She Escaped A Forced Marriage & Now Helps Others Do The Same

Fraidy Reiss’ story is among the most inspiring tales we’ve ever profiled on the Second Act Stories podcast.

Part of the Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn, New York, Fraidy was married at the age of 19. It was an arranged marriage to a man she barely knew. He demonstrated a violent streak within a week of the wedding punching his fist through a wall and threatened to kill her. Over the next twelve years, she feared for her own life on a daily basis. But she eventually she found a way to get a college education, achieve financial independence, divorce her husband and escape with the custody of her two daughters.

Today, she is the Founder and Executive Director of Unchained At Last, the only organization in the United States dedicated to ending forced and child marriage through direct services and advocacy.

Want to learn more about Fraidy Reiss and Unchained At Last? Check out her TED Talk on YouTube and visit the Unchained At Last website. Fraidy is also featured in Bruce Feiler’s book “Life Is In The Transitions” (which is how we first heard of her) and Hillary and Chelsea Clinton’s “The Book of Gutsy Women.”

Lifequakes & Life Transitions: 27 Minutes With Author Bruce Feiler

Bruce Feiler is the author of seven New York Times bestsellers (including Walking The Bible, The Secrets of Happy Families and Abraham), the presenter of two prime-time series on PBS and the inspiration for the NBC drama series “Council of Dads.” He’s also presented two TED Talks viewed by more than two million people. It’s an honor to have him on Second Act Stories.

We sat down in the backyard of Bruce’s townhouse in Brooklyn for a socially-distant interview focused on his latest book Life Is In The Transitions: Mastering Change At Any Age. It is a highly-relevant book for anyone exploring a second act and we’ve happily added it to our “Best Books About Second Acts” resource page.

For more on Bruce and his work, here’s a link to his website.

After A 50-Year Hiatus, A Return To The Courtroom

Kiku Mehta was born in 1937 and grew up in the Gujarat Province on India. He was trained as a lawyer there but emigrated to the United States in 1964.

When he arrived here in the US, he set aside his work as a lawyer and went to work as a social worker for Children’s Services Inc. in Philadelphia. It paid the bills and helped him and his wife Kira put their three daughters through college.

He stayed with Children’s Services for 51 years. But when the organization shut down in 2017, Kiku was out of a job.

With the help of his youngest daughter and a family friend – both lawyers – Kiku want back to school to complete 41 continuing education credits and pursue the reinstatement of his law license. And today at the age of 83, he now practices immigration law in Philadelphia at the law offices of Stanley J. Ellenberg.

Kiku Mehta shakes hands with Judge Wendy Beetlestone after being admitted to the federal court system in a swearing-in ceremony on February 12, 2020. His daughter Tejal Mehta (left) served as his sponsor.
Photo Credit: Tyger Williams, Staff Photographer of the Philadelphia Inquirer

Kiku Mehta’s advice to others considering a second act: “Do it to help people. My background as a social worker helped me to do it that way. So, money is the last thing on my mind. I joined the law profession to help people.”

We learned about Kiku’s story from a terrific article, “He Returned To The Courtroom At 82 For A Second Act As A Lawyer” in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Special thanks to Mari Schaefer for her excellent reporting.

A Revolutionary Change: How A Financial Planner Became Benjamin Franklin

We first read about Terry Kutz in a terrific article in The Wall Street Journal. Terry had a long career as a financial planner in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. But as a hobby he had become involved in revolutionary war reenactments with a group called the Northwest Territory Alliance (NWTA). And one day an organizer asked him if he’d be willing to play the role of Benjamin Franklin at an event they were putting on.

In retirement, his work interpreting Ben Franklin has become a part-time occupation (or what his wife now calls a full-time obsession). He’s participated in dozens of historical re-enactments and events as a historical interpreter. When we met him at his home in New Berlin, Wisconsin, he came in full historical costume and wearing bifocals – which of course were invented by Ben Franklin. Click here for more on Terry and his work as a historical interpreter.

The bulk of today’s episode focuses on Terry and his second act. But we’ll start by going back to 1776 for an interview with one of America’s founding fathers.

Terry Kutz has spent more than fifteen years working as a historical interpreter of Benjamin Franklin. We interviewed him in a new colonial costume at his home in New Berlin, Wisconsin.

Out of Africa: An Executive Recruiter Launches “American Rhino” Clothing

Chris Welles was a 46-year-old executive recruiter in Boston, Massachusetts. He was happy in his job and he had no plans for a change. But in 2008 he took a summer vacation with his wife, four kids and two other families to Kenya. And the trip completely changed his life.

Today he manages “American Rhino,” a growing clothing brand with a retail and online presence. The company sells shirts, pants, sneakers, canvas bags and now face masks. All of the manufacturing takes place in Africa. And 10% of our every purchase goes directly to supporting wildlife and land conservation in Kenya.

Chris Welles with the Massai Mara Rhino Rangers on a landing strip in Kenya. American Rhino provides critical support — uniforms, boots, radios, binoculars, and patrol vehicles — to this anti-poaching unit.

The products that American Rhino produces are truly outstanding. Kikoy is a wonderful breathable fabric that has the feel and look of linen. Please visit and check the shirts, shorts, canvas bags, sneakers and more. And remember 10% of every purchase goes back to Kenya to support wildlife conservation.

Chris in American Rhino’s flagship store in Fanuel Hall (Boston, Massachusetts).

