Sun Cities Today Blog

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Archive for the month “February, 2011”

“The Place Just Hugged Me!”

You’ve got to love it: I walked into the Del Webb Sun Cities Museum the other day just as a gentleman was leaving. The docent said he had been through most everything twice and was thrilled at what he saw. They said he laughed through the video The Beginnings and marveled in the Del Webb room at his accomplishments. His attention to detail was above what we find in most visitors. That’s nice to see.

The best part came when i was chatting with the one of the docents and she told me with a glimmer in her eye, she loved these words from him the best; “The place just hugged me.” He had told her his story of finding Sun City and when he first got here, that was the immediate sensation he got. The community opened its arms and enveloped him in its warmth (okay, so i embellished that a bit, but i too loved his comment and find it one of the best i’ve ever heard or read describing Sun City).

Interesting in that i noted he had Canadian plates on his car and he was a big man, not some weepy eyed little geeky looking thing. Come on, a man’s man isn’t supposed to talk like that is he? Lighten up, i’m pulling your chain a little bit. I do get it; Sun City is the kind of place that appeals to so many different people on so many different levels, you could never pigeonhole (gee wiz, did i just use that term?) them.

It should be noted, many of my dearest friends are Canadians. The one common denominator amongst them is they love to get here in the fall and hate to leave in the spring. I think the Canadians on par are a happier, easier going bunch and Sun City is that kind of place; less stress, less pressure, more to do and more opportunities to enjoy life. It works well for them other than they have to leave. They need be in their country for at least half the year for their health insurance and if they are in our’s longer than six months there are United States tax consequences.

Let me just close by saying thank you to the Museum visitor who coined the phrase; “the place just hugged me.” I cannot think of a better term of endearment to explain why Sun City is so loved by so many. Brilliant!




What could possibly motivate 4 old guys averaging 70 years of age to travel 2400 miles by bicycle? To ride from Sun City Arizona to Sun City Center Florida in the early morning chills of the panhandle of Texas to the steaming afternoon heat in Louisiana? No matter how much they trained, they’ll wake with aches and pains, bumps and bruises yet never once question why they did it? They will endure 60 nights of strange motel rooms, different cities and towns and almost assuredly beds that have seen one too many a traveler.

Such a tough question with such a somber, sad answer. Nothing can be more compelling than this story. It’s the face of an 8-year-old young girl, one filled with life ready to be and do so much; then in the tragic blink of an eye, she tells mom her knee hurts. A quick trip to the doctor and the gripping news she has osteosarcoma cancer. That didn’t stop Sammy Rotman, she spent the next two and half years trying to cram a lifetime into those young and short-lived years.

She battled all the way, and she faced it like a trooper. She inspired people around her and brought out the best in people. When she finally left us, her grandparents saw an opportunity to make something good from something so horribly wrong. Mike and Lois Libenson live in Sun City Florida. They began planning a fund-raiser for pediatric cancer. Unlike most of us oldsters who see bake sales and raffles as the chance to do something to raise a couple of bucks, they dreamed much bigger. Much like Sammy lived, they wanted to live large and make a real difference.

Plans began two years ago, and we are within a week of the kickoff off this most magnificent journey. Joining Mike on this trip is John Bear, Mike Brown and Adolf Lux. Lois will be driving the support van and hauling the medical supplies (she took EMT training to be properly prepared) and spare bike parts for the inevitable breakdowns. They know this won’t be easy, but they also know it will be nowhere near as tough as what Sammy endured.

They arrive from our sister city on the east coast on February 28. On Tuesday March 1 they have a full schedule of events. The one open to the public will be at 7 pm that night when they appear at the Next Gen club meeting. It will be held at the new Fairway Rec Center in the Arizona Room; there will be cheese and veggie platters along with cake and coffee. The meet and greet party is being hosted by the Next Gen’ers with finacial support from the Sun City 50th anniversary committee. It will be a great opportunity to join us, no matter what your age, just remember to bring your checkbook, a couple of dollars to drop in the jar or even your loose change will be much appreciated.

The real fun will be the next morning. We are inviting all Sun City residents to give them a proper Sun City send off. For those really adventurous folks, dust of your old no speed Schwinn, put some air in the tires and come on down to the Sundial rec center. We’ll be there at 7:30 am with coffee, juice and lots of sweets to jump-start you with some carbs and calories you can peddle away as we ride them to the border of Sun City. Seriously, we want anyone interested in joining us to feel free to come to this event. Clearly this ride/fund-raiser is bigger than Sun City.

