Residents of all stripes salute Indian River Colony Club
Driving through the tree-lined streets of Indian River Colony Club, it is impossible to miss the line of mailboxes: identical and perfectly aligned, as if standing at attention.
It is not surprising that the development that launched the Viera building boom — and bills itself as “the place patriots call home” — attracts a large number of retired military personnel. Its immaculately maintained environs exude a sense of order and peace that is comforting to warriors whose military careers often involved dangerous, stressful deployments at far-flung and often inhospitable corners of the world.
Many of the 1,300-plus residents sing IRCC’s praises so effectively, they are attracting multiple family members and even different generations. Sisters, brothers, cousins, parents and offspring are settling here. Twenty-one families with multiple members in different households call IRCC home. Although the community is open to anyone 55 and older, a significant number of residents have military backgrounds.
“Many families have second generation military service and we see the love they have for IRCC,” board member Pete Todsen said. “The high majority of military neighbors attracts us for all the same reasons.”
Retired Army Lieutenant and Korean-era warrior Harry Meeker and his wife, Joan, were living in Suntree in the 1980s, when some golf partners suggested they check out a new community under development. The fact that the community was aimed at honorably discharged military — plus the golf course, single-floor home plans, social amenities and planned extensive landscaping — sealed the deal. The Meekers built their home in 1989, one of the first at IRCC.
Daughter Susan Meeker Paul and her husband, Jim, a Vietnam vet, would visit every year and began considering the possibility of joining her parents at IRCC. Last October, they made it happen.
“After thirty-plus years of vacations that were too short, we were thrilled to be here full time and enjoy those same amenities,” she said. “Of course, we were also anxious to be close to my parents. Our new home is within walking distance of my parents’ home.”
Retired Air Force pilot Dick Brien was also a frequent visitor to IRCC. Brien considers his brother and former Marine, Jerry, his best friend. So, when Jerry moved to IRCC nine years ago, it was natural for Dick to pencil in trips to Viera to visit his sibling. Four years ago, he thought it was time to move closer to Jerry.
“For the first time, we’re a minute away from each other by golf cart,” Dick Brien said.
AN IDEA IS BORN
The idea for IRCC was envisioned by one general and nurtured by another. In the 1980s, Air Force Gen. Charlie Briggs, who had experience in the Space Coast construction industry, was convinced a community for military retirees would do well in this part of Florida. Briggs envisioned a unique haven with reasonably priced housing, a plethora of recreational facilities, health care, minimal initial fees, equity retention and in-house maintenance. He had huge ideas, considering the place he selected.
“The location where Charlie wanted to create his dream community consisted of little other than swamp land, muddy trails, grazing cattle and lots of mosquitoes,” noted The Story of Indian River Colony Club, IRCC’s official history booklet.
In 1986, Briggs hired a friend, Brigadier Gen. Gordon “Bat” Masterson, to become his deputy in the new endeavor. A year later, Briggs died from a heart attack but Masterson carried on his friend’s vision. In the summer of 1988, the first residents, Army CWO Jack and Dottie Kilz, moved into their new home. It was perfect — except for the lack of electricity. Masterson helped ease their concerns with a generator in the backyard and a bottle of champagne in the fridge.
Seven hundred and eighty more houses have gone up since the Kilzes toasted their new house with bubbly. Most sales are now resales, with an average price of $360,000. Two lots remain for sale at $85,000, and a couple more will open up in the future. Home sales are handled by Four Star Real Estate, located onsite at IRCC.
IRCC is a Florida nonprofit, governed by a board comprised of community members who are aided by a professional management team. Originally designed strictly for honorably discharged military, a few years ago IRCC opened the door to civilians. Nevertheless, 80.7 percent of current residents have a military background. A misperception still lingers that the place is for the white generals, colonels and other officers, but the reality is the opposite, more enlisted military live there than former officers and its population is diverse.
While many of the residents of the 55-and-over community are retirees, others still participate in the daily grind. Jim Paul, for example, is employed full-time as a telecommunications service delivery specialist. His wife, Susan, retired last year from her job as a kitchen and bath designer.
GOLF IS ALIVE AND WELL
Golf may be a declining sport across the country but don’t tell that to IRCC residents. They cherish the 72-par course that meanders behind their backyards and around the many ponds and natural preserves within the community.
Dick Brien loves living close to his brother, Jerry, but he loves golf almost as much. The fact that IRCC boasts a challenging golf course with miniscule waits for tee times also featured prominently in his decision to move there.
In Brien’s world, a day without golf is never a great day. He plays a round at least five days a week except for Mondays, when he plays two rounds. And on Fridays, he puts in a round-and-a-half.
“You never get bored with this course,” he said.
He also never tires of dipping into the cornucopia of activities that are part of the IRCC lifestyle. The list of clubs fills a sheet of paper and includes classes that range from chair weightlifting and computer club to aqua-cise in the 3,000-square-foot heated pool. There is a clown club, ballroom dancing, and a rifle and pistol club. Military balls are epic, as are New Year’s Eve parties and even happy hours.
“There’s always a party,” said Brien.
The At Ease Club, IRCC’s private country club, underwent a $1.4 million renovation of the 25,000-square-foot coastal-vibe facilities, complete with a travertine fireplace as a focal point. There is plenty of elbow room for Sunday brunches, seafood buffets and other dinner functions in the well-appointed grand dining room with a dance floor and two additional dining areas.
A robust vein of philanthropy pulses through IRCC and many a good cause is beneficiary of the time, talent and treasure of residents.
“Everybody here would do everything for you, if you need it,” Brien said.
AT YOUR SERVICE
To open residents’ time to fully enjoy amenities, IRCC offers the most comprehensive single-family community maintenance program in the county. Encompassing both indoor and outdoor care, including all appliances, air conditioning, roofing and outdoor painting, the program is made possible by a large on-site staff. They are on duty 10 hours a day and available for after-hours emergencies. They know residents by name and, as time permits, are happy to help them with other minor household honey-dos. During non-duty hours, they can be contracted to help with chores such as dog walking, carpentry and even putting up the holiday decorations.
“What really makes living in IRCC unique from other private communities is our maintenance program,” general manager John Robinson said.
“It’s not just the endless number of services we provide, it is knowing the technicians who come to your home. It is an easy process and provides a huge comfort and trust factor.”
Tidy homes set amidst immaculate landscaping, endless golf, lively parties and life without household chores. Charlie Briggs would be proud of how “the place patriots call home” turned out.
For more on IRCC, visit ColonyClub.com or call 321.255.6000.
Maria is a prolific writer and proofer for Space Coast Living and an adjunct professor at Florida Institute of Technology’s Nathan M. Bisk College of Business. When not writing, teaching or traveling, she can be found waging a one-woman war against her lawn and futilely attempting to maintain order among the chaos of a pack of extremely clueless wirehair dachshunds and an angst-driven basset hound.