A special place to retire

Whether you’re single or part of a couple, Virginia’s Blue Ridge offers a wide variety of options for retirees. It is a place where ‘everyone is a neighbor’.



People entering retirement want certain elements to stand out, when they have the option.

They want a reasonable cost of living, moderate temperatures year-round, a certain level of natural beauty, quality entertainment available, and a good health care system.

It can be and has been argued that Virginia’s Blue Ridge fits all of those criteria.

Those who are new to the Blue Ridge of Virginia and those who are native have seen the evidence and it is overwhelming.

The following are couples who had many options but chose Blue Ridge of Virginia to retire for their own reasons.

Jim Canody, 67, and Sherry Payne, 63, they had full and productive lives before they met. Jim was a professional musician, among other things, and Sherry was a registered nurse and member of the power line crew, among other things.

Their lives were full to the brim before they met, but when they met a few years ago (he was divorced, she was widowed), they were close to retirement age and had to find a place to settle. They found a dilapidated house in a prime spot on Smith Mountain Lake and took on the challenge of renovating it. “It was a knockdown,” says Jim, who has worked as a carpenter in the past. But he and his new wife, who loves a challenge, eagerly accepted a house they believed had good bones and great potential.

Today the home is approximately 3,700 square feet on three levels and accommodates their lives spectacularly. Their social life is full and together they are musicians (they recently starred in the play “Lightning Shall Strike” by her friend Linda Kay Simmons, for which Sherry wrote four songs).

“We both love the mountains,” Sherry says. “I came here as a child. We searched for a long time to find what we wanted to be affordable” and the “teardown” was it. She redesigned the house and together they put the sweat on it. “We walked away three times, but we keep coming back,” says Sherry. “We finally bought it and now it’s worth about three times what it cost us.”

Sherry says the area has always meant “peace” to her and “now I feel it every day.”

They rarely get bored. They not only play music together, but are also constantly involved in home projects, are part of a lively music scene, enjoy eating out at quality restaurants, and have made many new friends. “There’s a lot to do here,” says Jim. “It’s a place where creatives retire and we’ve met a lot of them. … It’s a cultural mecca.”

“The slower pace is also attractive,” says Jim. “We have had all the emotion we wanted. … We are best friends and we don’t like being apart.”

Ken, 74, and his stay-at-home wife Trisha, 72, they were ready to settle down for good during their retirement years on their rural Botetourt County farm, where they had lived for 40 years. But when Ken Ferris’s 40-year-old tractor hit a stump, knocking him over and running over him, nearly costing him his leg, his life changed and his retirement plans took a dramatic turn. The accident left one of Virginia’s Blue Ridge communications technology icons barely able to walk after three major surgeries. “If it hadn’t been for the accident, we’d still be out there,” says Ken. “We were isolated in Daleville.” That wouldn’t work when considering his rehabilitation.

They looked around and found the ideal location in the exclusive new Southwood development on the south side of Roanoke. “This neighborhood has so many welcoming people,” Trisha says. They were immediately wrapped.

“We’re still in transition,” says Ken. “Between the accident and COVID-19, many lives were put on hold. We are looking to find the new rhythms of our lives. What do we want to focus on? I think for me, it will be one-on-one relationships.”

With the sale of the Botetourt County home, the Ferrises would be closer to some of their family (including their daughter and grandchildren) in Roanoke, but there is another part in Chattanooga (a son and grandchildren). They solved it by buying a condo there. They will divide the time between their houses.

The Ferrises have been married for 52 years and have known each other since they were 13. He is a Roanoke native; she was born in Kentucky.

For the past 40 years, Ken has been one of the leading lights in communications technology in Virginia’s Blue Ridge and was part of the founding teams of Fibercom, Millennia Systems and Luna iMonitoring. He has been a leader first on the New Century Technology Council and now on the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council, as well as a mentor at RAMP. Traditional retirement, he insists, has never been a consideration. “In the book ‘Aging Matters,’ the writer says that you retire two weeks before you die,” says Ken. “So I guess it depends on how you define retirement.”

Retirement, he insists, “is not a vocation.”

“He would never retire and sit on the beach or play golf,” Trisha says. They want to “be involved in meaningful things: kids, church, volunteering, and something outside of church.” Ken has been a business mentor, both officially and unofficially, for some time. And settling back in Roanoke isn’t much of a change. “We couldn’t imagine living anywhere else,” says Trish.

They both see great excitement ahead in their retirement years with family and new challenges in a part of the world they believe is best for a comfortable and fulfilling life.

meg hibert he’s right where he wants to be at 76. “Retirement is what she wanted, except for the money. I enjoy weekly wine with friends, gardening, reading, and people watching.”

She is a retired journalist (finishing up as editor of the Salem Times Register) and is now a baker, attending two farmers’ markets weekly in Salem and Catawba. She also drives a 97-year-old Holocaust survivor “which is a hoot,” she says. Her husband, Bill, died in February 2019, shortly before their 50th wedding anniversary.

“I worked full time until I was 68 and have continued part time ever since,” he says. “Was I ready to retire? Financially, no; pretty much definitely ready to plan my own schedule and have fun.”

The best part of his career is still up for grabs: “I continue to tell the stories of other people working as a freelancer for the Salem Times-Register and other publications. I’m The Cookie Lady, and I bake and sell cookies, South Georgia pound cake, peach scones, blueberry muffins and other seasonal fruit muffins and sourdough rolls. I volunteer through the Salem Garden Club and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Martha and Mary Circle, and I sing as a tenor with the Salem Choral Society.”

Their daughters, Meredith and Haley, are frequent visitors, and Haley also has a son. She and her grandson Vinny read to each other.

The changes keep coming. “I recently sold our home of 22 years…and live independently with a five-year-old Shih Tzu and a cat in a Ridgewood Farm condo.”

Karen and Steve Wachnowsky they were busy at the end of their careers and household chores for many years before retiring to Roanoke. They were never fully settled in one place, living in 11 different locations throughout their professional careers.

They moved to Bent Mountain from Giles County, where Steve was a Celanese executive and Karen was the county literacy coordinator. Their children and grandchildren live here. Both Pittsburgh natives were and still are active volunteers.

Volunteering has followed Steve, 70, and Karen, 67. He is a SCORE mentor and she is at the Newcomers Club and, with Steve, at the Bent Mountain Center.

Kids and grandparents were the obvious draw to Virginia’s Blue Ridge, but, says Karen, “the cost of living in Southwest Virginia is affordable and one of the reasons we chose this area for our retirement. We both enjoy the live theater and plan to purchase season tickets for the Broadway series shows for the upcoming season. Explore Park and City Market are our favorite places. We enjoy spending time with friends and family.”

They have never been afraid of the new, says Karen. “Because of Steve’s job, we move every three or four years and treat each move as an adventure. Our children had wonderful experiences living in different parts of America.

“Of all the wonderful places we live in, this area held a special place in our hearts,” says Karen. “The main attraction… is the idea of ​​living in a rural area but still being close to a city of 100,000 people. Before living in the New River Valley, we knew what services were available in the Blue Ridge of Virginia. However, there has been growth in terms of shopping and dining.

“Unfortunately, the pandemic hit six months after we moved to the area, so exploration was limited. Since ‘re-opening’ we have ventured out to visit local sites. We found that there is a variety of entertainment available in Roanoke.”

It all led to “build our home [on Bent Mountain] in mid 2018 and we moved a year later. We have six acres and love the serenity and beauty of the area. The people of Southwest Virginia are genuine and humble. They are always there to lend a hand and provide a kind word when needed. They are all neighbors.”

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