Eddie Orlowicz recently took down his Christmas decorations, and will do some light work for Valentine and St. Patrick’s Days, before he puts up Easter decorations — over 60 bunny rabbits all over his large front lawn, with big ones and little ones all cut out of wood.
“I decorate the whole place for Christmas, including the driveway and trees, and the neighbors seem to enjoy it,” he relates. “Of course, at 90-years-old, it takes me two to three weeks and nothing gets done in a hurry, but everything is in place a week or so before Christmas through the New Year.”
He spent most of his life in “little Sayreville, in Central New Jersey, working for Dupont for 43 years, before retiring in 1986 and relocating to Fort Myers Beach shortly thereafter.” He still residing in the same home near the north tip of the island that he and Bernice, his wife of 45 years, purchased 30 years ago.
“Fort Myers Beach was a natural place for us because my sister-in-law already lived here,” Eddie explains. “In fact, she remains our next-door neighbor today. We would vacation here during the winter, and the weather sells itself – I tell people we only have two seasons – spring and summer! We decided when I retired, there would be no more winters in New Jersey, so we sold the house and left behind the snow shovel.”
Rack ‘Em Up!
Though Beach residents now, Eddie and Bernice are two natives of New Jersey whose love was as certain as the 4-ball in the side pocket: “We met playing pool,” Eddie recalls with a laugh! “A friend invited me over to shoot a few games and we needed another player so he called over his neighbor, who I knew was a woman; that is how we met and the rest is history!” Bernice was a young widow with two sons, Danny who now lives in Atlanta and Dave in West Virginia, and “they adopted Eddie,” she emphasizes.
Once retired, Bernice volunteered at the HealthPark Medical Center, and Eddie figured out he should get active in his new community as well, so he donated time to the Church of the Ascension. “They had a craft show coming up and needed decorated holiday figures to sell to northerners on vacation, and they asked me to make some. I had never been a crafty person in my life but I tried it, was good at it, and really enjoyed it, so I still make them today.”
Eddie rides his bike every morning, from one to two miles. “I love the bike trail the Town built on both sides of Estero Boulevard on the north part of the island,” Eddie offers. “My wife gave me my bike on my 70th birthday to stay active, and I still have the same one 20 years later. It was a complete surprise – I came downstairs and said, ‘Oh My God,’ but it turned out to be one of the best gifts of my life.”
“Everyone on the beach can learn from Eddie and what he does to keep himself in such great shape,” relates Joe Hensley, one of his neighbors. “He rides his bike every day, and works in his yard, cutting his own grass. He puts up fun holiday displays for Christmas, with lots of bunnies for Easter, and works in his shop to make the wonderful displays. He is a great role model for me, though I am 18 years younger than Eddie!”
Between his decorations, bike-riding, volunteer work, and overall sunny disposition, it is no wonder Eddie’s nickname is “The Mayor of The North End of The Island!”
Eddie believes the key to a long happy healthy life is to “stay active! You cannot just sit in the chair and look at the ceiling. I eat lots of vegetables and my wife is a great cook. I take care of myself, and an important part of that is a glass of red wine every day around 3:30 p.m.”
Even after thirty years, Eddie relates that “the north end is still quiet, with more families, making it so different from the rest of the island, though I witnessed the construction of four large hotels since we moved here. It is a nice mix of residential plus business, with old cottages and big hotels, but I value the memories of the old drawbridge opening to watch the shrimp boats go by, and driving under the historic stone arches.”
Asked if he has any new goals, Eddie radiates: “Yes – to hit 100! Only the Good Lord knows, of course, but if I follow my own advice to keep very active, I like my odds!”