STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) — It was a gift from their children that set the course for Chan-Kook and Lori Rha’s retirement.
After years of running a private medical practice out of their home just north of downtown, their children were concerned about how the Rha’s would spend their time. Their four daughters decided to get them cameras, a printer, a computer and a photography-themed vacation led by a professional photographer, so they could take photos of scenic spots across the country.
It opened a new world for them.
“We went on the first trip and we fell in love,” Lori said.
Chan said, “The professional photographer leads the way and exposes us to this world.”
Today, the retired doctors Chan-Kook and Lori Rha have gone from administering shots to their patients to taking snapshots of anything that strikes their fancy.
The couple have now turned the walls of their yellow turn-of-the-century home at the corner of Second and Bedford streets into their personal running art show of stunning photos they take of landscapes, flowers, animals, buildings and more.
On a recent afternoon, Chan, 75, was outside, working on another of his hobbies — a massive garden of flowers that covers the front lawn. He put down the clippers for a while, to share their story and show off his home.
Chan and Lori met in Seoul, South Korea, while attending different medical schools. The couple married and moved to Stamford in 1968, where Chan was an intern at Stamford Hospital. They had four daughters, who are now married with families of their own.
Chan said they purchased their current home in 1982 and he ran his private practice out of the residence, while becoming a prominent surgeon at the hospital. Many of the old homes in the neighborhood have been turned into offices, and there were several doctors, dentists and lawyers in the area. Two other doctors had kept their offices in the house before the Rhas bought it.
The family watched as the landscape changed around them over the years, with other historic homes being knocked down to make way for apartment buildings. Most of the houses that remain are no longer residences, and have been converted to offices.
“I liked the old houses,” Chan said. “I don’t like the big buildings going up.”
Despite all the new buildings, Chan said he and his wife enjoy living so close to downtown, and their children tell them not to move.
Today, the space that was once used for medical equipment and office space is now devoted to the couple’s hobby.
Stepping inside the house, visitors are immediately struck by the beautiful photographs hanging in rows across the foyer, living room and hallways. Landscapes, seascapes, an old barn in the country and rock formations in the desert are among the many.
Some of the more unique photos include two cheetahs at the Denver Zoo; a sunset in Ft. Myers, Fla.; a farm in Vermont; fireworks in New York; woods in Montana; and the dancing ladies in Arizona. There are also local photos at Cove Island Park and Stamford Museum & Nature Center.
Many of the photographs received awards from the New England Camera Club Council, a non-profit umbrella group for 84 camera clubs in the Northeast.
While they are still living in the same home, they have not stayed put. The photography trip their daughters gave them was the catalyst. Soon after that, they found themselves heading to Maine, Florida, the Midwest and other interesting places all over the United States. At one point, they branched out and went to Iceland, but the couple said there are enough remarkable locations right in this country.
Of all the places they’ve traveled, Chan and Lori said they don’t have a favorite. Chan said the places are like people; each one has its own beauty.
Sometimes they don’t have to go any farther than the backyard. Chan has an amazing shot of a bird in flight that he snapped right behind the house. He said he sat for hours in his hot car, waiting for just the right moment.
Their beautiful garden is a frequent source of inspiration, too, with its dozens of colorful flowers, including black-eyed susans, coneflowers, phlox and Rose of Sharon. Since retiring about a decade ago after 29 years in practice, Chan has spent many hours grooming the yard, he said.
“This is my exercise, gardening,” Chan said. “It’s better than L.A. Fitness. I use all of my muscles.”
Always prepared, Chan shot one of his more striking flower photos — a tiny pink blossom — while visiting a nearby friend. “I went to a friend’s house, and it was a tiny flower,” he said. “It was so beautiful, I took a picture.”
They have so many photos now that they don’t always know what to do with them all.
“Many times we give them away,” Chan said, sitting on the sofa in his living room.
“We made them into cards,” Lori added, reaching into a box of greeting cards on the floor and pulling out a handful.
Visitors to their home are likely to receive a stack of the homemade cards to give to their loved ones. They have a picture on the front and are blank inside.
Aside from the numerous pictures, evidence of the couple’s retirement adventure lies all around. A former examining room is now a studio with two printers and two computer screens. By the front door, several black bags packed with equipment sit ready to go.
“We are ready any time we go out,” Lori said.
Information from: The Advocate, http://www.stamfordadvocate.com