First vacation leads to a lifetime of adventure
Farming was a tough business when Wayne and Donna Walter were trying to make the land work for them.
“We farmed in Princeton, Kansas, for 28 years and never took a vacation,” Donna said. “In the 1980s the interest rates were terrible and we lost a few crops. So, we decided to take a vacation to Alaska and stayed there for 28 years.
The couple bought a fishing charter boat, and lived in it while they were building a new home in Haines, Alaska.
“The only thing we had been on was a Jon boat in our pond,” Donna said. “This was a 34-foot live aboard boat. It was quite an adventure.”
For about six years, the couple took tourists on saltwater fishing trips - fishing primarily for halibut and salmon, as well as setting pots for shrimp and crab.
“We just enjoyed the boat and kept it for 20 years,” Donna said. “It took us four years to get a skipper’s license. We had to spend 365 days on the water, so we’d go out for three or four days at a time and try to find all the fishing spots.”
Now Wayne is 92 and Donna is 88.
“We don’t get around like we used to,” Wayne said. “We used to go fishing and traveling a lot. Some of the hunting and fishing trips I was on were pretty strenuous. I floated the Yukon river for a month. I pretty well spent my life outdoors.”
Now, they’ll sometimes visit their farm land to spend a little time outside. They enjoy visiting family that lives nearby, and going out with friends.
“We don’t drive at night anymore,” Wayne said. “But we still get rides with friends. We still do all the activities we did before.”
“I go to all the exercise things, and the water aerobics,” Donna said. “There’s a selection of things to do every day. We have choices.”
Since moving to the Westerly in December, Wayne and Donna have managed to find their way around, meet a number of new people, and integrate themselves into the community.
“Staff is fantastic,” Donna said. “They take care of things quickly. We like not having to cook or plan meals.”
They’re also happy to be living close to their son and daughter, who both live in South-central Kansas, along with the grandchildren who live nearby.
“We have seven grandchildren and five great grandchildren,” Donna said. “All the grandchildren are grown. I love to sew for the little girls. The great grandchildren in Winfield we see a lot more often, but we try to go a couple times a year to see the others.”
Their 68-year marriage has taken them on many adventures - from meeting at Kansas State University, through Wayne’s time as an Air Force pilot with the Strategic Air Command, to farming and ranching, fishing in Alaska, to now, retired, in Wichita.
“We live an altogether different life,” Wayne said. “Retirement is a different life. We have settled in okay. We’re finding our way around, and we’ve visited with a lot of people that have been in here.”