SNOWBIRD NEWS: Meet some Canadian guests

Mary Pierce
Mary Pierce

It takes a good 20 hours or more for them to drive here, but many of our Canadian neighbors make the trip every year. They are an integral part of the Destin Snowbird Club. In fact, in the early years, the majority of members were Canadian. Their numbers have diminished due to factors such as unfavorable exchange rates, health care costs and security concerns, but they continue to maintain approximately 20 percent of the memberships. They are welcomed and appreciated and we honor them at every meeting by joining them in a resounding rendition of their national anthem, “O Canada.”

Evelyn and Ken Lamire have been spending their winters in Destin for the past 22 years, but they almost never made it at all. An associate of Ken’s encouraged the couple to leave the freezing temperatures of their home in McGregor, Ontario, and join him in Panama City. They said that there was nothing to do there.

“Back then, they rolled up the sidewalks by early evening,” Ken said.

They had decided to finish their stay then head back to Canada never to return. However, while driving to Mary Esther in search of an activity, they drove through and discovered beautiful Destin. A real estate agent that they had met in Panama City told them about a Destin condominium that would be available for rent. That was in 1996 and they have returned every year since. The great golf specials attracted them to the Destin Snowbird Club, but the real benefit of joining has been all the wonderful friendships they’ve made.

In 2009, the club was looking for a new treasurer and Ken volunteered his services. He was the club treasurer for six years and remains an assistant to the current treasurer, Dick Cuneen. Ken is also the club’s computer instructor. The South Walton Computer and Technology Club offers its resources to both Destin and Walton County Snowbirds every second and fourth Tuesday during the season at Faith Assembly Christian Church on Geronimo Street in Miramar Beach.

Not one to sit idly by, Evelyn also volunteers her services. She is a vital backup to Linda Zukonik with registrations and also serves on the committee of the annual Ladies Luncheon and Fashion Show. Ken and Evelyn hope to enjoy many more snowbird seasons in Destin, but their hearts remain in Ontario where their two daughters, sons-in-laws and very special grandson still reside.

Joan and Don Collins are from Ancaster, Ontario. Their first visits to Florida were to Daytona Beach. But in 1983, when Don’s parents decided that they would like to visit Florida, his sister said that her boss had an available place in a beautiful little fishing village called Destin. They have been coming here ever since.

At first, they could only spend a couple of weeks, but since Don’s retirement three years ago they have made Destin their winter destination. That is also when they decided to join the Destin snowbirds. They thought it might be like their Canadian Snowbird Association, an advocacy organization that safeguards the rights and privileges of traveling Canadians.

However, they were pleasantly surprised to find it to be a social gathering with a variety of activities and camaraderie available. Don doesn’t gamble but one of his favorite activities is Ken Yee’s casino trips.

“Joan enjoys it and I enjoy watching people have fun,” he said, and added that the buffets are a delicious bargain.

Don also enjoys the golf, especially the weekly “nine and wine and whine” outings. Although they have only been snowbirds for three years, they are rolling up their sleeves and getting involved. Don volunteered to chair the New Orleans Mardi Gras trip in February. He is enthused to have been able to plan a package that will cost only about a third of previous Mardi Gras trips, yet offer just as much, if not more value. Joan will be his co-chair because, as she explained, excluding the golf, whatever they do, they always do together.

Joanne Graham and Ted Caldwell are from Barrie, Ontario. This is their fifth year as Destin Snowbirds. They join every year, especially for the golf discounts. In fact, it was through golf that they met years ago.

Ted runs a golf supply store in Canada and Joanne had come in to buy a new pair of golf shoes. Both had lost their spouses and felt fortunate to have found a special relationship with one another.

When they first decided to vacation together in Florida, they drove all the way down to Naples. However, they found prices down there to be prohibitive, particularly with the currency exchange rate. Then they ventured a little farther north to Hudson, near Tampa, but the rental property they had secured was mistakably given to someone else. Not one to give up, Joanne suggested a beautiful little area in the Panhandle that she had visited many years before with her late husband. Ted was impressed and they have been visiting every winter since.

Mary Pierce, publicity director, is from Toledo, Ohio, and can be reached at 419-250-9377or She will be writing the weekly column for the papers, so if you have something to share contact her.