“Hiking on forest trails in the Northwest was one of our first activities as a couple,” Judi said. “We hadn’t known each other very long and one day, Don just bought me hiking boots with the little money he had.”
The Frenchs, who moved to Vi at Silverstone, a Vi and Plaza Companies community, in April 2011, have spent nearly 50 years keeping each other company throughout their active life.
Building An Active Life
Health has always been a common interest for Don and Judi: The couple met while Judi was in nursing school in Oregon; Don was training to be a pediatric dentist.
After they married in 1967, they left the Pacific Northwest for Don’s dental residency at a children’s hospital in Dayton, Ohio. Later, they moved to Fort Huachuca, Ariz., where Don served in the Army. The couple has remained in Arizona ever since, and Don ran a successful dental practice in the Tucson area for more than 40 years.
The Frenchs raised their three children in Tucson, too. It was a perfect environment to raise active, adventurous children — the family loved camping and hiking in Southern Arizona’s Chiricahua Mountains, just a few hours’ drive from their home. Closer to home, they enjoyed bicycling together — even when their children were very young.
“We’d put our toddlers in a child seat over the back wheel,” said Judi. “Our youngest son would just fall asleep during our rides, with his little head bobbing off to the side.”
Seeing the Country by Bike
As the children grew up and discovered their own hobbies, Judi and Don became more serious about bicycling. They took up “adventure touring” and had many biking journeys through remote areas of of Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico.
“The day’s ride might include traversing fences, riding or carrying our bikes through streams, and sometimes wobbling across a single log bridge,” said Don.
The last tour they took together was 15 years ago, and included pedaling over four 10,000-foot mountain passes — one each day — for five days. Judi remembers the conditions the couple biked through during that tour in Colorado.
“We’d start out in the morning, and the weather would be sunny and beautiful — but as we started climbing higher and higher, it would all start to change,” Judi said. “By the time we reached the top, it would be freezing, with hail and wind. We’d have to stop and put on all our cold-weather gear before starting back down. It was grueling!”
Living — and Working Out — at Vi
In April 2011, the couple moved to Vi at Silverstone, in part to be closer to their daughter and grandchildren. They were drawn to the community’s amenities — especially the modernized fitness center. “When we saw the gym here, that really swayed us,” Judi said.
The couple can be found working out together regularly — they let their outside gym membership lapse when they moved to the community, and Judi says she and Don go to the Vi fitness center every day of the week but Sunday. They take advantage of the center’s free weights and exercise machines but also attend group-fitness classes, including Pilates, Strength and Balance, and Agility.
But the Frenchs are perhaps best known around the community for their two feline friends, Bucky and Jake, the couple’s two Tonkinese purebred cats.
“We really wanted to find cats that were companions,” said Don. “These cats are bred to be people-friendly — they’re totally in your face, on your lap, and curious about everything.”
Bucky in particular enjoys strolling through the community on a leash, an uncommon sight in a community with lots of social dogs.
“When he encounters a dog, they don’t know what to make of him — they think he’s really strange, so the encounters are pretty brief,” Judi said. “Other residents all think it’s pretty hilarious when they see us out with him — cats don’t usually take walks, but Bucky is just a character.”