OPTIMISM CAN TAKE YOU ANYWHERE
That’s been Bob Preston’s mantra since his diagnosis
SELLING YOUR SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS, retiring at 52, and sailing off into the sunset might seem like a dream lifestyle to most of us, but for Rhode Island native Bob Preston, it wasn’t exactly part of the plan. The insurance agency owner and
married father of two had been experiencing some unusual symptoms when he went
to his doctor. After being tested several times for Lyme disease, he was finally diagnosed
with Parkinson’s disease in July 2007. He was 48 years old.
“I was scared to death, initially,” says Preston. “Everything online was all doom
and gloom. And the truth is it’s not all doom and gloom.” Bob and his wife Becky are
living proof of that. Since Bob’s diagnosis, the Prestons have taken their 37-foot Back
Cove 11,000 nautical miles over three years to both coasts of Florida, the Abacos and
Bahamas, and all the way up to Maine. This summer they took possession of a brand
new 48-foot Sabre to help them continue their travels. Along the way they’ve raised more
than $160,000 for Parkinson’s research, and Bob does a lot of motivational speaking to
spread awareness and demonstrate that staying positive is key in tackling this disease.
“I take the same attitude I did running a company for 32 years. I want to walk the
walk and show that optimism can take you anywhere. It’s all about finding something
you can embrace, and going for it. For me that’s being on the boat.” Their boat is named
Family Ties, an irony not lost on the Prestons. Michael J. Fox from the TV show of the
same name also suffers from Parkinson’s disease. — A.D.
A ONE-MAN GILLIGAN’S ISLAND
Boats and self-sufficiency are hallmarks
of this Californian’s retirement
BILL CONNER, 82, is proud to be one of the last true “river rats” on the California Delta. In the 1970s he and
his ex-wife owned the infamous Lost Isle
Resort there, catering to family houseboaters
and a flurry of pet monkeys. After they sold
it, Conner, a boater all his life, retired to his
own version of Gilligan’s Island by building
a 60-by-40-foot barge (with a full workshop
and pile driver aboard) and houseboat on the
San Joaquin River in the Delta.
To make fishing even easier, Conner carefully cut a hole in his pontoon houseboat
floor for his version of fast food. On weekends, he visits his girlfriend, Mary Pelican, in
Fremont, and to commute keeps an old car
at Windmill Cove Marina and Resort just a
few miles upstream. His water transportation
is a small skiff with a 9.5-hp outboard motor.
Fitter than many half his age, during the
week he exercises on his boxing punching
bag and putters about working on various
projects. He’s even gotten ordained as a
minister and has performed many weddings
in the Delta for friends.
“Out here, you can’t just run to Home
Depot for anything you need,” Conner says.
“You have to be very self-sufficient.” His life
philosophy, he says, “is that my cup over-floweth.” He’s still friendly with his ex-wife,
Georgia Conner, joking: “She left me out here
to suffer.” — GENE BELEY