Sebring, FL (Part 2)

What can I say about the best 10 years of my life in a small city? We became residents here in November 2004. Then we became full-time travelers in 2014, but Sebring is still our legal residence.  Please note, this is really more my post than Bill’s.  For me, I have an emotional and spiritual connection with this precious city.  I’ve been trying to think how can I capture its essence, more than my factual based last post about it or about the County in general?

Family History. In 1996, we drove around the Sebring downtown circle with Bill’s Uncle Norm and Aunt Posey when we moved Bill’s mom here.  They loved living near Lake Jackson and showed us all the sights. Nothing really grabbed our attention at the time. They became snowbirds here in 1989 and full time residents in 1995. Then in 1996, we visited over Christmas break with our then 14 year old daughter – the Circle was decorated for Christmas (Carousel of Lights)  in all it’s glory! We began to notice a unique charm. Once we moved here, we made it a tradition to attend the yearly Christmas parade and when they “light up” the circle. We began to visit here once or twice a year for the next eight years – and slowly, we grew to love the area.

More Family. My mom remarried in July 2003 after being widowed for five years. She married a man that loved the RV life, as did my mom. They became full time travelers, until March 2005. One of my sisters and her husband also owned a motorhome, so they traveled some with them. They all came to Sebring to visit and my folks bought a manufactured home where they could also park their motor home for free! That meant they could still travel some.  Soon after, my sister and her husband sold their motorhome and bought a “snow bird” home here in Sebring. And then the month we sold our home to become full-time travelers, my step sister and her husband moved to Sebring. That was not planned as we independently didn’t know what the other was doing until the plans were finalized!

Sadly, both Uncle Norm and Aunt Posey passed within our first two years here.  In their day, they were the life of their mobile home park.  Norm said he knows moving here added five years to his life. They both were very active and loved helping others.  And like Bill’s mom and my dad, both were veterans of WW II. They were treasured and we are grateful they found Sebring for us!

Holidays. Holidays became a blessing for us as Bill and I never lived near family. We always traveled on the holidays but now, we had plenty of family for all the holidays. And with our new extended family, that brought more family to celebrate at various times during the year.

But we quickly realized how hard this move was going to be on our 22 year old daughter, and our only child. So I guess I can honestly say, it was very hard on me.  While looking through old pictures, I found an old letter I had written around this time. I said had we stayed in Virginia to be close to her, she would have fell in love with a Marine and moved away….wouldn’t you know, she had just met and was falling in love with a young man from the area with deep family roots?  They finally married and have now given us two adorable grandsons. And that propelled us into our “Full Time RVer” lifestyle! But I digress.  We were sitting in the airport with our daughter for her to return home to Virginia after her whirlwind her three day Christmas visit here in December 2004, Bill realized the two women in his life needed something to look forward to. His idea? A cruise in March 2005! Woohoo! The plans started. We also reached out to family members and invited them. Here we are on the cruise:

From left Bill, me, Bill's mom, Jessica, my mom, my step dad, my sister and her husband.

March 2005 Royal Caribbean Cruise, from left Bill, me, Bill’s mom, Jessica, my mom, my step dad, my sister and her husband.

Great memories. And then we began to enjoy Florida to the fullest once we got over the first big holiday. We will admit, initially, we were not impressed with cruising. But in time, we decided to give it another try.  Jessica and Shane didn’t get the honeymoon they wanted, so we offered to help them plan for a cruise to celebrate a few months later while we celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary. We absolutely loved the Princess Cruise!

We also enjoyed every holiday by celebrating with family. They say once you move to Florida, be sure and have a guest bedroom as everyone will want to come visit!  And what a blessing all those visits were. My one sister bought a snow bird home here with her husband and eventually, our step sister and her husband moved here permanently.

I’m planning on another post to talk about all of the fun times we had those ten years! We can’t count how many great three day mini-vacations we took all around the state, riding our motorcycle.  Our favorite such trip was to Key West!  And then, we saw parts of the state many native born Floridians didn’t know existed, such as the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary!

Living in south central Florida was literally central to everything. We became regulars at the Orlando Airport after I retired. Before that, we used the Fort Lauderdale Airport. Oh, talking about planes, trains and automobiles, I had to blog about one of those crazy airport trips.

