Retired residents leaving Happy Valley-Goose Bay

Derek Montague
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Say expense of living in Labrador a factor in decision

Bob and Gertie Simms stand next to their home that they plan on selling this summer. They plan to be in St John’s by the fall.

While driving around Happy Valley-Goose Bay, one can’t help but to notice the ‘for sale’ signs in many neighbourhoods. The Muskrat Falls project has brought an economic boom to the region, yet many longtime residents plan on moving away.

A lot of people who are leaving are recently retired, and have bought new homes in Newfoundland, where they’ll spend their golden years.

Noreen and John Johnson spent 16 years living contently in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. They quickly got used to Labrador’s climate and began enjoying the winter activities.

“We had a cabin, snowmobiles, the whole nine yards,” said John.

But this spring, the couple began moving their lives out to their new home in Pasadena, which is a popular destination for retired folks.

One of the reasons why the two are moving has to do with the expense of living in Labrador, which has gone up significantly in recent years.

Like many others who live in Central Labrador, Noreen and John spent a lot of time driving to Labrador City, taking advantage of box stores like Wal-Mart.

“We used to travel to Labrador City once every three months,” said Noreen.

“Whenever we would drive out (of Labrador) for whatever reason, our vehicle would be packed coming back,” added John.

Now that the couple is retired, they would much rather be within a short driving distance of cheaper services.

“The doctor’s in town, the pharmacy’s in town, the grocery store’s in town, and Corner Brook’s only 15 minutes away,” said John.

Noreen also feels that health services are too lacking in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. She feels more confident in getting speedy health care in Pasadena, where she and John already have a doctor lined up.

“(In Happy Valley-Goose Bay) you have to wait six weeks to even see a doctor. Follow-ups were just about impossible,” said Noreen.

“If you do get sick, you have to wait six to 12 hours in emergency.”

Last but not least, Noreen and John want to retire in a place where they can easily go outside for a walk. During the winter in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, that can be a difficult task since there’re very few streets with sidewalks.

“The climate is better (in Pasadena),” said John. “The town is equipped with sidewalks. It’s cleared just about all winter for walking.”


Town’s judo pioneer saying farewell

Bob Simms, along with his wife Gertie, came to Happy Valley-Goose Bay in 1976, when they were both teachers. That same year, Bob started the Goose Bay Judo Club, which is still operating after 38 years.

But Simms is bidding farewell to the town and club that he loves.

His house is on the market. His last day at work with Health Canada is on June 26, and he and his wife plan to be in St John’s by the fall.

The Simms’ chose St. John’s as their destination so they can be near their son and nine-month-old grandchild.

“We’ve had a wonderful life here. I couldn’t have wished for a better professional career,” said Bob. It comes to a point now, after 40 years, where we have a tremendous number of friends here, but we don’t have any family.”

“As you get older, you want to be more connected to family and we now have a new grandchild, who’s just nine months old … so we made a decision that we’d like to spend more time with them.”

Bob and Gertie also want to spend some of their retirement travelling to places like Portugal. But flying anywhere out of Labrador requires a costly plane ticket. By living in St. John’s, the Simms will be saving a lot of money when they board an airplane.

“We’re both retired and we both like to travel. And Labrador’s not a good base to be travelling from because of the expense,” said Bob.

“For us to go to St. John’s to visit our son is nearly $2,000.”

Bob also has a passion for sailing and is looking forward to living closer to the ocean, where the boating season is longer.

“I thoroughly enjoy sailing and I want to do more sailing. In terms of being able to have a longer season and to be able to go where I want to go on my boat, that’s another factor.”

Organizations: Wal-Mart, Goose Bay Judo Club, Health Canada

Geographic location: Happy Valley, Goose Bay, Newfoundland Pasadena Muskrat Falls Central Labrador Corner Brook Portugal

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Recent comments

  • Scott
    May 28, 2014 - 18:43

    What would it take to get people to stay? Maybe there is nothing that will stop normal out-migration of some who retire but the challenges of attracting and retaining professionals for the long-term has steadily gotten worse for the town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay. Why would young people want to stay? A quarter acre of sand costs 100K. How can our essential workers, our young people, save for a downpayment on a $300,000 home with rent now at $1000 per month and more... and groceries perhaps costing 50% more than in most places outside of Labrador. You have just feature 2 couples that have contributed much to Happy Valley-Goose Bay. I hope they have a long and happy retirement.

  • Jennifer Baggs
    May 28, 2014 - 13:58

    This is one of the main reasons why I move out of Goose Bay recently. It is ridiculous the price that you have to pay for necessities there, not to mention the fact that in order to be looked at by a specialist you have to fly to St. John's or Corner Brook and that alone costs an "arm and a leg". I am now living in St. John's and everything is way more convenient and I also noticed that I get a lot more groceries here, dollar wise, then I would if I was still living in Goose Bay.

  • stanley oliver
    May 28, 2014 - 13:30

    Mr. and Mrs Simms are some the finest people I have had the opportunity to know both professionally and personnaly. The community will surley miss such wonderful volunteers and all round good souls. Thank you to both of them for all they have done to build our community.