A list of reasons to retire in the Roanoke Valley would certainly include its quality of life, its beautiful setting between the Blue Ridge and Allegheny mountains and the access to arts and cultural events and abundant health care.
Alice A. Anderson, a northern Minnesota native, would add Roanoke’s appealing downtown. Alice and her husband lived in a downtown Minneapolis condo where they enjoyed walking to restaurants for dinner until his death six years ago. She initially went back to property she owns near the Canadian border, but always went south for the winter. Next, she tried moving to Charlotte, North Carolina, where a son lives, but found that city “too busy.”
Since her daughter Katherin Elam, executive director of Junior Achievement of Roanoke Valley, lives in Salem, Anderson had for years visited the Roanoke Valley so she gave it another look. Her decision was firmed up when she spotted an ad for The Patrick Henry apartments.
“I said I think that’s the place for me.” She placed a deposit on an apartment in April and moved into the restored historic hotel building when work was completed in August.
With that move, the Harrison Museum of African American Art in Center in the Square downtown gained a major supporter.
“I found a home here and created a place for myself at the museum. I’m the unofficial coordinator of volunteers,” Anderson says. She has enlisted others to work on archives and oral history, and to help staff the desk of the all-volunteer museum.
And, even though she proclaims: “I don’t like to walk,” Anderson, 82, walks everywhere…from her apartment to the museum, to downtown restaurants and shops –“I’ve checked them all out.”
But, Ah!, the Mountains
“It was the mountains; we love the mountains,” says Judy Akers, who with husband Jim in spring 2014 settled into an apartment at The Glebe retirement community in Botetourt County. The couple moved from Fork Union where Jim, 75, a retired Air Force pilot, had served as director of admissions for Fork Union Military Academy. Upon deciding where to retire, they knew they wanted to live in a Baptist-based community, but they were not sure where. Sharon, 74, and Jim were not averse to moving having lived in 18 different places during his military career.
The Glebe, operated by Virginia Baptist Homes, won out over similar properties in Staunton, Richmond and Virginia Beach. A window in their apartment offers a great view of the mountains, looking toward Catawba. On an outing to view fall leaves, they discovered The Homeplace Restaurant in Catawba Valley and liked the experience of its family-style service. Jim also found a Masonic lodge in Fincastle and has scouted out a couple of fly fishing streams.
“I told my pastor that he was always preaching about heaven, and I had found it,” Jim Akers says.
Reconnecting Brought Her Back
Judy Booker Bishop came back to Roanoke because she always loved it. “I wanted to reconnect,” says Bishop, now 70. She left Roanoke at age 16 to attend boarding school in Richmond. She had lived in Pennsylvania and Ohio and was at St. Simons Island, Georgia, when she decided in 2008 to retire from teaching history at a private school.
“I missed four seasons. I missed the mountains. I also like outdoors.”
A daughter lives in Charlottesville, and Bishop did give a thought to that area, but the pull to Roanoke was stronger. She ended up with a patio home in Hunting Hills and a really special reconnection with a former classmate, real estate agent Bill Mangus.
Bishop plays hand bells at St. John’s Episcopal Church and volunteers in the gift shop at the Taubman Museum of Art, where, she points out, she has met people from all over who liked her hometown enough to retire to it. I