Gene Lucia wanted to plant a garden and get out of the jungle.
Lucia and his wife, Barbara, moved to Spokane last year after living more than 30 years in southern Florida. The East Coast natives decided against moving back home after several visits left them discouraged by the overcrowding and the incivility.
“It turned into a jungle back there,” Lucia says of the New England area he once loved.
Like his former East Coast home, Spokane offered the promise of four seasons and those seasons brought the promise of a vegetable garden. Last spring, Lucia planted tomatoes.
“They’re the best tomatoes I’ve had in 50 years,” he says. “You can’t grow vegetables close to the ocean.”
Gene fell for Spokane after several trips to the Inland Northwest to market the George E. Delallo Co. Inc., line of Italian foods. While he used to travel throughout the country, a few years ago he decided it was time for a change. Now, he limits his travels to northern California, Oregon, Idaho, Utah and Washington.
“I’m getting up in years,” Gene says. “I decided I needed to slow down, and the place to do it was in the Northwest.”
Barbara echoes her husband’s sentiments. “It’s just much, much slower here,” she says. “People seem to have the time to help you. What we were used to in Florida, it was so much busier, but that’s not to say it wasn’t nice.”
The couple considered North Idaho and Coeur d’Alene before settling on Spokane Valley.
“We’re just so close to everything, 10 minutes from downtown, and 10 minutes from Idaho,” Barbara says. “It’s really convenient.”
The couple bought a home in the Ponderosa area of Spokane Valley. On their one-acre lot, Gene planted apple, cherry and pear trees along with an enormous vegetable garden.
“I really fell in love with the property and the country-style living,” Gene says. “I can see Mount Spokane out my window.”
Back in Florida or along the East Coast, finding a one-acre lot was almost as hard as being able to afford one. “There’s no place that we could have gotten this kind of property,” Barbara says. “Probably the house alone would be real close to three times the price.”
Barbara is making friends through groups like the Compass Club, a newcomers’ group which unites women from all over the world who have moved to the area. Gene has made friends at the stores his visits on the job. His brother plans to move to Post Falls this summer.
Besides their growing circle of friends, the Lucias love the ease of going to the symphony or the theater here. “You don’t have to fight horrendous traffic or worry about a place to park,” Barbara says. “I enjoy all the arts and crafts.”
“It’s cosmopolitan. It’s economical,” says Gene. He adds that while he understands wages are sometimes lower than statewide averages, “you get value for the dollar in everything you do here.”
Missing the familiar
Barbara and Gene miss the five children and 11 grandchildren they share. All but one family lives on the opposite coast, Barbara says. “They’ve all come to visit.”
Barbara has made several trips to southern Florida to get a beach fix.
“I’ll always miss the beach,” she says. “I need to go visit from time to time.
“The water is always warm.”
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