The Roanoker September/October 2017 - RVA6
Flight of Fantasy
Karen DeBord and Jack Phillips are living their own personal dream at Smith Mountain Lake in their
golden years. STORY AND PHOTO BY DAN SMITH
THE PLAN WAS FAIRLY SIMPLE: retire early, say at 56.
small planes in various stages of renovation; one of them
Find and buy a nice piece of land abutting a small airport,
an open-cockpit 1929 design Pietenpol Air Camper. He is
preferably near a body of water. Build a B&B with an air-
building an experimental four-seat RV-10, a plane that will
plane hangar. Get on with the final phase of their lives in
cruise 200 MPH that they hope to use to travel. There is
an idyllic setting.
also a recently purchased 1946 Piper Cub. He uses a vin-
Karen DeBord, 63, and Jack Phillips, 64, did all those
tage Cessna for his flying tours of the lake.
things, but there was nothing simple about it. Financing,
"We knew we didn't want to stop working and that we
especially, became an ordeal after construction began on
wanted to do something together," says Karen. They also
their 5,700-square-foot, four-guest-bedroom B&B, which
knew they wanted to live in the western half of Virginia be-
would become Bedford Landings.
cause her mother, who lived in Blacksburg, had Alzheimer's
All this happened during a serious economic downturn.
They were trying to sell their home in Raleigh, North Caro-
and needed care. Karen, who grew up in Blacksburg, returned to Tech where she had worked previously.
lina, (where she taught at N.C. State and he was a design
From the beginning the couple dived into life at the lake,
engineer for medical devices) and it took three years. Then
joining organizations and groups, the chamber of com-
there was finding the spot, designing the B&B and get-
merce, choirs, and Karen is looking for a writers' group
ting everything paid for. They went to 12 banks before
to help critique a book she is writing. They have kids and
finding one that would loan them the money to complete
grandkids and though, "we're not a babysitting service,"
they enjoy entertaining the young ones.
For 18 months, while the B&B was going up, they lived
"We're very happy here," says Karen. "I tell people con-
in Jack's hangar, something of a Spartan existence. It fi-
sidering retirement to think about what they will be doing
nally worked out and they're running the successful B&B
with their time. Run toward something and define what's
along with Bedford Landings Air Tours, where Jack has four
next, something new and challenging." And keep it simple.
and husband Jack
Phillips pose with
one of their four
airplanes in their
hangar at Smith
6 | RETIRE-VA 2018