansas.
“That was such a magical time, a moment,” he said. “It was so fun to call. It was just so amazing to be part of that.”
He also mentioned UNI’s football trip to the FCS championship game in 2005 — “that was really special” — and many, many more moments.
“I could go on and on and on,” he said.
But he’s ready for this next stage, the good things retirement can bring. He said the COVID year impacted him and taught him “we aren’t going to be around forever.” He wants to enjoy life without a mike and while he’s still healthy, surrounded by family and friends.
That’s what he and his wife love about The Villages. The sprawling and growing community offers activities like baseball, softball, pickleball, tennis and, of course, golf. There are more than 50 courses within the village.
There are 100 swimming pools, 50 recreation centers, trails and three Town Squares that offer food and entertainment.
“I’ll probably be busier in retirement,” he said with a laugh. “It’s a fun lifestyle.”
And one he no longer worries about.
“It’s going to be different, but I think I’m going to be all right,” he said. “The timing just felt right.”
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