Charlie and Susan Himes know how to enjoy retirement. For the last 22 years these two River Landing Residents of the Future have been retired and living an active, sun-drenched life as full-time residents of Bald Head Island on the coast of North Carolina.
“I married a beach lover,” jokes Charlie. “I have to admit, I got to loving the beach as well.”
“It has been a blessing,” adds Susan. “We just have loved every minute of it.”
The couple is deeply involved in different areas of the community on the island, including their chapel, the island conservancy and supporting Old Baldy (the island’s historic light house) and the volunteer fire department. (And, yes, they have both fought fires on the island over the years and been medical responders. Although, these days they help set up the rehab area that the firefighters use to recover during an active fire.)
The ocean has had a special impact on Susan, who is a breast cancer survivor (18 years and counting). “Being able to look at that ocean with the sun hitting the waves was so healing for me,” shares Susan.
One of their favorite times, though, has been when their three children, their sons-and-daughter-in-law and 11 grandchildren all join them at their house for family vacations. “We all stay in the same house — our house,” says Susan.
“It’s crowded,” Charlie adds with a chuckle.
“And everybody has a spot,” continues Susan. “To see all of them sitting around the table and playing games and going to the beach together.” Susan continues. “The (grandchildren) are from 10 years old to 24… and to see the way they relate to one another is such a blessing for a grandmother and a grandfather.”
This year was particularly special, according to Charlie, because “we knew that it was getting to be time for us to move off (the island) and we had been looking at CCRCs.”
So why in the world would Charlie and Susan want to leave this island paradise? The answers are both familiar and uplifting.
Having the house on the island, which is only accessible by ferry, is a lot of work as anyone who has spent time at the beach knows. Both Charlie and Susan turn 80 this year. Even though they are blessed with good health and plenty of energy, they decided that they didn’t want to wait until they had to move.
“We knew we had to start looking,” says Charlie. “we decided it would be good to start thinking about the next phase of our lives. Living on an island is great but does have its limitations.”
Another reason for their decision to move is the increased popularity of the island as a destination for vacationers. “There are about 160 full-time residents,” according to Susan. “In the summer, there will be 5,000 people every week.”
“Compared to (other beaches),” adds Charlie, “this is nothing because you can still go to the beach without worrying about stepping on anybody… but the island is getting much more active.”
However, a big reason for the move has more to do with what their future home has to offer. Although Charlie and Susan had not heard of River Landing, they had friends in the Greensboro area who recommended that they take a closer look. It also helped that one of their daughters lives only half an hour from the community.
In reaching out to River Landing, they talked with Amy Rosen, who suggested the Himes come to the community for a “staycation” where they could get a better sense of what it would be like to live here.
“We really fell in love with River Landing because of the people,” says Susan. “we met so many wonderful, friendly people. Everywhere you go (in the community) people were so nice. And the staff is so wonderful as well. I think we’ve found our next home.”
“Hopefully, our final home,” starts Charlie.
Susan quickly says, with a laugh, “Our final home is going to be in heaven.”
“Yeah, but,” continues Charlie, “our final home here on earth will be River Landing. And we can’t wait.”
“Amy’s done such a great job of introducing us to people who have hosted us at meals and so forth,” says Charlie. “We feel like we know a lot of people already. It’s not like we’re going to be the total newbies on the block when we get there in April.”
In addition to the camaraderie and interpersonal relationships with new friends, the couple is looking forward to the activities available at River Landing and in the Triad area.
“At River Landing,” he continues., “the monthly activities will make your head swim because there are so many opportunities… We’re also really looking forward to all the activities and opportunities of being in a larger community and city,” says Charlie.
By contrast, even though the couple was active in organizations all over the island, volunteering, cultural events and access to other activities on Bald Head Island are limited. This becomes especially true in winter when ferries to and from the island are less frequent and stop running earlier in the evening. Even in the summer, if you venture off to go to the movies or to catch a grandchild’s performance, chances are you’ll have to cut the evening short in order to make the last ferry.
“It’s very difficult to get anything done off the island at night here unless you want to be very late getting back,” explains Charlie.
Susan and Charlie have been married for 54 years. They met in 1963 when Charlie was stationed in Germany in the U.S. Army and Susan was working as a civilian nurse at the same Army base.
The couple will be moving to River Landing in April 2020. They have chosen a hybrid apartment in the Aberdeen building that is currently under construction.