Denise and Russel Belyes

Summer 2009 CSANews Issue 71  |  Posted date : Jul 21, 2009.Back to list

Texans, being Texans, don't really subscribe to the idea of 'snowbirds'. Folks who spend the winters there are referred to as 'winter Texans'. Texans have, among many attributes, intense pride in their state. It was, after all, the biggest in the country until Alaska joined the Union. So bowing to that pride, we will refer to Denise and Russel Belyea, the subjects of our snowbird profile, as winter Texans.

Denise told me that her grandparents used to go south in the winter and that she was enamoured with the idea. "I thought that was cool," she said. "The weather is great, no snow to shovel, no cold to endure." But why Texas? Denise, who prefers to be called 'Dee', was an elementary school teacher before retiring. She has a high school friend who lives in San Antonio, who suggested that she look into Padre Island. The Belyeas came down and immediately fell in love with the place. Dee loves the Spanish culture and Russel, a retired millwright, has a passion for fishing; Brownsville offers the best of both worlds. As the community's slogan says: "By the Border, by the Sea."

For the past 14 years, the couple has driven down to Brownsville. They drove again this season, but the plan now is to leave their vehicle in Texas and fly home…the car will be there for them for future visits. Actually, when they first became 'winter Texans', Denise and Russel owned a 5th wheel unit. For several years, they stayed for only three months–for the past six years, they have extended their stays to six months. Three years ago, they decided to buy a place and sell their 5th wheel. The increasing cost of gasoline had a lot to do with their decision, but there was also something else...the decision was made when the Canadian dollar was at par. They are now enjoying their half-yearly stay at Brownsville's Palm Resaca Mobile Home Park.

When money came into the conversation, I asked what the costs were to live half of the year in the Lone Star State. The answer was quick – Dee said, "Not any more than it costs to stay in Canada." At the park in Brownsville, they pay $160.00 a month year-round. While they are in residence, there are extra charges for garbage collection, electricity and telephone.

The Belyeas have no trouble keeping busy. Denise does a great deal of volunteer work and is president of the Winter Residents Club of Brownsville. "We have lots of friends from Cornwall, Ontario, our hometown, plus the ones we made down here through the club," she said. "The park also has many activities; swimming, hot tub, shuffleboard, bowling, golf, dances, meals, cards, bingo,etc. She adds, "We go to the beach often since my husband likes to fish. He goes three or four times a week (weather permitting). If I have a day with no activities at the centre, I go with him and enjoy the beaches. We have two of them – Boca Chica and Padre Island. They are each about 20 miles away from Brownsville. I like to walk the beach or sit and enjoy the breeze, the sound of the Gulf, and see the dolphins jump out of the water."

To get the news from home, the Belyeas have their satellite dish with them so they have all of the Canadian news every morning. Also, they enjoy close contact with their children through e-mail and telephone. In Cornwall, their daughter takes care of their residence, which happens to be an apartment in her home. Since Dee and Russel built the home with her, the Belyeas pay 1/3 of the cost, $275.00 per month Canadian.

I asked if they have visitors during their time in the Lone Star State? "Yes," Dee answered, "we have many. Our children always come for at least two weeks and sometimes longer. We have friends from home who come and some of them decided to do the same as we did. My sister and her husband spent one month on one visit and two weeks on two other separate occasions. We have friends who no longer come for six months because of health reasons, so they now come to visit for a few weeks at a time. My friend from San Antonio also comes to visit and we visit her for a few days at a time."

It seems that Denise and Russel are enjoying their snowbird lifestyle as 'winter Texans'. As Dee says, they have the best of both worlds.