Conversation With A Contact Tracer: A Look At America’s Fastest Growing Job

We depart from our traditional format with this episode to offer a glimpse inside the world of contact tracing. This is the fastest growing job in America, with the need for an estimated 200,000 contact tracers to track infections and protect the U.S. population against the advance of the COVID-19 virus. For those in our audience who may now be unemployed or simply looking for a new challenge, we thought it would be interesting to learn how the job works and the qualities needed to excel in this role.

We connected with Daniel Okpare, a 30-year-old masters student in New York University’s School of Global Public Health. In addition to getting an advanced degree, he is on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis, working for New York City’s Health and Hospitals Program. He was previously profiled in The New York Times.

One point of clarification…many of the contact tracer positions focus on connecting with individuals infected by the virus by telephone. Daniel’s job is that of a “community engagement specialist.” He goes out into the community to meet with individuals that can’t be reached via the telephone. He typically conducts 4-6, face-to-face interviews per day. Interviews take place in the doorway of the infected individual’s home and run for 20-30 minutes.

We regularly celebrate the doctors, nurses, physicians assistants and paramedics helping to combat the COVID-19 crisis. It’s to add “contact tracers” like Daniel Okpare to this list of healthcare heroes.

Everybody Loves A Second Act … 24 Minutes With Actress Patricia Heaton

Patricia Heaton starred in two wildly successful television series: Everybody Loves Raymond and The Middle.

But it was the not-so-successful series Carol’s Second Act that led Patricia (or Patty she likes to be called) to author a new book called “Your Second Act.” It shares her own story and her new work serving as an Ambassador for the non-profit organization World Vision. The book also details the “Second Act Stories” of 14 other, courageous individuals navigating major, life transitions. It’s an inspiring read for anyone exploring a new path.

Patricia Heaton and the cast of “Carol’s Second Act.”

We normally conduct all of our podcast interviews face-to-face. But with travel challenges brought on by the COVID-19 crisis and the opportunity  to interview a three-time Emmy award winner, we made an exception for the chance to speak with Patricia Heaton via telephone.

Her new book, “Your Second Act,” is on our “Best Books about Second Acts” list.

“Your Second Act” was released on July 21, 2020 by Simon & Schuster.

Humor Me: A Speech Pathologist Finds A New Voice

Susan Goldfein is 79 years old, in great shape and splits her time between Florida and Connecticut. For most of her professional career, she served as a speech pathologist in a range of different settings. She worked with elementary school students, provided home care for stroke patients and she taught at the university level.

Her last position was with the Alzheimers Association in New York City. But in 2008, the organization faced major funding challenges and had to reduce their staff. So at the age of 68, Susan was out of a job and completely lost in terms of what to do.

After some early struggles, she took an eight-week course in short story writing at a community center. And in the footsteps of Nora Ephron and Erma Bombeck, she found her voice as a successful humorist. She pens a blog called “Unfiltered Wit,” has written two books and her stories are syndicated in eight different newspapers across the country. You can check out her writing on her website.

Concerned about COVID-19, we sat down outside in two folding chairs in a Westport, Connecticut dog park – yes a dog park – for an interview. So enjoy the conversation and a few extra background noises too.

In a COVID-19 world, face-to-face interviews are more challenging. Andy Levine interviews Susan Goldfein in Westport, CT dog park.

With Socks, Snacks & Shampoo, Kevin Forms The Blessing Bag Brigade

Kevin Garrison worked the overnight shift for Amtrak helping to keep the trains running in an out of New York City. And in 2016, he was looking for a charitable Christmas project. An online post about a blessing bag – a plastic bag filled with everyday hygiene and food products caught his eye. It proved to be the start of the Blessing Bag Brigade – a non-profit that has delivered 65,000 blessing bags to those in need.

But in 2016, he was looking for a small charitable project to celebrate Christmas. On his computer, he saw a posting about a “blessing bag” – a small plastic bag filled with everyday hygiene and food products that could be distributed to those in need. With the help of his friends, he put together 200 blessing bags. After then after work, he walked around Penn Station and distributed the bags to homeless men and women. He did this for about two weeks.

Four years later Kevin has formed the Blessing Bag Brigade – a non-profit in New Jersey that has distributed over 65,000 blessing bags to the less fortunate. And last year, with the support of his fiancé, he retired from Amtrak and now manages this non-profit on a full time basis. And he couldn’t be happier.

Click here to learn more about Kevin Garrison and the Blessing Bag Brigade.

At 75, Marty Herman Writes The First Of 5 Mystery Novels

If you’ve ever dreamed of writing the Great American Novel, this episode is for you.

For most of his professional career, Marty Herman was a business turnaround specialist. He would come into troubled companies, figure out what was wrong and implement a solution. And then he’d move on to the next company.

But he always had a love of writing – he even sold a couple of short stories in his life. So at the age of 75, and with the help and encouragement of his youngest daughter Aimee, he published his first mystery novel called “The Jefferson Files.” Since then he’s published four other mystery novels, a book of short stories and a biography of a local jazz musician.

Marty loves writing. But he also loves selling his books. Before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, he attended 200+ book and craft fairs each year and estimates that he’s sold 15,000-18,000 of his books in this manner.

Click here to learn more about his work and purchase one of his books. I read his latest mystery, “The First Tuesday Of The Month Murder Files,” and it is terrific.