Port Perry is one of those towns, where many of its residents were born, grew up and remained. One such person is 82 year old, Barbara Festeryga… that is, until now. Barbara is moving and, at a time when many people of her age shop around for retirement homes, she has decided to not only move to a different province, but also open an Air B&B.
Born on Mary Street, “I’m not sure what number it was, because we didn’t use numbers back then,” Barbara explained, laughingly. She grew up in a farming environment. Her father, John Cliff Love, was in the Holstein business and bought a property, affectionately named the Love Ranch, in 1942. The 113 acres, located at the top of the hill on Highway 7A, across from Island Road, was previously inhabited by the Mississaugas of Scugog, First Nation.
In 1991, Barbara and husband George Festeryga took over the ranch. They kept the name, the C.J. Love Ranch, and began catering to tourism. You may recall George Festeryga’s name from football, as he played for the Montreal Alouettes in 1949. He was an integral part of their first Grey Cup championship and later played for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, finishing his career in 1952, after two seasons with the Edmonton Eskimos.
Barbara, an only child, knew her way around Scugog. Her father was a Councillor and Deputy Reeve, as well as Chair of the Hospital board. After graduating from Port Perry High School, Barbara attended the University of Western Ontario, and graduated with the intent of teaching. Her career took her to Fort Erie, Collingwood and New Brunswick. “I enjoyed teaching,” Barbara said, “and loved English, History and Art.”
Barbara and George raised three boys, two of who still live in the area. When George passed away, most people at that stage in life, would have started to wind things down. Barbara is different from most people as she explained. “Life doesn’t have a best-before date. People expect 70-somethings to be all about spoiling their grandchildren and reminding their kids they don’t know how good they have it.
“While getting older, I haven’t shrunk or started using a walker. As a person, I’ve grown. I don’t wear an adult diaper, and my life hasn’t been whittled down to a nursing home, and the smell of old people. I’ve become so much more than I thought I could be.”
What makes Barbara Festeryga so strong? She was raised in the Depression, when women were expected to be stay-at-home moms, nurses or teachers. If they had dreams of running their own businesses, they kept them to themselves. Many back then, were not risk takers. They were a home-cooked meal, a warm house and laundry on the line. Behind every successful man was a loving wife.
“So when my husband died, three years ago, I was lost. I suddenly had to decide on a new direction in life, with a bustling farm and a lonely heart. The house and I both felt empty. It was partly my grandchildren who gave me the idea of following my dreams of becoming an entrepreneur. They love my farm, and I think it’s as much a sanctuary for them as it is for me. What if I could share that sanctuary?”
She started a Bed and Breakfast at the Ranch, in Port Perry. “Starting this business was the best decision I ever made. The productivity helps me keep up my morale. It has enriched me: I use the barn as a stable and an art gallery, where I display and promote my friends’ artwork; I travel the world through my patrons’ experiences, and I’ve taken risks because I’m not afraid to fail anymore. Hosting gives me a happy glow, and I’ve made an army of friends.”
She is constantly looking after her horses, most of which are Italian Miniature Ponies, bred as a war horse, with a combination of strength, endurance and determination. The farm, a beautiful property, with spectacular views, is what kept her going.
So, why would anyone at 82, want to move to Prince Edward Island and start a Bed and Breakfast? A big draw is one of her sons lives there. “When I saw the property last year I immediately fell in love with it. He has 60 acres and I found a spot, not far from where he lives, right on the water.”
She has sold her Port Perry property, the C.J. Love Ranch, and has packed her belongings. As you read this column, Barbara is on her way to begin the next chapter in her life. If you find your way to P.E.I. and need a great place to stay, visit her at Ocean Shore Retreat (check out airb&b.com) in Cardigan, P.E.I.
In Barbara’s words, “Every stage of life has its pros and cons, and even if you sometimes long to be 10 or 30 years younger, eventually you start to realize that 20 is never coming back, and just be happy where you are. Life doesn’t stop at 70 or even 80… as long as you don’t.”
Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award-winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. His show, ‘The Jonathan van Bilsen Show,’ on RogersTV, the Standard Website or YouTube, features many of the people included in this column.