When David and Freda DeGruchy were looking for a place to live after retiring from their jobs in Maryland, they didn't have a long list of criteria to consider.
The couple knew they wanted to be relatively close to the Blue Ridge Parkway, where they had spent many vacations throughout their marriage. And they were seeking an area that features mild summers and winters and beautiful falls and springs.
"We wanted to go somewhere that still had the four seasons, rather than somewhere like Florida," says David DeGruchy, who retired from the Federal Aviation Administration in 1992. "We enjoy the four seasons but not with the extreme winters. Plus, we would often vacation on the Blue Ridge Parkway, so we knew we wanted to be somewhat close to it."
Wilkes County was just the place, the DeGruchys found out during their research.
But it's what they discovered after moving here more than 20 years ago that has really made a difference in their decision to call Wilkes County home.
"We found out how friendly the people are," says Freda DeGruchy, a retired teacher. "We lived in a bedroom community in Maryland, so we would see our neighbors maybe in the summertime and a little on weekends, and that would be it. But here, people have really welcomed us.
"To me, that is a plus. It's the people who have made it."
Others who have chosen to retire here would echo that sentiment.
"The friendliness of the people becomes very addictive," says Carmen Daecher, who bought a 65-acre piece of property in Hays when he and his wife, Cheryl Jacobs, moved here in 2009. "There is no hesitation of people to be friendly. Everyone is very open-armed and embracive."
Much like the DeGruchys, Daecher and Jacobs were attracted to the physical aspects of Wilkes County.
"The vistas in Wilkes County are breathtaking," says Daecher, who co-owned a consulting business in Mechanicsburg, Pa., with his wife before both retired. "It's an incredibly beautiful county from a geographic point of view.
"We also really liked the rural character of the county. It wasn't hustle-bustle and a lot of traffic and things like that. It gave us a change of pace from what was a faster pace of life."
Even though both couples are retired, they still find plenty to do here. The DeGruchys stay active in their church, and they also lead line dancing and clogging classes at the Wilkes Senior Center and at a similar facility in Alexander County.
Daecher and Jacobs are involved in the promotion of the area's wine industry.
"My wife and I enjoy wine," Daecher says. "We're so excited about the potential for the wine industry in this county that we've taken an active supporting role, trying to get it better known."
Both couples are seeing like-minded people move here.
"It seems to be getting more and more popular with retirees," David DeGruchy says. "We volunteer at the visitors center, and we'll see very few people who are from Wilkes County. Most are transplants like us."
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