Everybody has a story: An open heart and an open door

Joanie Rich is a mother of 6, a customer service superstar, an exercise lover and a gracious host.

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≈had four kids under the age of 3 at one point. When her youngest was 8, she went back to school.

I grew up in Ogden and after high school I went to Utah State for a year. I was feeling restless so I decided to be a nanny in New Jersey. The family I worked for was Jewish, and it was a great cultural experience. The son of one of my nanny friends lives in Utah at my house right now.

After a year of nannying, I married my husband, James, a few months after he got home from his mission. We have known each other since second grade!

We moved to Salt Lake and started our family. We have six kids ranging from 17 to 27. We had them close together. At one point I had four kids under the age of 3, including a pair of twins. My personality was well suited for raising a big family. Life’s ups and downs have taught that you can’t change your situation, only how you respond — and we choose to be happy!

“We have had 20 different people live at our house from family friends to exchange students.” — Joanie Rich

After living in Salt Lake for a few years, we came to American Fork. My husband owns a landscaping business, and our kids grew up helping him. It taught work ethic and prompted all of them to get college degrees. No one wanted to work in landscaping permanently! It has been nice having the flexible schedule, and my husband is always able to attend family activities.

When I was 42 and my youngest was 8, I went back to school to earn a behavioral science degree from UVU. I don’t work in that field today, but I do love my job as a customer service rep for 1-800-Contacts. I talk to people all day, and I do puzzles while I chat to keep my hands busy.

Exercise is another big part of my life. I grew up running track, and I have done a marathon and triathlons. When I tore my ACL, I had to find different ways to exercise. I walk twice a week with a friend, and on the other days I do weights. I also like this “Classical Stretch” video that my kids make fun of because it is “what old people do.” Exercise is my therapy. It has helped me handle life’s problems and keeps me positive and happy. I am also into nutrition and I love to cook.

Now that my kids are grown and out of the house, I have spare bedrooms that are often filled with guests. We have had 20 different people live at our house from family friends to exchange students. Even when my kids were still at home we had people here. Several times I had to ask one my kids for their bedroom and they were always fine to do it. It has taught my family about acceptance, and we have learned about other cultures like Thailand, Slovakia and Taiwan.

One of the highlights of my week is watching my grandbaby every Monday. Family is everything and I’m so lucky to have them close by.

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Kate Lehnhof Nash first joined Bennett Communications as a summer intern in 2009. Now, as an associate editor, she writes for magazines including Utah Valley Magazine, Utah Valley Bride and Prosper. Kate lives in Springville with her husband Steve and enjoys running, reading, sushi and her french bulldog, Chief.

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