Shifting Gears in Retirement

By Judee Fong

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Bob Duncan with his olive tree.

Retirement can mean empty nests, leisure time and travel, but some retirees are enjoying a second career, often different from their first.

Bob and Verna Duncan purchased their small 0.3 hectare Deep Cove property in 1983, happily raising their four children. Working as an entomologist and botanist at the Pacific Forestry Centre, Bob worried the substantial downsizing in the federal government may make him the next unemployed casualty.

“I took advantage of the training offered to start a business,” he recalls. “Verna and I started Fruit Trees and More Nursery ( because I was already growing citrus fruits and apples. Meanwhile, my old job survived and there we were – running a business while I was still working.”

Using his entomology/botany background, as well as decades of farming experience, Bob has made Fruit Trees and More Nursery a well-known source of hardy fruit trees and unique fruit.

“Our climate here is similar to the Mediterranean and sub-Tropical, so fruits grown there will survive here,” explains Bob. “What's common about all my fruit trees is that they're not heated through normal winter weather.”

Over the years, Bob devised a method where the only heat source was Christmas lights, regulated by a thermostat that turns on when the temperature dips below freezing. In an average winter, the lights come on between five and 10 nights, which translates to minimal electricity usage. Hardworking, efficient Mason bees pollinate his fruit-bearing trees and bushes.

Today, Bob’s harvest includes purple-black olives, kiwis, grapes, figs, pomegranates, jujubes or Chinese dates, several types of loquats, over 30 varieties of citrus, pears and plums, numerous varieties of apples, peaches, cherries and apricots, pineapple guavas and strawberry guavas.

“We tried growing tropical guavas, but it was just too chilly to survive,” he says.

The many fruits of his labour, including Verna’s famous jams, jellies and pure citrus marmalades, are sold at the Deep Cove Farmers’ Market. Bob’s advice to any retiree is, “If you have a passion for something that keeps your mind sharp, keeps you active and lets you meet remarkable people, don’t be afraid of trying — just go for it.”

From businessman and former vocational rehabilitation counsellor to art gallery manager, Richard Pawley, is also one of the original artists at Gallery 1580. This distinctive Cook Street building, with its exterior covered in art painted by invited street artists, is where other professional artists rent creative space and exhibit their works, either collectively or exclusively ( Gallery 1580 is where art happens.

“I just went from ‘retired’ to gallery manager and artist,” recalls Richard. “We were looking for a building for an art show and this building was newly vacant. I had my own business before I retired, so I knew what was needed to manage a gallery.”

While painting, Richard developed tendonitis and had to change his focus. “I switched to an art-form, using ‘found’ objects such as different sizes of springs and Slinkies, metal shavings, old parachutes or stretched bicycle tires that are normally thrown out,” he says. “I like finding things and transforming them into free-flowing sculptures. I want to create the effects of movement, action, volume and space. I find inspiration choosing things that have potential to be formed into art.”

Richard confesses that any self-doubts about his sculptures “keeps me on my toes and makes me stretch my abilities to the limits.” To retirees thinking about following their dreams, Richard advises, “Do what you love and stay connected to people.”

Lynda McKewan was a public health nurse and nurse practitioner for 33 years before she decided to retire early to pursue her passion. She is also one of the original members of Gallery 1580.

“I always liked to draw and paint, so when I retired I went to Vancouver Island of Art and took all the painting courses I could,” she says. “When that was finished, I told myself I’ve got what I need to start painting on my own. I had the opportunity to join Bill 

Porteous’ mentorship group of 12 artists and they encouraged and supported me.”

One of her early highpoints was a visit to her son, who works on high-rise buildings in Toronto. Lynda recalls, “I was inspired by the large scale he worked on and the expanse of architecture was fascinating. I could see textures, colour variations and patterns.”

Calling herself a “pattern profiler,” Lynda explains, “When you profile somebody, you’re looking at the intricacies of that person and I think for me, when I look at a pattern, I’m looking at the intricacies and variations that could happen in a pattern. There are so many variations and permutations, it’s endless.”

Lynda’s impressive abstract, “Red Flip, Green Flip” demonstrates deceptive simplicity with the placement of angles and colours, giving the appearance of three-dimensional art ( To others seeking the courage to pursue their dreams, Lynda advises, “Most people already have an idea if they’ve been doing it in their spare time, so go ahead and follow your dream.”

Brock Clayards was in the RCMP for 27 years. “I worked four years in Ottawa for the Counterterrorism, Middle Eastern division chasing down Saddem Hussein’s Iraqi secret police. They entered Canada as diplomatic ‘cultural attaches’ but were thugs and they made no secret about what they were.”

Brock’s decision to remain a policeman, instead of accepting the invitation to join the newly formed Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), got him stationed back on the West Coast.

While still a regular member of the RCMP, Brock would occasionally imagine himself as a writer, but never pursued this. Then one day, he decided to write up an incident that happened when he was a junior constable. “It was kind of fun writing it down as a story,” says Brock. “Each day, I would return to it, modify it a bit, add a bit and pretty soon I was writing a book!”

Brock’s first book, Pacific Flyways was released a year ago and is available on Pacific Flyways is a believable tale of eco-terrorism affecting thousands of migrating birds infected with a deadly strain of avian flu. Brock’s latest novel, Chasing the Dragon’s Tail, is a historical thriller set in Victoria’s 1914 Chinatown along with the onset of WWI. (

“There are incidents mentioned in the book that actually happened,” he says. One of the pieces of information he was seeking was on 1914 submarine technology. Fortunately, Brock stumbled on the website of a person who provided him with valuable information including photos of a 1914 submarine’s interior. “I was able to visualize what actual living conditions were like and to write this into my book.” Content with life after retirement, Brock’s advice to others wanting to write, “You don’t have to write for other people — write for yourself. And if other people happen to like it, that’s a bonus.”

Bob and Verna Duncan can be reached at or at 250-656-4269.
Brock Clayards is reachable at
Gallery 1580 is located at 1580 Cook Street, Victoria, BC




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