We will be leaving the Sundial parking lot at 8:30 am. Those of you into biking may want to join them as they head to Phoenix Children’s Hospital via the bike trails and then on to Tempe to spend the night. One of the aspects of the trip that makes it so exciting is they will be doing numerous stops like this along the way, trying to bring some joy and hope into the hearts of the children battling to overcome cancer. They have already raised enough money to cover all costs and money raised along the way will go to pediatric cancer.

Let me just conclude by saying i have been blessed to be invited to be part of this committee to help with the SammyRides kickoff in Sun City. It has been a joy to work with people willing to roll up their sleeves and get it done. We know Sammy has left us, but while she may be gone, she is riding every mile of this route with her grandparents and the rest of the crew. More importantly, she left us with that infectious smile we see here , and the simple fact we all need to lighten up, smile and enjoy life just a touch more than we do.

Thanks Sammy, pretty impressive when you can teach old dogs new tricks, even after you are gone. I’m hoping all of you in the West Valley can join us. If you can, don’t be shy about making a donation and if you can’t, the SammyRides website will gladly take your money. Let’s face it, is there anything more unfair, more wrong than a youngster facing the horrors of cancer?

God Grant Me The Serenity…

I don’t know for sure, i think it’s going on 34 years i have been sober come this May. I understand the whole anonymity thing from the AA program, but it is the single best decision i ever made, so i tend not to hide it. It saved my life and countless numbers of others. Why would you ever want to keep something like that behind closed doors.

But that’s not the point to this discourse; it’s about my personal choice on how to live my life. The Serenity Prayer has become my beacon, my lifeline to staying both sane (at least as i am able to be) and sober. When i live with an understanding of what i can fix and what is too big for me, life becomes manageable. As a drunk, i had no grasp, the program taught me to take care of the little things each day, things as simple as making my bed.

I think that’s exactly why Sun City appealed to me instantly. It was manageable. It was a simple way of life that allowed those living here to be able to get their hearts and heads around what we had, what we wanted. Life isn’t necessarily like that outside these white walls. There is so much ugly going on around the country and around the world, it is almost overwhelming (actually, it is overwhelming).

Perfect example is we had some folks over the other night for a quiet get together (yup, served beer and wine). One of the guests was from Peoria and i asked how she felt about Sun City. She qualified her remarks by telling me she was on the school board so i knew exactly where she was coming from. She was very pleasant about it, but she felt Sun City (and places like this) were unproductive societally.

I’ve heard it all before and took it in stride. Heck, i have exchanged emails with Andrew Bleckman when his book Leisureville came out and ripped Sun City, so this was like a walk in the park with Pam. She explained she has grandkids and is actively involved with them. She feels when families move away the loss of the family unit affects how kids grow up. She hated the fact Sun City pays no school taxes (of course it was Peoria who threw us out of their school district but i didn’t pour salt in the wounds over it).

I listened politely, and then used the Serenity Prayer as the backdrop for our decision to move to Sun City. This community allowed us the opportunity to be a part of something very special. While others lament world hunger, we roll our sleeves up and get involved in keeping Sun City a great place to live. We give back inordinate numbers of hours and we work together (wouldn’t it be nice if politicians did that?) to preserve the quiet quality of life we have here.

Sorry if some find that selfish, but in my limited view, it isn’t. Biting off more than one can chew is just being piggish. Somehow i think our time on earth would be best served if we each take care of things we can rather than wasting time on attempting to solve things we have no ability to fix. Just my way of thinking and thank goodness each of us is different.

Who Were Arleen Ellision and Viola Cody?

Jaw dropping! That is the only word that came to mind when i saw the email announcement from the RCSC that the sundial at the Sundial Recreation Center was going to be removed. All i could wonder was who made that kind of decision with no input from the community?

Worse yet, there was no mention of bids, costs or options…just the notice one of Sun City’s early landmarks would be removed. Apparently there is concern over the metal supports holding the massive concrete sundial upright. It is a good thing they are concerned, it’s a bad thing to have so little regard for one of the few monuments to an earlier time.

Sun City is a mere 50 years old, but its history is filled with tradition and punctuated with moments that set the tone for what the community represents. This observation was made by a former RCSC board member Jim Hawks and also at one time a vice president of the Sun Cities Area Historical Society (now the Del Webb Sun Cities Museum): ” Being a city of retirees, Sun City always had time on its hands.”