But where my heart became so attached was when I became involved in the community. First, it started with our church, Covenant Presbyterian Church, PCA. We became involved in 4M, Monthly Morning Mercies Ministry. We quickly appreciated the legacy of the founder of Sebring. He wanted to find a low cost of living place where pastors and missionaries could retire. There are a number of Missionary Retirement Villages in the county. And our church was blessed to have at least 25 of them from Serving In Missions (SIM) attend our church. One of our favorite places for 4M was to do things for these saints in there homes and around their yards. Oh, and we also learned, missionaries never retire! They continue to serve Him, our Lord and Heavenly Father!  What a rich experience it was coming along side these saints.

But after this work-a-holic was retired for a year and a half, the volunteer work and helping Bill with our rentals was not rewarding enough. So I took our Sheriff up on her offer to come work for her after I retired.  It was a match made in heaven as I began working part time as the Coordinator for Drug Free Highlands, a coalition for the stakeholders in the community to help keep teens off of drugs, which includes alcohol.  I began to meet so many people and truly found the heart of this community.  After four years, the funding ended for me to work for her, so I transitioned to some very part time work with the school district and became a volunteer with Youth for Christ (YFC). And then more volunteer opportunities came around.

Probably some of the most rewarding and significant work I did was help with the YFC Quarterly Prayer Vigils and Blessings of the Businesses with the Mayor of Sebring. More on that below.

City on the Circle. Here is a slide show that highlights downtown Sebring, known as the City on the Circle. Let’s drive there and then take a walk around it. I have so many great memories of fun events we’ve participated in downtown. And of course, love the Circle Theatre, stores and restaurants:

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Let’s now take a drive out of the city and go to Veterans Beach.  When we first moved to Sebring, the water in Lake Jackson was very high, but there was a beach. Then there was a huge drought and the lake waters were dangerously  low.  As a member of the YFC Prayer Vigil team, at a County Commissioner meeting, we requested the support of the County Commissioners for one of our quarterly prayer vigils. Coincidently, if you believe in such things, there was a presentation that evening about how hopeless it was to “fix” the low water levels in Lake Jackson. We presented soon after that presentation and said we had the solution! And it wouldn’t cost the small fortune predicted. PRAYER!  Ok, so we got a few smirks and polite nods from them. So guess what? There is hardly a beach left because the water is now so high! Thank you LORD!

Let’s continue our tour as we leave downtown and head around Lake Jackson to Veterans Beach:

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The People. There are so many people who made Sebring super special to me. One was such a privilege to work with on a variety of events for the betterment of the community, the former Mayor of Sebring, George Hensley. We met when I was the coordinator for “Drug Free Highlands” through the Sheriff’s Office. We held Town Hall meetings in each municipality, which enabled me to work with each Mayor.  The Mayor of Sebring and I really clicked and he invited me to work on another project, Blessings of the Businesses, and then we became partners in several more.  I came to love and respect him and his most amazing wife, Nancy. Here is a great article about them both:  Mayor George Hensley and his lovely wife.

And one other dear friend is Kevin Roberts. He is a mover and shaker for the children of the county. Again, I met him while the coordinator of “Drug Free Highlands.” He has so many dreams for the county and Sebring. One was to restore the historic Circle Theatre. And he made it come through against all odds. He wasn’t just satisfied with the one dream project, he wanted the ugly vacant lot next to it. And wow, I lost track, but what a great surprise to walk downtown last week and see another dream of his come true, the Garden of Joy!  Here are a few recent highlights about Kevin being honored:

The chamber’s 2015 Individual of the Year award went to Kevin Roberts, executive director of The Champion for Children Foundation.

“This man has a heart as big as the downtown Sebring Circle,” Elwell said of Roberts, adding that the Individual of the Year award was the highest honor the chamber can award any one person for a lifetime of excellence.” From Highlands Today.

“…the 2015 George Hensley Citizen of the Year Award went to Kevin Roberts for several decades of helping thousands of people through the Children’s Services Council, the Champions for Children Foundation, the Children’s Advocacy Center, the Highlands County Domestic Violence Shelter and Lindsay’s Wish, and his work with the Garden of Joy, the Kids Tag Art annual fundraiser and the annual Judge Clifton M. Kelly Champions for Children Awards Gala.

“It’s incredibly touching — incredibly touching — that the chamber would choose to honor me,” Roberts said. “It’s because of so many people who surround me and guided me.”

Roberts said he almost didn’t attend the banquet. He was at the “Own the Stage” youth talent competition finals at Champions for Children Circle Theatre that night when his son-in-law, county tax collector Eric Zwayer, called and persuaded him to come.

