News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Retirement… Central Oregon style

Oscar and Gabriela Pena decided to begin retirement in Sisters in 2017. But slowing down hasn’t been on their agenda. Their love of the outdoors, sports, and preparing great food has kept them busy and moving fast. Choosing Sisters as their forever home is a true testament to Central Oregon’s allure. They had the whole world to choose from and settled in Sisters Country.

The Penas have lived around the world, starting with their homeland of Mexico. Oscar’s work as an electrical engineer with several technology firms, like Hewlett Packard, took their family of four to a variety of places, including Brazil and Miami. After a successful career, he was ready to retire and travel. In 2016, the couple took eight months and traveled to 15 countries.

“By traveling around, we looked for the best place to start our new life,” said Oscar.

The couple included a few rests at home before starting out again.

“With COVID, I’m so glad we did it,” said Gabriela.

After completing their global travels, and while Oscar was still working, they intensified their search to find the best place to live.

The couple was invited to a wedding in Montana. Always looking for their next adventure, they added a visit to Boulder, Colorado, a place where Gabriela always dreamed of retiring. After time in Boulder, they decided to head farther west and tour the Olympic Peninsula. Being on the west coast, Gabriela remembered some friends from Miami who had a second home in Bend.

“Every summer for 13 years, they invited us to visit them in Bend, but we were never interested in actually coming. Finally, we went to their home and drove through Sisters,” said Gabriela. It was at their friends’ home in Bend that Gabriela became smitten with Central Oregon. “We saw the most beautiful sunset and then all the stars, and we knew we’d found our new home.”

Things went fast after that. They moved to Central Oregon and eventually purchased a home in Aspen Lakes, where they have a view of the golf course in a beautiful home just the right size for their next chapter.

“Our daughter decided to move here from Manhattan,” said Oscar.

The family enjoys all kinds of outdoor sports. Oscar golfs a few times a week. Gabriela is a whirl of activity, always finding time to bike, kayak, hike, and ski.

Retirement, and the generous and talented art community in Sisters, has reopened Oscar’s love of visual arts.

“When we weren’t golfing, playing pickleball, or hiking I started to draw,” he said.

It’s a love he first encountered when he was 15 in Mexico. For one summer, a beloved aunt taught him the basics of drawing and he filled a sketchbook with images.

“Then I put it away,” he said.

School, work, and family obligations didn’t leave much time for creative endeavors. But he never forgot how much he enjoyed creating art.

Oscar carried the sketchbook wherever he and Gabriela lived.

“We moved 14 times,” she said, laughing, “but we always brought that little sketchbook.”

In their Sisters home, when he unpacked the book from his youth, Gabriela encouraged him to continue drawing.

“I told him, in Sisters you’ll have time for that.”

Except for his aunt’s advice years before, Oscar is mainly self-taught.

“As I was trying to learn different art forms, I got on YouTube and watched people paint and followed them. That’s how I like to learn,” he said.

Oscar is grateful for the welcoming community of artists in Sisters.

“I visited a lot of them during the open studio last year. We visited Dan Rickards and Jennifer Hartwig-Klingbiel, who’s been so helpful,” he said. “When COVID’s over, she and I are going to get together so I can learn more about scratchboard art.”

Often producing two or three pieces a week, Oscar has shown his work in a few venues.

“My work was on display October of 2019 in the library,” he said. “I’ve been part of the library art show for several years, and I’ve donated to auctions like C4C and Habitat for Humanity.”

The couple laughs about some wild adventures they’ve shared as they explored Central Oregon. Coming from warmer places like Brazil and Florida, the colder climate and mountains created a learning curve that sometimes involved getting themselves into predicaments that required a good sense of humor and tenacity.

“We were snowshoeing into Todd Lake,” she recalled. “It was a beautiful, warm day. We got to the lake, had our picnic, and when we were coming back, the creek in the meadow was melting and we sank. The ice cracked and my daughter, then my husband with his big snowshoes, and then I, all sunk. It wasn’t that dangerous because it was a beautiful warm day. So we walked all the way back with wet clothes to a nice fire. We learned a lesson and our friend from Bend, at my next birthday, gave me all kinds of tools to save ourselves in the snow. We didn’t even have a shovel. He said, ‘One day I’m going to see you on the front page of The Nugget with Oscar’s big adventures.’

“We love retirement,” said Gabriela. “We don’t get bored.”


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