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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An Interior Health nurse administers Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aids in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16, 2021. (Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News)
105 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

Just over 8,000 new vaccine doses administered in the region for a total of 158,000 to date

The small fire was in the Big Eddy. (Contributed)
Revelstoke grass fire extinguished

The blaze is the first of the season in our area

Twin falls in Yoho National Park. Yoho is one of the mountain parks whose draft management plan is now available for review. (Claire Palmer photo)
Local input sought to shape future of mountain national parks

Banff, Yoho, Kootenay, Mount Revelstoke and Glacier national parks are amongst those seeking input

The city has decided to apply to have the Jordan River area withdrawn from Crown Land disposition, which would put the decision on how the land is used and protected in the hands of the city. (File photo)
City of Revelstoke applying to withdraw Jordan River from Crown Land

At the moment the province has control over what is developed in the area

Arlene Howe holds up a picture of her son, Steven, at a memorial event for drug overdose victims and their families at Kelowna’s Rotary Beach Park on April 14. Steven died of an overdose at the age of 32 on Jan. 31, 2015. (Aaron Hemens - Kelowna Capital News)
Moms Stop the Harm members placed crosses Wednesday morning, April 14, on Rotary Beach in memory of children lost to drug overdoses. (Aaron Hemens - Capital News)
Kelowna mothers remember children lost to the opioid crisis

It has been five years since illicit drug deaths was announced a public health emergency

Demonstrators at the legislature on April 14 called on the province to decriminalize drug possession and provide widespread access to regulated safe supply across B.C. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
Rally calls for decriminalization, safe supply on 5th anniversary of overdose emergency declaration

From 2016 to the end of February, 7,072 British Columbians died due to overdose

A Keremeos family lost their home after a fire shortly before midnight on April 13. No injuries were reported. (Contributed)
Keremeos home destroyed in late-night fire

The family inside was unharmed

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Naloxone
Op/Ed: Interior Health CEO speaks on five years of strides and challenges in overdose crisis

In 2020, close to 4,000 people across IH had access to opioid medications

Somewhere in the pack being celebrated by his teammates is Vernon Vipers forward Zack Tonelli, who scored in overtime Wednesday afternoon, April 14, to give the Snakes a 6-5 win over the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in B.C. Hockey League pod play at Kal Tire Place. (Liza Mazurek - Vernon Vipers Photography)
Vernon Vipers bite Salmon Arm Silverbacks in OT

Snakes blow 5-3 third-period lead, rally in extra time for 6-5 pod play result over rivals

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

New parking meters have been installed on Main Street, Ellis Street, Front Street, Nanaimo Avenue and Padmore Avenue in Penticton. (City of Penticton photo)
Pay parking now in effect in downtown Penticton

A spot downtown will now cost you $2 per hour

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 1, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps to 1,168 Wednesday, nearly 400 in hospital

Now 120 coronavirus patients in intensive care, six more deaths

Most Read