10 Reasons to Retire in Chatham

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We asked residents at four retirement communities why they choose to spend their golden years here

By Renee Ambroso

Photo by Brent Clark
The best of both worlds

Sue Blaustein and Mark Blaustein (pictured above) chose to retire in 2016 to Galloway Ridge at Fearrington, citing its pastoral atmosphere and proximity to downtown Pittsboro and Chapel Hill. Sue says the community provides the right mix of “beauty and pleasantness” with “a lot of cultural opportunities. … Everything about the county is an ideal mix.” She adds that Chatham offers a welcome change of scenery without losing a sense of familiarity from the couple’s previous home in Orange County.

Outdoor living

Mark and Sue are avid walkers and hikers, and they appreciate easy access to a variety of trails. The couple often makes the short drive to nearby American Tobacco Trail access points or strolls along the dam at Jordan Lake. “We walk the trails at Fearrington [Village] all the time, [and] we go down to the Bynum Bridge,” Sue adds. Pre-pandemic, Mark took part in Galloway’s “Green Trekkers” social group, joining 10 to 12 residents to embark on short hikes throughout the spring and summer months.

A community that cares

Mark says Galloway residents get their flu shots every year. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, retirees at Galloway Ridge were pleased with the community’s quick response. “You get a sense of comfort [and] reassurance,” Mark says. Sue adds, “That’s really an outstanding thing in my book … how well they rose to the challenges of keeping residents safe, fed and entertained.”

Friendly faces

Lifelong Chatham resident Irma Ellis, 87, first learned of Cambridge Hills from Ronda Stubbs, Cambridge Hill’s director of admissions and marketing, when they were co-workers at Allen & Son Bar-B-Que. Irma decided it was time to move after her husband, Charles Ellis, died. “I was always used to a crowd [of people around],” Irma says, “and [then] I had no one.” Now, she bonds with many fellow residents through bingo, exercise and art classes and themed parties.

Family ties

For Irma, Cambridge Hills’ location was just right. She needed assisted living and also wanted to remain close to her old Bynum neighborhood and her children in Pittsboro. Irma has lived at Cambridge Hills for three years and has no plans to uproot again. “This is where I want to stay,” she says.

Mary Ann Browning came to Twin Rivers Independent Senior Living from Wilmington, North Carolina, to be near her daughter, grandsons and two great-grandchildren. “I couldn’t stay in Wilmington without anybody else named Browning,” Mary Ann says.

Similarly, after living in Pamlico County in North Carolina for most of his life, Von Stokes moved into an apartment at Twin Rivers to be closer to his daughters – one lives in Hillsborough and the other in Raeford, North Carolina. Von is now retired after 32 years of teaching at Pamlico County Schools and at YMCA Camp Seafarer.

A third Twin Rivers resident, Virginia Myers, 97, relocated there to be near her daughter in Fearrington Village. Virginia says she is “happy, healthy and enjoying life,” at the independent living apartment complex, where 21 residents are a close-knit bunch. “It’s small enough that we are much more like a family than we are a group of friends … it’s a convivial group,” she says.

Home sweet home

After 25 years living and working in Pittsboro, Carol Licht moved to nearby Twin Rivers. The Chatham Habitat for Humanity volunteer always knew exactly where she would go when it came time to sell her house, having known previous residents of the community. She’s been a Twin Rivers resident for five years.

Cost of living

Linda Harper and Dan Harper arrived at Encore at Briar Chapel from Southern California two years ago. The choice was a long time in the making – the Harpers sold their previous home and lived in a rental house for a year while considering options up and down the East Coast. Chatham stood out from the rest – the reasonable cost of living and being within a day’s drive to each of their daughters’ homes topped their wishlist. Plus, Dan and Linda love the accessibility to North Carolina’s beaches and mountains.

Tar Heel roots

After teaching at UNC for 40 years, Julia Wood, a retired professor of communications and humanities, says Chatham “feels very much like home.” She moved to Galloway Ridge at Fearrington in 2014 with her husband, Robert Cox, who also taught at the university for more than four decades. “It didn’t really occur to me to leave the state,” Julia says, noting all her paternal ancestors were North Carolinians and that she feels “deeply tied” to the area. Julia and Robert especially enjoy Galloway Ridge’s vicinity to Chapel Hill – just nine miles down the road – and often hop on a shuttle to attend UNC football games.

Internationally involved

“Residents here are active in everything from literacy activities to fundraising for good causes in Chatham County,” Sue says. Mark serves on Galloway’s resident council, grounds committee and a communications committee that updates residents on community happenings. He also volunteers “on what we call the geek squad,” which helps neighbors with technology issues. A member of the neighborhood library advisory committee, Sue says, “these committees are resident driven, so the resident voice is accounted for.” Galloway is home to retirees from a variety of careers such as foreign service agents, engineers, artists and scientists. Neighbors share their expertise by leading discussions or workshops. “The range of abilities … just blows my mind,” Sue says.

Timeless traditions

“We used to take our own kids and our grandkids down to see the cows [at Fearrington Village],” Sue says. That’s how she first became familiar with the area, and the Village’s restaurants, shops and entertainment offerings were a major draw when it came to choosing Galloway. “[Now] I walk there literally every single day and watch other families take their little kids to see the cows,” Sue says. “Some things don’t change at all.”

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