“The Champions for Children would not be a success without the private sector being involved,” Roberts told the 255 business leaders and professionals gathered for the banquet. From the News Sun.

And that is as brief as I can be to share a little about the heart of Sebring and how special it was for me to live, work and volunteer here. And now I am so happy to be able to call it my home town!

But you may be asking, “how could you move away?” Lots of people asked that of us. All we can say is that our priorities changed when we had our first grandchild….

Next up will be more fun things to do while in Central Florida.

Highlands County, Florida

We moved to Highlands County, Florida in November 2004. It’s located 80 miles south of Orlando and is located dead center in the state.

Our gently rolling hills, orange groves and charming small towns make this a relaxing country getaway…


We first learned about this precious county in 1989, after Bill’s Aunt Posey and her husband, Norm, bought a “snow bird” home here. They became full time residents in the fall of 1995. All we heard about was the beautiful lake (Lake Jackson), great weather, friendly people and a low cost of living.

In February, 1996, Bill’s dad passed away. Posey and Norm invited his mom to come visit them for a month, so she did. Soon after, Bill got a phone call, “Bill, what would you think if I moved to Highlands County? Would you come visit me?” Bill’s dream before our marriage was to move back to Florida. He not only said “YES” he said he would help move her there. So within months, her home was sold in Pennsylvania and Bill drove her and her household belongings down here.  I flew down here with our then 14 year old daughter to help her get settled in.

The area seemed pleasant enough, but we thought all the houses were trailers/mobile/manufactured homes. And, Jessica couldn’t believe EVERYONE in church had white hair. It was not love at first sight for us and our daughter was not really enthralled with Florida. But things got better for her when one of her childhood friends moved to Clearwater, Florida. Whenever we came to visit his mom, we arranged time for them to get together. We had a great relationship with her parents – he was the Pastor who performed our re-marriage ceremony.

As we began to visit here regularly, once or twice a year, we begin to find beautiful neighborhoods and our love affair began.  Eventually, Jessica’s friend and family moved back up north. She then began to dread the visits other than special time with her grandma. We tried to do something fun with her each time she came. Bill’s dream to once again live in Florida became very strong and to make a long story short, we finally decided to move to Florida in November 2004. Actually, I was able to get a job transfer to Miami, but the real estate market wasn’t very good. Sadly, by now, Jessica had a good job and was in love….needless to say, she wouldn’t move with us. That was a very tough decision – to leave her but she was over 21 after all. We never knew how complicated it would make things eventually….

We ended up buying a home here in this county and I began a year long commute to and from Miami. Then I would retire and start my dream of being an early retiree. We had always wanted to become involved in our community, outside of church. We began to become more involved in the community. It was a great fit.

So now a little bit about Highlands County and from the Convention and Visitors Bureau website:

The Heart of Florida… Highlands County. Here in the center of the Sunshine State, you’ll find crystal clear lakes for fishing, boating, skiing and sailing, and more than a dozen golf courses. Our gently rolling hills, orange groves and charming small towns make this a relaxing country getaway – and our central location provides easy access to Florida’s best attractions without the hustle and high prices of the major tourist areas. It’s the best of both worlds – within two hours of most major attractions yet removed enough for that get-away-from-it-all feeling. Come discover Highlands County for yourself!

We took advantage of the central location to visit nearly every part of the state on our motorcycle.  Our favorite trip was to Key West. Hopefully, I will write a post about it, but that was before we began blogging.

Heading out on our 36th Wedding Anniversary

Heading out on our 36th Wedding Anniversary. Going to Melbourne Beach, FL

But a little more about the county. It is a rural county, population roughly around 100,000, so it doesn’t have all the shopping “shoppers” may enjoy. We are not shoppers – that never bothered us. When we first started visiting here, US Highway 27, a major north/south road (for truckers especially because it is free as opposed to the turnpike), was just a four lane highway with two or three stop lights.  Now it has doubled in size and there are more stoplights than I can count.

