Eleanor Isbister

Winter 2007 CSANews Issue 65  |  Posted date : May 22, 2008.Back to list

We often tend to think of 'snowbirds' in the plural. However, not all who enjoy the warmth of sunnier climes have mates. We decided to look for a snowbird in the singular. Luckily, we found one in the province of Quebec – a delightful lady who, with her husband, decided that the winters in La Belle Province were too cold for comfort. Eleanor Isbister's husband couldn't wait for their time down south.

It all started in the early 1970s. Both were fluently bilingual and both were working; Eleanor teaching English as a second language to newcomers to the Alma area of Quebec, Robert as a regional retail services representative for Ultramar service stations.

Their first few southern trips were vacation getaways to Florida's east coast. One year, Eleanor and Robert decided to try the Gulf Coast instead, and ended up renting a spot in a trailer park between Naples and Marco Island. They found that they liked it better than the Atlantic coast and, in 1989, purchased a manufactured home there. During the first three years, they acted as landlords, renting their property out. By 1993, both had become retirees and they could spend up to six months in the Sunshine State. They really enjoyed the long drive from Quebec City. When Robert passed away in 1996, Eleanor decided to continue spending the winter months in Florida. Now she doesn't relish the idea of driving such a distance by herself, so she flies. She owns a car that she leaves in Florida, so she can be mobile from the moment she arrives.

The activities available in the park surroundings were a great incentive for Mrs. Isbister to carry on as a single person. She had built up a good nucleus of friends through an active social scene. "It's like a small town," Eleanor says. "Everybody knows everybody." Most of her friends are American snowbirds who, like herself, 'can't put up with the weather' up north. There are only a few Canadians at Marco Shores Estates – a couple of Anglophiles and a Francophone duo from Quebec. When she feels the need to check on news from Canada, she goes to her computer to read the stories from her hometown papers. If she is really desperate, she will spring for five dollars and buy a Globe and Mail or the National Post.  A day late, of course.

She gets her exercise through riding her bicycle, going on beach walks, playing tennis, swimming, and attending aquasize and calisthenics classes in the workout studio on the property. When Bob was alive, he used to enjoy golfing, choosing from several courses in the area. Eleanor told us that she likes playing billiards. Shuffleboard is also available, but her favourite pastime is bocci. There is also a card group at the park.

The social committee at Marco Shores Estates puts together an interesting schedule of events throughout the season. They may go to a dinner theatre or a concert. One time, Eleanor and her friends signed up for a cruise which was thoroughly enjoyed; a nice change of pace, a vacation away from their vacation so to speak. And of course, there is always that wonderful pastime upon which most ladies seem to thrive: shopping, shopping, shopping!

If there has been a downside to all of this, it would be a disastrous lady named Hurricane Wilma. A few years ago, Wilma chose a route that swept through Eleanor's location and hit her $36,000 home, causing considerable damage. She has invested another $14,000 in repairs and upgrades and is now comfortably re-settled. Of Marco Shores' 237 units, about 60 are occupied by full-time residents, the rest by fellow snowbirds. It is now a resident-owned community.  While she doesn't expect to realize much gain should she sell her Florida home, Eleanor says that going south to the sunshine has been, and continues to be a 'good life investment'.

Being away from her Quebec home has its drawbacks. Naturally, she misses her married sons and her grandchildren. She looks forward to seeing them if and when they get a chance to come south for a few days' respite from the snow. The same goes for friends, whom she welcomes for occasional visits. Eleanor's fellow snowbirds have taken her under their collective wings, and she thrives on their friendship.