January 15, 2021 - Father and son, Gordon (Left) and Chris Denford, owners of Berwick Retirement Communities, outside their Victoria offices.  Don Denton photo

Denford Family Matters

Father-and-son team create Berwick resort-style retirement residences

  • Feb. 24, 2021 7:30 a.m.

– Story by Tess van Straaten Photography by Don Denton

At the age of 93, successful Victoria entrepreneur and philanthropist Gordon Denford is showing no signs of slowing down.

Asked how long he plans to keep working, the founder of Berwick Retirement Communities laughs and says, “What else is there to do?”

He adds: “I guess if you enjoy what you do, why would you stop?”

Gordon’s been building apartments for almost 60 years, developing Victoria’s first condominium, Cedar Village, in the late ‘60s. He opened the first Berwick residence, Berwick House, in Gordon Head, 31 years ago. Since then, Berwick Retirement Communities, which he runs with his son, Chris Denford, has grown to include resort-style residences where people can enjoy retirement in Nanaimo, Comox, Campbell River, Kamloops and Qualicum Beach. Construction is currently underway on the latest property in Parksville, which will have pickleball courts, lawn bowling, bocce and even a Zen meditation garden.

“[Parksville] is largely based on our Berwick Royal Oak Residence in Victoria, which has a large production theatre for residents as well as for people from the community. And the fitness centre we’re designing is even further expanded, so the outside community can come in and enjoy the facilities,” 56-year-old Chris explains. “It’s all designed to not only provide the residents with an amazing, awesome experience, but also to give the people in the general community a chance to come in and interact with our residents.”

Building connection and community is at the centre of what the Denfords do—from the unique design of each building, which is created to reflect the distinct community it’s in, to a strong focus on amenities and a “we’re a big family” management style, which includes regularly having meals with residents (outside of the COVID-19 pandemic).

“The problem with early seniors’ places that were built up to the 1980s is they didn’t take into consideration interaction between residents, and the idea of providing recreation and activities was unheard of,” says Gordon, who saw first-hand the design failings when his mother was moved into a publicly-funded facility. “People were sitting in wheelchairs in the reception area, including my mother, and that was their idea of getting them out of their rooms,” he says. “I had her moved out of there 24 hours later.”

When Gordon refused to return to England in 1945 because he was going into his third year of university, he lost financial support from the British government and was on his own. The transformative power of education, which Gordon learned at an early age, is the reason the Denfords are so involved in philanthropy, offering numerous bursaries and having a long involvement with several schools, including Pearson College, the University of Winnipeg and Glenlyon Norfolk School, where they’re currently helping to build new facilities.

“We believe in giving back. Our success gives us the ability to give back and we’ve always believed that as a company, and also personally,” says Chris. “We’re heavily invested in education and we believe education is such a vital part of our community’s future, that’s why we support it.”

For Gordon, who’s been making big decisions since he was 17 years old, relying on his wits and logic, the secret to his success is simple.

“It’s all about taking risks and managing those risks. Some things are pretty daunting when you look at them, so you just have to figure out a way to do it.”

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication

Like Boulevard Magazine on Facebook and follow them on Instagram

BusinessLifestyle

Just Posted

Drums were heard along Dogwood St. in Campbell River today, as a group marched around the city in recognition of National Indigenous Peoples Day. Photo by Sean Feagan / Campbell River Mirror
PHOTO: Marching for National Indigenous Peoples Day

Event celebrates heritage, cultures and achievements of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people.

Police are looking for information regarding several vehicles being vandalized with blue-grey spray paint over the early morning of June 20. Photo courtesy Garrett Lee
Police looking for suspect in vehicle spray paintings

In totral, 17 vehicles spray painted over early hours of June 20

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

Several vehicles were vandalized around Rockport with blue spray paint on the night of June 19 or morning of June 20. Photo courtesy Garrett Lee
Vandal spray paints multiple vehicles around Rockland

Residents discover lines of blue spray paint on vehicles morning of June 20.

Kaleb Robertson at bat during the 18UAAA North Island Cubs season opener against the Cowichan Valley Mustangs on June 19, 2021. Photo by Sean Feagan / Black Press Media.
PHOTOS: Minor baseball players and fans welcome return to play

18UAAA Cubs start regular season action after long wait with convincing win against Mustangs

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

Emergency vehicles are parked outside of the Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni RCMP investigate stabbing on Fourth Avenue

Two men were found with ‘significant’ injuries near Wintergreen Apartments

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

Bernadette Jordan addresses the media following a swearing in ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on January 14, 2019. Jordan says the government will provide $2 million to allow First Nations to continue to strengthen the marine safety system across Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
First Nations receive federal funds to purchase marine rescue boats

Quatsino, Heiltsuk, and Kitasoo First Nation’s among eight across Canada to receive funding

Most Read