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
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