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Florida couple cannot get enough of Bermuda

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Celebrated visitors: Joe and Cherie Bawduniak with their plaque from the Bermuda Tourism Authority in honour of their many visits (Photograph by Sideya Dill)

Joe Bawduniak started dreaming about Bermuda the moment he saw the ad in Time. The magazine regularly carried testimonials from frequent visitors here in the 1970s. He resolved to find out if the island lived up to the hype.

“It was everything I expected,” said Mr Bawduniak, of Naples, Florida. “My first visit was August 1975, and the water was beautiful, the beaches pristine and the people friendly and proper.”

He liked it so much he returned again and again with his four children, wife Cherie, and three grandchildren.

Last month he visited the island for the 38th time and received a special plaque from the Bermuda Tourism Authority in honour of the occasion.

“We were in Bermuda for two weeks,” Mr Bawduniak said. “Over the past 20 years we haven’t missed a year, and before that we missed very few years. We also encouraged other people to come to Bermuda.

“I tell them it’s a short trip from the East Coast of the United States, it’s people are wonderful, and the island is beautiful.”

Mr Bawduniak retired in 1988 from Praxis Biologics, the New York biotech company he and his wife helped to start. Prior to that he was employed by American pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co.

That work cemented his connection to the island, his wife said.

“Joe was responsible for providing paediatric vaccines to South Korea,” Mrs Bawduniak said. “To circumvent certain compliance requirements, he [helped establish] a temporary packaging facility in Dockyard. We had someone in Bermuda hire a group of local women to do hand-packaging of vials, with labelling shipped separately to Bermuda. This enabled us to consider Bermuda as the source of supply of the vaccine to South Korea.”

The couple stayed at Munro Beach Cottages in Southampton for many years. Now that it’s closed, they call Grape Bay Cottages in Paget home while here. Their son Chris discovered the property; he and his wife Isabella are also regular visitors.

“Our funniest moment in Bermuda was one day when we were staying at Munro Beach Cottages,” said Mr Bawduniak. “I heard a knock at the door and when I answered it, an individual was holding a big box out to me, completely blocking the face of the delivery person. When I accepted the box I saw it was my son, Chris, delivering the box. He surprised me as I didn’t even know he was in Bermuda.”

Inevitably, Mr Bawduniak has seen many changes to the island. He believes that Bermuda’s drivers have gotten kinder since he first visited nearly four decades ago.

“Over the years we’ve seen the traffic wax and wane,” he said. “We ride the scooter, and we find people more helpful and courteous compared to previous years.”

He and his wife most enjoy swimming in front of their cottage at Grape Bay, and sitting off and enjoying “the beautiful view”.

Their favourite restaurant is Bolero Brasserie in Hamilton.

“They have very fine service and the food is prepared in an elegant fashion,” said Mr Bawduniak.

His sole complaint about the island is the journey here.

“The air service to Bermuda is terrible,” he said. “The airlines are not the friend of Bermuda. For us to come back, we have to go through Fort Myers, Florida to JFK in New York, stay overnight and catch a morning plane. That is two days travel and an overnight. Years ago air travel to Bermuda used to be a lot more convenient.”

One of his hobbies is flying his Cessna 185.

“I use it within the United States,” he said. “A friend well placed in aviation offered to get my fuel to Bermuda, but I don’t really want to do 600 miles over water in a single-engine plane.”

The Bawduniaks are not done with Bermuda, they hope to make their 39th visit this winter and their 40th next year.

Living the dream: Joe Bawduniak with his wife Cherie (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
In love with Bermuda: Joe Bawduniak enjoying the island for the 38th time with his wife Cherie (Photograph by Akil Simmons)