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by Don Wall


There are watchers in life and then there are

doers. Orest Baron of Edmonton, Alberta and

Sun City, Arizona is firmly in the latter camp.

Orest, 78 and his wife Carole, 73 spent many

years doing charitable work while enjoying

successful careers in the grocery-brokerage

business in the Edmonton area. When they

retired 20 years ago, they dropped the busi-

ness side cold while seamlessly transferring

their talents for community-building to their

snowbird home in Arizona.

Sure, planning social events and being the

go-to guy for good times as the libations com-

mittee chair for the Canadian Club of West

Valley sounds like a lark, but it takes a special

person to show up year after year, meeting

after meeting, raise one’s hand and volunteer

to get things done.

“Why sit back and complain?” said Orest in an

interview. “My motto is, be a problem-solver,

not a problem-identifier.”

As a devout Christian, he has always felt

compelled to give back to his community. The

ethos was developed growing up on a small

farm near Viking, Alta. – home of the famous

hockey-playing Sutter clan, he takes care to

point out – during the Second World War.

“During the war years, things were rationed,”

he recalled. “You learned to be responsible and

you never complained.”

Away from the job, Orest immersed himself in

working for the local chapter of the Associated

Canadian Travellers (ACT), as it was then

known. He once put in 20 hours on a fundrais-

ing telethon and was a regular at Edmonton’s

Klondike Days, when the Travellers would raise

money for a children’s camp. “It’s about giving

back,” he said. Carole also volunteered for the

women’s auxiliary of ACT.

Around 1990, five years before they planned

to retire, the Barons bought a bungalow in

Sun City, a retirement community of 39,000

residents northwest of Phoenix. They rented

out the home with its four backyard citrus trees

through the early nineties and, upon retirement

in 1995, moved in themselves.

The Barons located a local church to attend

and became active in its fellowship activities.

And soon, Orest was drawn into service with

the Canadian Club of the West Valley.

“The first function we went to, one of the

people from Ontario corralled me to look

after libations,” he said, chuckling. “My wife

and I, we did such a good job, we had a hard

time doing something else – the membership

increased threefold.”

The club holds social functions approximately

once a month, starting with a welcome-back

event in November and wrapping up with

a season finale in March. That matches the

Barons’ typical winter stay – November to


“The social life is good, it’s nice to meet new

people,” said Orest. “In the Canadian Club you

get people from Newfoundland to Vancouver

Island, right across the board.”

Sun City, the prototype of what became 15

communities with the Sun City brand, pro-

vides broad opportunities for recreation, with

seven sprawling recreation centres offering

every amenity imaginable, including eight

golf courses. The Barons get out golfing two

or three times a week. Orest is a sports nut, so

he attends Phoenix NHL games (occasionally

obtaining group tickets for the Canadian Club)

and baseball spring-training games.

The Barons have made tremendous friendships

in their various social circles, says Orest. Carole

is more computer-oriented than he is and keeps

in touch with friends via e-mail, and the couple

arranges visits with their fellow snowbirds

during the off-season, on their frequent travels

across the continent – they have visited every

American state and Canadian province.

Reflecting, Orest Baron says that he and Carole

enjoy the snowbird lifestyle immensely: from

the waking hours, when they get up at around

6 to take in the tranquility of their quiet little

street; to a day often spent in the meaningful

company of their sun-belt friends; to the shared

sense of reward that they feel when they sip a

glass of wine at the end of the day (Chardonnay

for him, a nice Merlot for Carole).

“I’ve been a snowbird for the last 19 winters

and it has been a great experience,” said Orest.

From Viking to Sun City:

life is grand for community-minded snowbird



FALL 2015