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Farewell Roanoke and Thanks for the Memories – Joe Kennedy

Joe Kennedy
Joe Kennedy

I should have left Roanoke when I retired seven years ago. But I didn’t.  Lack of imagination, I guess.

Now I am planning to move to a retirement community in North Carolina. It’s elegant, with 140 or so active seniors who engage in fitness classes and go to plays, concerts, ball games, college courses lectures and more. They eat their meals in a sunny dining room, make merry at holiday parties, chat over wine and cheese, and enjoy piano music at Friday Happy Hours.

Most of the residents are in their 70s. A few are in their 90s. I will be the youngest, at 66.

I don’t think of myself as the retirement community type, but the lines in my face say otherwise. And the rest home’s nearness to relatives makes the move appealing.

Rest home. That’s how I refer to it. Never fails to bring a laugh.

A rest home is not what I need. I’ve been resting at home since my stroke five years ago. If not for it, I doubt I’d leave Roanoke. But I have no relatives here. That was part of the appeal when I took my daily newspaper. job in 1971. Back then, I was a kid, eager to go some place and have a life of my own.

And I did have it, for better and worse, with the Virginia mountains witness to it all.

A lot has changed around here. Improvements abound. A short list includes the City Market, Center in the Square, the Taubman Museum, the green-ways and hiking trails and the marketing of the area’s outdoor offerings. I can’t overlook downtown living, David Wiley and the rise of neighborhoods like Raleigh Court, Old Southwest and Grandin Village. The Hotel Roanoke was saved, and the Grandin Theatre lives on.

I am not a Roanoke native, but sometimes I feel like one. If the words viaduct, American Motor Inns and Roanoke Safety Transit mean nothing to you, that hen you haven’t lived here as long as I have.

We’ve grown up, Roanoke and I. It went from a railroad town to a healthcare hub and vacation destination. I went from a shaggy kid to a senior citizen who takes 18 pills per day. Roanoke survived the loss of the Norfolk & Western Railway headquarters following the creation of Norfolk Southern Corp.

I survived some losses, too.

No longer an obscure industrial city, Roanoke is touted for its quality of life. I’m more obscure than ever, but that’s OK. I had my run. My trophy case may be dusty, with spaces left unfilled, and my bankroll, depleted by medical expenses, won’t take me far.

But I have other prizes. We raised our kids here, Sharon and I, and they are good kids. They are adults, but you know what I mean.

The friendships, the fun and the work I found here left me richer than I ever expected I cannot repay all the kindnesses.

It’s a great place, Roanoke, and I will never say otherwise. I wish it all the best.

– Joe Kennedy

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  1. Good luck with your retirement home. I moved to Roanoke a year before you did, so thanks for your memories! I’ve always enjoyed your columns and hope that maybe you’ll continue to write a few from NC. It would be interesting to read about life in a retirement home from a contemporary. So, the best to you, too, from Roanoke!

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