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Updated: Apr 2

by Shanon Weaver

Occasionally, you come across a story almost too big for words. Then, since words are necessary, you’re hard-pressed to tell the whole story in just the number of words allotted.

Such is the case with Rodney and Beth Pirtle of Richardson, Texas. Their journey, marked by a series of serendipitous events and a shared love for performance, has led them to become integral members of the Spectacular Follies, a cherished institution in Richardson and beyond.

Rodney's story begins in the small town of Coleman, Texas, where he was quite the sports star during his high school years. After earning a basketball scholarship, he began a journey that took him to Texas A&M University before eventually finding his way to the University of Texas at Austin – with a brief stint in the U.S. Army in between. It was there at UT Austin that he crossed paths with Beth, a fellow student with a passion for music and education.

Beth's roots trace back to Mobile, Alabama, but it was in Texas where she found her true calling. She spent her summers as a teen in Mexico City and eventually graduated from the American High School there before becoming a Texas Longhorn herself. At UT Austin, fate intervened, bringing Rodney and Beth together in the choir at the University Methodist Church.

"There were about five huge coincidences, any of which, had they not happened, I would never have met her," Rodney said.

Beth added, "Within a year and a half of meeting him, we got married, we had a son, and we graduated from college. I have a degree in Spanish, and Rodney has a degree in Journalism."

Their post-college careers took them in some interesting directions, with Rodney initially writing for Texas Highways magazine before becoming the freshman basketball coach at UT Austin – one of those coincidences Rodney mentioned, involving running into a former basketball adversary on the steps of UT’s Gregory Gym. This would be only the beginning of his long career in education.

Meanwhile, unable to find work as a Spanish teacher, Beth began a 27-year career in special education starting at the Texas School for the Deaf in Austin, where she became fluent in American Sign Language (ASL).

“I got into education because I wanted to get basketball coaching out of my system,” Rodney said.

When their time in Austin ended, life took them to many places over the years, including Port Arthur, TX, White Plains, NY, Columbus, OH, and finally back to Texas – Dallas, specifically. Rodney spent the last years of his career as first a principal and then Assistant Superintendent for the Highland Park School district in Dallas, and Beth retired from Richardson High School in nearby Richardson.

But wait…isn’t this story about the Spectacular Follies?

As if their lives weren’t interesting enough already, Beth and Rodney are also longtime fixtures in the Follies. Rodney's rich voice (and baritone ukulele!) and Beth's proficiency in ASL have become beloved features of the annual variety show, and they love nothing more than captivating audiences with their talent and charm.

For the past 12 years, Rodney and Beth have graced the stage of the Spectacular Follies, the longest-running senior follies in America. They’ve been there from the start, in fact, both as performers and board members. Neither have plans to quit anytime soon.

As they continue to inspire audiences with their talent and dedication, Rodney and Beth offer words of encouragement to fellow seniors.

"Don't wait,” Beth says. “If you have an itch to sing or dance, come out and audition for the Spectacular Follies next year. Or buy a ticket and come to the show…you’ll love it!"

Rodney echoes her sentiments, urging seniors not to let age stand in the way of pursuing their passions.

"If music is in you, it will come out,” he says. “Don't let your age be an impediment."

Rodney and Beth Pirtle are shining examples of the transformative power of art and the enduring spirit of creativity. As they hit the stage for the Spectacular Follies once again, they remind us of the beauty and vitality that can be found in every stage of life.

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