Couple’s retirement brings more work

They’ll give the physically handicapped a place to visit — in Mexico

By Leslie Moriarty

Herald Writer

GRANITE FALLS — Karen and Cecil Koch aren’t the kind of folks to retire and just sit around.

In fact, their retirement plans include selling almost everything they own and heading to Mexico to run a bed and breakfast for physically handicapped people.

The inspiration for their new career came from an acquaintance Cecil Koch met while on his job as a building inspector for Snohomish County.

"This woman grew up in Hawaii and went swimming in the ocean every day when she was young," Cecil Koch said. "Then, as an adult, she became ill with multiple sclerosis and has to use a wheelchair.

"I was at her house doing an inspection, and we were talking. She said to me that her dream is to someday swim in the ocean again. I told her I knew just the place."

That place is Zihuatanejo, Mexico, about 150 miles north of Acapulco.

"I started vacationing there about 15 years ago," said Cecil Koch, a Granite Falls City Council member. "It’s just a beautiful place on the Pacific Ocean near Ixtapa. It has very clear blue water and very calm waves."

So they decided to buy a house there and convert it to a bed and breakfast for the handicapped. The house has four bedrooms and bathrooms and wide doorways for those in wheelchairs.

They are adding a ramp to the beach and have acquired a trailer to take visitors in wheelchairs along the water.

"It’s been a dream of ours to be able to do this," Karen Koch said. "We think there should be places where the handicapped can go. We want to help them live their dreams of being able to be at the beach and possibly even swim with help."

The Granite Falls couple decided on Zihuatanejo because they have vacationed there together.

"It’s where we got married six years ago," Karen Koch said. "It has a very special meaning to us, and we think it’s just the right place for us to be."

Karen Koch came to Washington state about 10 years ago from her native England. She settled in Granite Falls after looking around for a place to set up shop as a hairstylist.

Her shop is where she met Cecil.

"He came in one day to get his hair trimmed, and that was it," Karen Koch said.

They started dating and eventually married.

Although they won’t take up permanent residence in Mexico until November, they’ve already begun selling their properties and belongings.

"We’re investing everything we have in this," Cecil Koch said. "It’s complicated and expensive."

They have had to form a corporation and do a title search on the property in Mexico. Dealing with the government has been difficult, and they’ve had to hire a Spanish-speaking attorney.

"It’s exciting," Cecil Koch said. "But it’s very scary at times, too."

The only piece of the puzzle missing, the Kochs said, is that they need a bus or van with a wheelchair lift so they can transport their guests to and from the airport and on sightseeing ventures.

"To buy something new is about $70,000," Karen Koch said. "We can’t manage that.

"We’re not asking for a donation. We just want to get in contact with someone who may have a used one that we can afford to purchase."

The Kochs plan to go to Mexico in November, but will return to Granite Falls to finish working for several months. He will retire in 2002 at age 62.

He also plans to continue service on the Granite Falls City Council. He’s been a councilman for six years. He is originally from Oregon, but has worked for the county for 25 years.

He’s anxious to get their new career under way.

"It’s just such a beautiful place," he said. "There is 17.8 miles of beach. I can’t wait to share it with others."

— To contact the Kochs about a handicapped van or bus, call 360-691-4515.

You can call Herald Writer Leslie Moriarty at 425-339-3436

or send e-mail to

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