Arizona snowbirds fly south for the winter, but still are proud to call Delano their home

March 31, 2008

By Jen Bakken
Staff Writer

Birds fly south for the winter and so do some Delano residents.

Escaping the cold Minnesota winters, they spread their wings to soak up the sun in warmer states.

One place many of these snowbirds flock to is Arizona.

Leon and Rosetta Vieau have lived in the Delano community for more than 50 years.

They owned Delano NAPA Auto parts for 21 years, and are members of St. Peter’s Catholic Church.

Leon and Rosetta Vieau can always be found working the famous hamburger stand during the Fourth of July celebration in Delano.

They have been spending part of the winter months in Fort Mohave, Arizona for about nine years. Leaving after Christmas, they stay warm in the Arizona sun until April.

The Vieaus do not live in a retirement community like many snowbirds do. Although all of their family members live in Minnesota, they have many family and friends who visit them while in Arizona, some vacation with them regularly every year.

With temperatures ranging from 60 to 90 degrees, they enjoy being close to the Mohave Desert where there is very little rain.

“We have several palm trees and fruit trees in our yard,” said Rosetta. “And, we have an underground watering system that runs every morning, 365 days a year.”

Bill and Marlys Wheeler have lived in the Delano area for about 38 years.

Bill worked for 3M for 27 years, served as supervisor on the Franklin Township board for six years, and he also farmed and raised certified seed.

Marlys was a stay-at-home mother, a 4-H leader, served on the Delano United Way fund board, and sold the certified seed her husband raised. This will be the fifth winter they have spent in their Sun City, Arizona condo.

They have many hobbies they enjoy in both states. Bill likes woodworking, gardening, and stained glass. Marlys spends time doing embroidery, quilting, and spending time with the grandchildren.

Unable to take their daily walks in the Minnesota snow, cold, and ice, they decided to find a warm home away from home.

“We visited Bill’s sister a couple of winters,” explained Marlys. “We decided we like the area, amenities, and people, so we looked for a place of our own.”

Sun City is in the Sonoran Desert, with an elevation of 1,150 feet. There is an abundance of citrus fruits and palm trees.

With seven recreation centers, nine golf courses, two mini-golf courses, seven swimming pools, and many different clubs, there is no shortage of available activities.

“The saying here is, you can be as busy as you want to be,” said Marlys.

The Wheelers do return to Delano over Christmas, and are home for about three weeks during the holiday.

Mavis Windsperger has been in the Delano community for 60 years.

She taught Sunday school and volunteered as a teacher’s aide at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church and School for many years. She has also volunteered for the Delano Helping Hands food shelf.

Her hobbies include antiques, decorating, reading, and traveling.

After her husband passed away 14 years ago, she rented a place in Arizona the next year and stayed for a month.

“My son was the one who talked me into buying my own trailer,” remembered Mavis. “He said he could see how good it was for my well-being, and before I left for home, I was the owner of a park model trailer.”

With a beautiful view of the Superstition Mountains from her front door, Mavis is able to relax away from the freezing temperatures in Minnesota.

She is able to swim every day in a heated pool, and ride her bike, and there is no snow to shovel or grass to mow.

Anita Olson, a 40-year resident of Delano, began flying south for the winter, with her husband, John, 25 years ago.

For many years, they spent six months in Apache Junction, Ariz. and six months in Delano.

Though her husband passed away a year ago, Olson continues to be an Arizona snowbird, spending only three months in Delano each year.

“For seniors, Arizona is very resonable as far as rent,” Anita Olson said. “I live in a mobile home park and have many friends here.”

Olson has family in both states. While living in Delano over the years, she has been very involved in Light of Christ Church, worked for General Mills for nearly 30 years, and is now a proud member of the Apache Junction Red Hat Society.

The weather is the obvious reason these Delano snowbirds fly south for the winter, but warm weather is not the only thing that draws them to Arizona.

They have friends or family to spend time with, many activities to choose from, and beautiful views to gaze at. Mavis Windsperger said that groceries are less expensive, especially meat and milk.

Leon and Rosetta Vieau enjoy meeting new people from across the United States, and say that real estate taxes are less in Arizona and everyone pays the same whether they live there year-round or not.

“Arizona has approximately 312 sunny days a year,” said Marlys Wheeler. “We turn our heat on maybe 10 to 15 days a year. Food is usually cheaper because so much is raised in the valley.”

All of these snowbirds agree that life in Arizona during the winter months is warm, laid back, and well worth the flight south, but admit that Delano will always be home.

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