Barry Canner and Bob Travers
From northern hospitality to southern hospitality:
Longtime Maine innkeepers find ideal retirement community
Talk to Barry Canner and Bob Travers for just a moment, and it’s clear they were in the hospitality business. It wasn’t always that way. Bob worked in a more traditional sales job, and Barry was a city planner just outside of Boston.
Barry had already bought some land in Maine, so they walked into the office of the Realtor he’d worked with in Gouldsboro, asking what they could buy for $50,000-60,000 on the water.
First, the broker laughed. Then she showed them a large house just 5 miles off the water that would make a great bed and breakfast.
And Black Duck Inn was born.
Barry and Bob operated their BnB for nearly three decades. The inn had four guest rooms, and they eventually added two cottages. Their breakfast specialties included their own benedict, orange French toast with almonds, and pancakes and muffins that took advantage of Maine’s extra special blueberries.
Despite the 5 a.m. start times, their years as innkeepers were full of good times and happy memories. “We met a lot of really wonderful people who became friends,” Barry says, adding many people would come back year after year. They knew the place almost as well as the couple – asking, “What happened to that painting” or noticing when furniture had been rearranged. Some of their earliest regulars are now in their 90s, and they saw kids grow up over the years. One couple who eloped at the inn now has grandchildren.
The inn had an “over 10” policy for children, but they once granted an exception – who visited so regularly with her family that she had to bring her first serious boyfriend to get Bob and Barry’s approval.
They say it was an honor to be part of the vacations that these guests so looked forward to.
Many of their guests loved visiting the inn so much, they wanted their own piece of Maine heaven. After recommending the first few folks to his Realtor, Bob went to work for her. And so, the Black Duck Inn became the Black Duck Inn and Properties. While Bob was busy selling homes, Barry worked on managing them. At one point, they, with the help of a cleaning team, oversaw 25 rentals.
Over a decade ago, Barry and Bob started easing out of their various businesses and built a house on the land surrounding the inn. You’ll now find them there during the hot North Carolina summers. This is a reverse of when the inn was open from Memorial Day to Columbus Day, and in the winter, the snowbirds headed to Key West. After having a condo for several years, they eventually renovated a farmhouse from the 1800s. It had a lovely Tuscan feel with old stone walls and a pool.
While Key West is a great place to visit, they knew it wasn’t where they wanted to retire full-time. The pair visited about 20 continuing-care retirement communities on a trip from Virginia to Georgia, ideally looking for somewhere with a first-floor apartment for the convenience of walking their rescue pup, Iona.
And that’s how they found The Village at Brookwood in Burlington, N.C.
The Village happened to have a house available – not what they thought they were looking for, but it met all their physical needs. Besides the house, they found the community as a whole also fit their physical and emotional needs. So, in the middle of the pandemic, they moved in.
Besides walking Iona three to four miles a day, Barry and Bob enjoy visiting The Village’s fitness center and library, and they’ve gotten involved with a bicycling group. They’ve also taken advantage of a lot of what nearby Elon University has to offer Village residents.
“People have been so nice,” Bob says. “It’s the wave. Everyone waves when they see you. Very southern!”
He goes on to say that when they first arrived at The Village, “it was like going to college, when you don’t know anyone in the cafeteria. But right off the bat, people said, “You’re the new guys! Sit with us!”
From their fellow Village residents to the team members, Bob and Barry appreciate how welcoming everyone has been.
Be sure to say hello, share your favorite recent read, and give Iona a pat when you see them around.
Mary and Russ McNeal
‘We wouldn’t trade it for anything’
How one couple makes the most of life at The Village
By Ann Davis-Rowe
When asked why Mary and Russ McNeal should be profiled, Betsy Huneycutt, Director of Marketing at The Village at Brookwood, a continuing care retirement community in Burlington where the McNeals live, just laughed. “Talk to them for a minute, and they’ll tell you why,” she said.
Recently, Mary and Russ had just returned from a trip to Abington, Va, to see the changing autumn leaves – and to check out the bicycle trails. Russ is a regular cyclist and does nearly daily rides around The Village with a group of six or seven others. He’s hoping to gather everyone together for a trip to Abington.
Mary and Russ met in Greensboro. He was born there; she‘s from the Sandhills but went to Greensboro for college. In fact, she was one of the first students to receive a four-year bachelor’s degree in Nursing from UNCG. After graduation, she worked at The Moses Cone Memorial Hospital for about 15 years.
Russ served in the Army Air Defense Command – but was never stationed outside the United States (yes, it is possible to be stationed in Key West). After his service, Russ worked as an engineer for Southern Bell. Following the breakup of the Bell companies in the early ’80s, Russ’s job took him to New Jersey.
Meanwhile, Mary had been thinking of moving from nursing into chaplaincy. Conveniently, Russ’s new job brought them close to Princeton, where Mary received her master’s degree of Divinity. She then worked in small churches throughout Virginia and North Carolina for a while.
Russ was able to take an early retirement when Mary started in the ministry. “She followed me for the first 24 years of our marriage, and I followed her for the next 24,” he jokes. When the couple ended up back in Greensboro, he got back into the IT field at UNCG, and Mary served as the chaplain at a retirement community.
Because of Mary’s work and Russ’s parents being at yet another retirement community, the couple was very familiar with continuing care retirement communities, or “life plan communities.” Especially as a child-free couple, “we knew it was the way to complete our life experience,” Russ says. As such, they did a lot of research before choosing The Village at Brookwood, even making comparison charts of various options. When they visited the community, “it just felt like the one for us,” they recall. Even after being residents for a while, “it really is like a big, open family,” Russ points out.
The McNeals enjoy concerts and events at Elon University and participated in [email protected] Elon, a lifelong learning program and another great opportunity for residents of The Village. “We love being able to learn about Burlington and do things around the town,” they say, appreciative of getting a broader perspective on life in central North Carolina. They’re also attend a variety of events at The Village, something they love and can do without having to worry about how to get there.
“One of the things we found so great here,” Mary says, “is the opportunity to improve our health, not just in the fitness center or with water aerobics but being able to go for walks around campus.” And, of course, there are the bike rides. “Living here is like living in a fairyland,” Russ adds. “It’s beautiful going through the neighborhoods.”
The couple says they moved to The Village a little earlier than others of their age because they saw its potential, and that the community was on the edge of growth. “We wanted to help it grow,” they say. The McNeals are responsible for at least five other move-ins and are quick to say that they’re “fascinated” by their fellow residents and getting to build relationships with others. “We wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Russ says.
The McNeals’ excitement for the community is one reason Huneycutt says, “They’re just one of those couples everyone wants on their campus.”
So when you see them, please say hi. They’d love to talk with you.