Bob Charameda believes in two things above all others -- family and fate.
In fact, the two are indelibly intertwined in the life of Charameda and his wife of 16 years -- Sandra. The retired high school teacher and coach believes it was fate that brought their two families together.
"We both grew up in Battle Creek (Michigan), and we were junior high school sweethearts," Charameda said. "We went to the same high school but we didn't date then. We ended up marrying others and I took a teaching job at the old high school."
It was over two decades before they saw each other again.
"She moved to Milwaukee and after 22 years both of our marriages broke down. She came back to Battle Creek for her father's 70th birthday, and asked if he had heard anything from me. He said, ‘No, maybe he doesn't live here anymore.'
"Her father was building a fire as they talked, and as he picked up a piece of the newspaper to start it, there was a picture of me with one of the clubs I sponsored. They decided to stop by the high school and see me on the way to the airport, we started communicating, and ended up getting married."
Charameda had three children and Sandra had six, although the most they had living at home at any one time was five.
"It's a real blended family, but they all get along great," Charameda said. "Five of them are still in Michigan and they still do things together. We have a family reunion, and the grandkids come out here and stay."
One daughter lives in Phoenix, and that's how Charameda discovered Arizona. He believes it was fate, once again, that led him and Sandra to choose Payson.
"We were looking for a place to retire, so we came to Phoenix and went south to Tucson and Bisbee," Charameda said. "We got back on the plane and said, ‘There's one we can eliminate.'
"But we knew what we wanted, and when my wife came back for a visit, our daughter mentioned Payson as a place that sounded like something we might be interested in," he said.
"We came back and looked in this area for two or three days and nothing really sparked us. Then, late in the day when we were leaving, we sat down to rest in this undeveloped subdivision with mud roads and everything. There was one of those Arizona sunsets, and we took one look and looked at each other and said, ‘This is it.'"
So they moved to Payson four years ago, and Charameda spent the first year building his own home.
"The first year I retired I worked harder than when I was working," he said. "I had worked for a builder during the summers and he came out and helped me build the house."
Today, Charameda is still building homes -- as president of the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity.
"I look back at teaching and coaching and I realize this is the same kind of thing," he said. "It's about trying to help people any way you can. This is a way of doing that."
Between houses, and Habitat is about to begin its 10th in the Rim country, Charameda likes to garden. In fact, he's also president of the Rim Area Gardeners Club, a group that is trying to address the challenges of gardening in the middle of a drought.
"There are a lot of Xeriscape people in the garden club who have given us some good ideas," he said.
"We're also always looking for things that want to grow in Arizona, things that once they get established can do OK without much water. Compost is also one of the best things you can do, and we do that."
Charameda is also an avid hiker and an active member of the Payson Packers, and he likes to fish.
"I've got a few favorite holes, but I'm not telling you where they are," he said, laughing.
What began with a beautiful sunset has worked out pretty well for the Charamedas, who have discovered a lot of other positive things about the Rim country.
"We looked at Prescott, and it really has that Midwest flavor and we really liked that, but there was something that we didn't like," he said. "It was too energetic, too much on the move, too many people.
"Here, it's laid back and very casual and that really is us."
Then there are the people.
"Payson has been more than we expected because the people here are so neat," he said. "So many of us don't have families here so that we've kind of formed a second family."
And, of course, the climate.
"When you get down to it, it's the climate -- which is just about as good as it can get," he said. "We like a little taste of winter, but we also like the long springs and falls, and the fact that the summer at night is bearable."
Fate has done all right by Bob Charameda.
Name: Bob Charameda
Occupation: Retired high school science teacher and football and baseball coach.
Employer: Part time at Gila Community College and Sav-Mor Foods.
Birthplace: Battle Creek, Michigan
Family: Wife Sandy, both mothers still living at 85 and 87, blended family of 9 kids, and 10-plus grandchildren.
Personal motto: It's do-able.
Inspiration: Grandmother, mother, wife -- the women who have given their lives to caring for their families.
Greatest feat: Being part of a wonderful family (that is) always there with support, which allowed me to try anything without fear of failure.
Favorite hobby or leisure activity: Anything that deals with nature such as fishing, hiking, gardening, sports.
Three words that describe me best: Family, family, family.
I don't want to brag, but ... I feel that God loves me, my wife loves me, my children love me, my family loves me.
The person in history I'd most like to meet is ... all the common people who placed all their worth in being good parents, spouses, friends to their family.
Luxury defined: Being able to travel whenever to wherever and having friends who know me and still love me.
Dream vacation spot: The top spots would be Alaska and New Zealand.
Why Payson? Payson is a caring town -- always willing to help others in time of need, a friendly town, and has extremely talented people. The climate is ideal with short winters and summers and long springs and falls. My wife is here, so that's where I want to be.