NEW PORT RICHEY — Mia Rauh figures she'll keep working as long as her job doesn't feel like a job.
Next month will mark the 25th anniversary of Mia's Therapeutic Massage. In August, Rauh will celebrate her 70th birthday, though she'd be happy to ignore the number in favor of calling herself "seasoned."
"As of right now," she said, "I have a great sense of humor."
That good humor, coupled with her penchant for hugging everyone she meets, embodies her personal and professional motto: "Caring makes a difference."
"She started this (business) to do hands-on healing because she's a very caring individual. She loves to help people," said Rauh's daughter, Anne Rauh-Mars, who works as a massage therapist and facial specialist at her mother's business. "She's always been that way, even before she had a business."
Rauh worked in a variety of jobs, including underwriter and proofreader for an insurance company, before gravitating to the healing arts. Her interest began more than 30 years ago, when she confided in a friend at a prayer meeting about the headaches and neck pain she suffered. Her friend told her Bob Broderick who practiced reflexology, applying pressure to certain points on the feet, hands or ears to address problems in the body.
Rauh went to Broderick for treatment. Then she began studying under his wing. After taking a seminar on reflexology, Rauh began providing treatments to other clients from her home. She didn't yet have a license, so she focused on helping people who couldn't afford therapy, and used the practice to hone her skills.
Rauh also became interested in going to massage therapy school. Her inclination became a goal after she shared it with a self-help group and everyone applauded.
"All of these people had faith in me and they all had faith in what I said," she said. "If they were going to have faith and hope in me, why wouldn't I?"
Having dealt with alcoholism in her family growing up, Rauh grew with the help of another support group, Al-Anon, which helps family and friends of those struggling with alcoholism. Rauh credits that program with helping her develop the confidence to go to the Suncoast School of Massage in Tampa at age 43.
Soon after completing her education, Rauh opened her first office on State Road 54 in New Port Richey in 1988, then expanded to her present location on Trouble Creek Road seven years later. In 1992, she opened a second location at the Atria Windsor Woods assisted living community in Hudson, where residents and employees enjoy a discount.
When Rauh isn't helping clients, she plays a few games of mah-jongg on her computer. She is also a Eucharistic Minister at St. James the Apostle Catholic Church in Port Richey and enjoys the church's annual cruises, having first caught the cruising bug in 1986 from her late husband, Herbie, who was in the Navy and Coast Guard. Her greatest love now, though, is spending time with and cooking for her six grandchildren, whom she describes as her pride and joy.
Joan Scott, who has been one of Rauh's clients since the beginning, said she is grateful for Rauh's healing hands.
"We started with reflexology in her home. I was with her while she went to school for massage therapy and encouraged her. I knew she'd become a great business woman as well as a great therapist," Scott said. "She has the greatest hands."
"Her hands are so sensitive, she can tell me if something is wrong in my body and she's usually right."
The ability to perceive what people are feeling is one of Rauh's favorite parts of her job.
"As a massage therapist, you have an intuition. When you work on somebody, you can actually tell that they're hurting," she said. "Nobody has to say a word. And that's what I love about massage."
Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Samantha Fuchs can be reached at (727) 869-6235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.