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'Snowbird' couple finds Florida cures winter ills

September 28, 2006|by CANDICE BOSELY

Nine hundred and four miles separates Sam and JoAnn Wade from their winter paradise.

Like so many others, the couple had dreamed of leaving winter behind and heading south to Florida.

"I get depressed in the winter. But I never thought we'd do it," Sam Wade said.

Only when a house in Ocala, Fla., found them, they said, did that dream come true.

They are among the many "snowbirds" from this region and farther north who head to Florida and other warmer states once the temperatures start to drop.

A sign in a swing

After retiring several years ago - Sam, 68, from Mack Trucks, and JoAnn, 66, from Washington County Hospital - the couple would go to Clearwater, Fla., for a couple of weeks in the winter.

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In 2003 they were at the local American Legion the day before their planned vacation when a friend suggested they talk to her neighbor, who was selling his home in Florida.

While traveling through Georgia, they called him and he gave them directions to the house, which is inside a large gated community named On Top of the World.

"My wife has always wanted a swing on the front porch. And we pulled up and my God there was a swing on the front porch," Sam Wade said of first seeing the house.

"It found us," JoAnn said of the home.

They liked the house and the community, which has a workout center, pools and clubhouses. Golf courses are plentiful in the area, the couple said.

Although they had not planned to look in the Ocala area, which is in the northcentral part of Florida about 60 miles west of Dayton and 30 miles east of the Gulf of Mexico, they decided to buy the home.

They also sold their home in Hagerstown, deciding it was too big for two people. The couple have two grown sons and a grandson.

After quickly selling their Hagerstown house, the couple moved into the Florida house in the summer of 2004 until they bought their current summer home near Waynesboro, Pa.

Living in Florida in the summer wasn't ideal.

"I kept thinking, my God, what'd we get into," Sam Wade said.

Living there in the summer was an aberration; they now spend October to April in Florida. They live there for six months and one day, meaning they are legally Florida residents.

Preparations

To get ready for the trip, in early October Sam Wade prints out a long list of the tasks he needs to do.

Among others, he has to call his bank, stop his newspaper delivery, call the credit card company, arrange to have his mail forwarded, stop his Internet and cable services, turn off his water and water heater, set the thermostat to 50 degrees and give a key to a neighbor, with whom he will speak once a week to check on his home.

He also has to turn on the cable television and phone service in Florida. The house will already be cool - it's a requirement that air conditioning be left on year-round to prevent mold from forming.

In Florida in the winter the temperatures usually reach the 60s by mid-morning.

"I've only had long pants on four times in the last year," Sam Wade said.

A number of activities are available in Florida and friends can visit, they said.

Although some snowbirds head south in RVs, that wasn't something that interested the Wades.

"I spent three years on a submarine (in the Navy). There's no way you'd ever get me in a camper," Sam Wade said, adding he also has seen too many car accidents involving people towing RVs.

Having two homes is perfect for those who can afford it. But Sam Wade cautioned anyone contemplating selling everything here to move to Florida permanently to be careful.

"Go down there and rent first and see how you like the summers," he said.

They said they love their two-home life.

"Life is good," Paul Wade said.

"We're living the good life, I guess," JoAnn Wade added.

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