Eganville – At age 100, Heinz Regener still enjoys a dance around the floor with his 94-year-old wife, Gisele (Gissy) and he can still navigate his big white Cadillac. His hearing is poor, but otherwise he is quite healthy, loves socializing and has a great sense of humour.
A native of Budensted, Germany who emigrated to Canada in 1957 and eventually retired to Eganville, Mr. Regener observed his 100th birthday last Wednesday and was the guest at a couple of special functions to mark the occasion.
Normally, at this time of year, Heinz and Gissy would still be in Arizona where they spent the last 32 winters but they haven’t gone west since 2019 because of COVID-19.
The Regeners settled in Ottawa when they came to Canada where Mr. Regener worked with several high-tech companies. It was their love of camping and fishing that eventually saw them leave the city after their retirement and become full-time seasonal residents at Mac’s Ce-Dar-Est at Mink Lake.
The Regeners were married in Germany in March, 1950 after meeting the previous October at a dance. When they decided to leave Germany, they had the choice of going to Australia, South Africa, the United States or Canada. They chose Canada, settling in Ottawa where Heinz was hired as a purchasing agent for Computing Devices, which later became General Dynamics. He had an interesting career and recalled seeing many big changes long before they were introduced to the public. His career spanned 30 years and often his job took him to Arizona. Gissy accompanied him on one of those trips in 1975 and when they returned, she said “if I ever retire, it’s going to be in Arizona”. Gissy worked at Scotiabank.
While living and working in Ottawa, the couple did a lot of fishing and camping. In fact, they could be considered pioneers of the camping movement.
“I opened almost every campground. When I started camping, there weren’t too many people doing it. The French people were the campers,” he said. “We travelled to all of the lakes around Ottawa and went all the way up to Cochrane and Timmins fishing.”
The Regeners bought a motor home in the 1980s and did a bit of travelling around Ontario. One day, a neighbour who had a campsite at Mac’s Ce-Dar-Est suggested they come up to Mink Lake with the motor home instead of parking it in their driveway when they weren’t using it, so they did in 1987. They loved it so much they sold their home in 1988 and purchased a mobile home at Mac’s and made Mink Lake their home, travelling to Yuma, Arizona for the winter months.
The Regeners wintered in Arizona until two years ago. Each fall, they would load up the Cadillac and drive west. They did this until Heinz was 97. One of their sons drove them out in 2020. They loved Arizona where they had another great group of friends. They participated in all kinds of activities, but their special one was ballroom dancing.
The Regeners made friends quickly at Mac’s Ce-Dar-Est and being an active, healthy senior, Heinz kept himself busy helping owner Jack MacDonald with many of the tasks around the campground.
Reflecting on his life, Heinz simply stated “we enjoyed life, went dancing to the clubs”, adding things have really changed, even from the time they came to Canada 65 years ago.
“I remember the way it used to be and the way it is today,” he said. “Well, when I go to Ottawa now, I say, ‘hey, give me Ottawa back the way it was in the early 60s’. I just said the other day, Ottawa made a big mistake. They shouldn’t have got rid of the street cars. They should have kept them, just as a tourist attraction.
“Now they are bragging … a big sign, a million people. You know what a million means? More traffic, more jams and everybody’s pushing each other. That’s not the way it was. It’s not really our lifestyle. We always took it easy and I am very fortunate and quite happy to be up here.”
Heinz’s suggestion for a long and happy life is simple: “Take it slow. If you don’t do it today, we’re going to do it tomorrow. People are in too much of a hurry today. People are absolutely nuts. That’s the way I’m calling it. What’ the hurry? I have said speed obsesses society. That’s not the way we used to live.”
They moved into an apartment in Eganville several years ago following the sale of the campground. Their neighbours in the building gathered for a small celebration last week, serving cake and enjoying each other’s company.