The Sundial rec center opened April 14, 1973 with a brief dedication at 10 am. In attendance was Del Webb and it was to be the last time he was in Sun City. The massive center had one of the largest indoor pools, an incredible auditorium, room for dozens of clubs, a mini golf course, an artificial lawn bowling green and of course the biggest sundial in the western United States. Carefree had the largest but Webb’s people researched it and when they commissioned architects Bricker and Hoyt to build it, they were told it must be one foot taller; and it was.

It would be a tragedy for this timeless time piece to be gone. An article written in 1997 in the Daily News Sun had this headline; ” Landmark ensures Sun City always has a big time.” While there is no doubt there will be some costs in getting the sundial back to tip-top condition, one can only wonder what else of historical stature will be cast aside in the name of the almighty dollar?

Now, for those who stayed with me this far, the answer to the question in the header is this: Arlene and Viola were the two winners of the contest DEVCO sponsored in the naming of the newest recreation center in Sun City. They both submitted the name Sundial and each received two 1972 Community Association cards. One can only speculate that those two are now spinning in their grave over this final slight by the current board of directors.

Life Is Good When The Coffee Is Hot.

The other morning i stopped at one of the local gas stations and picked up a cup of coffee. It was steaming hot, just how i like it. As i climbed into my golf car (they are street legal here), i smiled to myself and thought how could life get much better than this? It made me ponder; why aren’t more people flocking to Sun City, to way of life where much of the stresses of life outside the walls have been removed?

Driving down the road to the Del Webb Sun Cities Museum, i remembered an old pitch the DEVCO marketing team used: “Move to Sun City and live 10 years longer.” The first time i heard it, it seemed outlandish. Now that i live here, i better understand why it makes perfect sense. Life is simple. Those that shaped the community tried to take the angst out and replace it with fun things to do. And by building an infrastructure based on volunteerism, they understood when those living in Sun City were engaged and active, they were able to remain younger in spirit and mind.

This all may sound funny coming from a classic A type personality, especially one that likes to stick his nose in things and be a part of what is going on. I like fixing things, tweaking them and trying to make them better. There may be no better community on the face of this earth better suited for that. With that said, i’ve learned a valuable lesson along the way and my philosophy is this; there is nothing that goes on in Sun City that on a scale 1 to 10 is more than a 1.

Huh? Yep, life within the walls is just too darn good to get excited by the things (little or big) we have to deal with. The problems outside the walls are staggering, the stuff we face (short of death) is just minutia at best. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care, but just keep it in perspective and life does become simple. Of course, that doesn’t answer my question: Why the heck aren’t more┬ápeople flocking here for a better way to live?

Selfish Curmudgeons?

Interesting the take some folks have of age restricted communities. Whenever the Arizona Republic does a story on Sun City (about two per year), the naysayers and senior haters come flocking out. They give a whole new meaning to piling on. There is a perception that Sun City residents are all selfish old fogies who sit behind their doors miserly counting their money. And if they venture out, its to go to the local Safeway and complain about prices and those not old enough to live here shopping in “our grocery stores.”

Let’s be honest, there are more than a few of them who do that, but, they are hardly the majority. Most of us living in communities like Sun City move here for a variety of reasons. For many it is the amenities that make it attractive. However, after we get bored with playing our lives away, we find an amount of solace in giving back to the community and the infrastructure. In an earlier blog we talked about volunteer opportunities and how important they are to the Sun City way of life.

I think the thing that spurs folks on to forming opinions contrary to what life is like within these walls are all of the misconceptions that exist about senior enclaves. People shape perceptions based on a vision that has nothing to do with reality. That was perhaps Del Webb’s most difficult challenge when he first opened Sun City: Could he overcome the sentiment that once you put a bunch of old people in one place it was anything but a bunch of old people hanging around waiting to die?

Interesting to note, some 50 years later and hundreds and hundreds of age restricted communities later, many of those same challenges still exist. This article on 55 Places does a great job of showing some of the myths. They say perception is reality, but is it? We know that once an “outsider” visits Sun City (or most other similar communities), the barriers begin to come down. Most people are shocked by what they see. They find the community is nothing like they expected, like they had envisioned. It’s one of the joys of having visitors for the first time. Stunned is the best word that comes to mind.

We will never overcome those who hate places like Sun City, but for so many, we know that once we get them here, most will see the pure joy of living in a place where there’s a thousand things to do and ample time to do them. So, i’m off to the museum and my wife is just out the door to the food bank. Nice.

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