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Fifty Years in the Making

Updated: Jul 28

Story by Randy Grathen

There were so many God things that happened both in the years leading up to moving to Florida and with the actual buying of this home. I can’t begin to share them all here with you. I am not telling you this story to brag, but to share with you how, “God knows the end from the beginning.” It was nearly 50-years in the making. There are so many things He put into motion decades in advance in order for Laurie to finally get to live in Florida, her Paradise on Earth.

Laurie and I grew up in Wisconsin, the first 20-something years of our lives in the Frozen Tundra known as Green Bay. I was stationed at K.I. Sawyer Air force Base in Upper Michigan when we got married. After a short stint back in Wisconsin we got orders to Chanute Field in Rantoul, Illinois. Not the Frozen Tundra but close.

From Chanute we went to the Island of Guam in the Pacific. Three years of summer, palm trees and sandy beaches – island living. From there, on to McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento California. A hard winter in Sacramento was when temperatures dipped below freezing for a couple of days and it rained a lot. We were avid boaters, and the last house we owned was just 15 minutes from Folsom Lake. The boating season was ten months long. Off the water at the end of December, and back on again in March. We spent 12 years there.

We had been away from our families more than 20 years and missed out on almost every major family event you can imagine. So, when I retired in 1995, we moved back to Wisconsin. We learned, as the saying goes, “you can’t go home again.” The memories of what "was," no longer fit the reality of "now."

We quickly learned we didn’t miss Wisconsin winters. That revelation came during our third winter while shopping for a Christmas tree. The wind-chill was -70 degrees. Yes, I said minus! We decided that day we needed an escape plan to move farther south as soon as possible. We picked the Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri off the internet. We had owned 5 different homes and moved 14 separate times to this point. We decided this would be our last move. Camdenton’s winters were shorter, and the boating season was much longer. So, in 1999 we bought a nice 3,000 sq. ft. house just south of town and started a pressure washing business. Life was good.

After 23 years in Missouri Laurie got tired of winter with weeks of gray dreary skies. She kept talking about moving to Florida but resigned herself to the fact that it would probably never happen. Three years earlier we bought a 2500 sq. ft. house with a 4-stall garage and a finished bonus room above. I had a 30 x 40 shop, and we had a travel trailer. I was content to live on our 3.4 acres just outside of town.

Laurie’s youngest sister and many cousins live in Florida. We visited them several times. We spent two weeks in the Florida Keys with my sister and her husband. We rented a condo for a week in the Panhandle and got reacquainted with a couple we were stationed with at Chanute. He was my Electronics Instructor, also from Wisconsin. They invited us to spend a week with them exploring the area around Englewood on the Gulf coast.

When we were in the Keys, I started to have some medical issues and figured I better see my doctor when we got home. It turned out I had a 96% blockage in my “widow-maker” artery and had two stints put in.

I was working in the yard one day before I my surgery, thinking about all the times Laurie said she wanted to live in Florida. That’s when the God-voice in my head said, “Laurie followed you around for 22 years, now it’s time for you to follow her.” I went in for lunch and told her, “Ok, I’m ready to move to Florida.”

Once we decided to move Laurie spent hours looking at and showing me houses for sale in the Englewood area. This was right at the time the housing market exploded across the country. When we met with our real estate agent, he told us the price of our house was nearly double what we paid for it just 3 years earlier.

Our house sold in hours. In Florida the same thing was happening. A house would go up for sale on Thursday, the agent would take bids through the weekend and the seller would pick a “winner” on Monday. I told Laurie to stop looking at houses. We could not afford to fly down, look at a house and put in a bid. I said let’s get our house sold, move to Florida, and rent a condo while we house-hunted. We had been out bid on several homes already so we figured it would be some time before we hit the jackpot. Unbeknownst to me she never stopped looking, she just stopped showing me the homes.

While still in Camdenton a house came up for sale off-cycle. Meaning it didn’t fit the normal - listed on Thursday - bids til Sunday - lottery winner picked on Monday. This house came up on Monday, and the sellers wanted all bids in by Tuesday evening. It was a trust sale, no disclosures, sold as is. The kids just wanted to get rid of it and take their money. It was also a fully furnished VRBO. Laurie called our agent in Florida to tell her we wanted to make an offer on the house, but she was on vacation in Puerto Rico when she answered her phone. Luz called her office and had their assistant do a video tour for us. Without ever setting foot in it, we made an offer, contingent only on an inspection. One of the other agents in the office wrote up the paperwork. We waited anxiously to hear whether our offer was accepted, or had we been out bid again, which we fully expected.

We got a call hours later from Luz telling us another agent got the sale. Oh, well. This house was too good to be true.

About an hour later Luz called back. It turns out the people who got the sale was us! Because the agent from her office wrote the offer Luz’s name didn’t appear on the document. Suddenly we were going to be homeowners in a community called Rotonda West.

Every house we’ve ever owned we saw as an opportunity to share with guests. To give them a vacation location that cost them nothing more than the transportation to get to where we lived. This house, Grathen’s Last Resort, is no different. This is an open invitation to our friends and family that if you want to get away from the minus 70 below weather in Wisconsin or the dreary, foggy winter ice storms of Missouri for awhile, contact us. We’ll see if our guest room is available when you want to come. LOL.

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