The “gem” of the county is Highlands Hammock State Park. We had friends from Miami who camped there every January for years.  We then got to see it from a campers standpoint. They loved it. We weren’t into camping then, but it sure seemed ideal. Our church had it’s annual picnic there for a few years and we really enjoyed it. We found out they have a trolley ride with a State Park Ranger as the tour guide. We’ve found the best tour guides are Rangers! Here is from the above website:

Home to a park system that wows with outdoor wonders, Highlands County naturally allures visitors. Otters, alligators and deer take shelter in our hardwood forests, pine flatwoods and cypress swamps, giving visitors a glimpse of wildlife along our nature trails. Boat ramps, fishing piers and swim centers provide easy access to our waterways from public parks. You’ll also find playgrounds, cycling paths and plenty of room for picnics within Highlands County parks.
Located in Central Florida, Highlands County occupies the southern end of the Lake Wales Ridge, a 100-mile-long range of sand hills, scrub and freshwater lakes.
Once a group of prehistoric islands, the County is home to dozens of rare species of plants and animals. (To learn more, visit
Wildlife, including alligators, deer and wild hogs, can be observed in different parts of the County.
Birds, including scrub jays, swallow-tailed kites, bald eagles, osprey and sandhill cranes, all in their native habitat, can be seen and heard.
The county has extensive bikeways, including several routes through the very beautiful and popular Highlands Hammock State Park, as well as routes from 10 to 100 miles long on other scenic roads.
There are hiking, canoe and equestrian trails in the State Park and on the grounds of the Southwest Florida Water Management District, the Archbold Biological Station, the Avon Park Air Force Range and the Royce Preserve – all large conservation management areas covering thousands of acres. (For more information:
The County’s Blueways, Greenways, Trails and Bikeways Comprehensive Master Plan, completed in 2002, calls for expanding and connecting these trails, thus making all of them more accessible to County residents and tourists.

As I read this, I wonder why did we have to leave the county? Aside from the motorcycle, we could have just enjoyed all this county has to offer!

This county has three distinct municipalities. The county seat is Sebring and that was where our residence was from a post office viewpoint. We really lived in the county.  To the north is Avon Park and that is where our motor home is currently parked.  To the south is Lake Placid.  I was so privileged to form relationships in each of the municipalities so I could always say I was a resident of the county….not Sebring. There is a High School in each one and that has created real sports loyalty to each “part” of town. It was always safe to say I just lived in the county.

I only remained “retired” for 1 1/2 years. I had met the Sheriff before I retired. She was a guest speaker in Miami. I couldn’t believe I could met “my” sheriff in Miami, so after her talk, I introduced myself. She said after I retired, if I ever wanted a job to come see her. So I did and I worked on a community project for four years. Needless to say, I was in each part of town on a regular basis so now you may better understand why I was just a county resident!

We really grew to love Sebring as that was our orientation. Everything was five minutes away and there was never rush hour (except when all the snow birds double the population from January to March). But we also bonded and felt the special “love” in Sebring. I will dedicate a future post to my official “hometown”.

A little about Avon Park:

Whether you enjoy fishing, boating or other water sports; golfing at one of the area courses; hiking, biking, or just relaxing; you are sure to find just what you’re looking for here in Avon Park our “City of Charm.” From its mile long mall highlighting the downtown, to the business and activity along US 27, Avon Park people always take the time to welcome visitors and to lend a helping hand. Ours is a growing city … one that grows on you!

Avon Park is really a low profile community (from my standpoint). It proudly houses South Florida State College. It’s highlights are to visit the Avon Park Depot Museum, 3 North Musuem Avenue 863-453-3525; The Museum of Florida Art and Culture at SFSC Website:; and SFSC Theatre for the Performing Arts Website:

Lake Placid on the other hand, has made a national name for itself as “America’s Most Interesting Town” in 2013.  You can watch the video here that explains how this happened!  This is a must see stop if you are in our county. We never really appreciated it until Bill’s brother and wife came for a visit. We had a blast taking Bill’s mom around to the larger than life murals. But to really appreciate them, one must start by visiting the Chamber of Commerce (info below). But it has bankers hours more or less, Monday – Friday, 9-4, except they are extended from January to March.  Here is the list of “must sees” in this quaint small town:

Henscratch Farms and Winery

The Murals of Lake Placid

Toby’s Clown School Museum and Gift Shop

Caladium Arts & Crafts Co-op

Lake Placid Historical Society Depot Museum, Inc.

Lake Placid Chamber of Commerce
18 N. Oak Avenue
Lake Placid, Florida 33852
Phone: (863) 465-4331

Coming up next, our official hometown, Sebring, Florida!

Taken while walking around our former neighborhood.

Taken while walking around our former neighborhood.