By Kathleen Reynolds
“I didn’t want to be a couch potato,” says Ron Irwin, who retired from professions in education, software development and as a job coach for people with disabilities. “So, I joined SIR (Sons in Retirement) Branch 149. It’s great if you’re retired, partially retired or even thinking about retirement. I’ve gotten to know Napa men and have made good golfing buddies.”
Based in Northern and Central California, SIR is a nonprofit public benefit corporation that started in 1958. Prior to COVID, it had 13,500 active men in 116 branches. There are two branches in Napa, the Wine Valley Branch 149, which has 190 members and Branch 65, which has 92 members. All Branches are steadily rebuilding their numbers since the pandemic.
According to their state website, SIR is “A social organization that exists to enrich the lives of its members and their wives or partners.”
The branbches have monthly lunches where members enjoy socializing and planning activities. In Napa, the Elks Lodge is the location for both branches, with Branch 149 meeting on the first Tuesday of the month and Branch 65’s luncheon on the second Tuesday of the month. Both lunches have interesting speakers or entertainment.
“For me, golf was the key draw,” says Ron, who is called Big Sir, or the leader this year of Branch 149 (the second in command is called Little Sir). “We have a good golf club with a number of guys. Actually, we have the largest golfing group in the Northern California Golf Association. From golf, I expanded into bocce, joined the walking group and play penny-ante poker once a week.”
“The main benefit of SIR is that there are many activities for guys with different interests. Besides golf, bocce and walking, there are groups for bicycling, fishing, wine tasting, travel, ball games, dining, theater, the “Roving Roosters” (an RV group), classic cars and other activities. Members of Branch 65 join us in several undertakings and many activities are co-ed.”
“Sitting home is not the way to stay healthy. We have fun activities and many of them are geared to maintaining physical movement. For quieter pursuits, we also have a book exchange at every lunch where you can bring or pick up a book that you might like. There’s cribbage once a month. We’re open to any hobby that you want to share.”
Jerry Stabile was a middle school art teacher before he retired. “A friend invited me to join bocce,” says Jerry, who is past Big Sir for Branch 65 and is currently the SIR Corporation Branch representative for six SIR branches.
“I liked golf, too, but I was a little iffy about joining a club. I thought there’d be contracts, cost a lot of money, or be filled with rules and regulations. Then I learned the dues are determined by each branch. Currently, Branch 65 dues are $20 a year. When I joined, Branch 65 had golf, bowling and bocce. Eventually, when I became Little Sir for Branch 65, I added a few activities; for example, a veterans’ group, a walking group, poker, a music group and we just added a coffee group.”
“I like that you don’t have to join a league, except for bowling. You can go play golf for fun, it’s not always a contest.”
“SIR also encourages spouses and friends to join in the activities. There are special Ladies’ Day events and coed activities for bowling, bocce, Branch 149’s dining out, wine tasting and Branch 65’s Vine Walkers group. Father and son memberships are not uncommon.”
“What’s important is that SIR is based on activities and having fun. Studies show seniors need mental stimulation and social interaction. It’s about camaraderie and maintaining friendships. We say that we’re making friends for life. Many times, friendships formed during Branch activities reach beyond those activities.”
Men interested in joining SIR can start one of two ways.
“Many times, current members invite their friends and bring them as their guest for lunch,” says Ron. “You get a free lunch and learn what we’re all about. Dues are $20 annually. The guest fills out an application and the Branch Executive Committee (BEC) reviews and approves the application.”
“The other way is to reply to one of our informational flyers. We put out flyers at our golf outings or in parking lots during lunches. People can call the phone number on the flyer or go to our website where they can also submit an application. We may also attach our business card to the flyer and prospective members can call that person.”
Are there any misconceptions about SIR?
“We are made up of people from all walks of life, all former occupations, we are inclusionary. We’re not a political or religious organization. We even have guys who aren’t yet retired but like to take time out for our lunches or just to have a group for golf. SIR wants people to know that we are an organization where you can remain active as you retire. Some younger people may think it’s only for older folks, but we have men in their 50’s who retired early. In fact, we encourage younger men to apply.”
“Sometimes we say we’re the best kept secret in Napa,” says Ron with a laugh. “We’re doing a survey of members now to see what additional activities, if any, they want to do. SIR is an organization of friendly guys with whom you can join activities, expand horizons and increase friends and acquaintances. We say, if you have the time for SIR, we have the time for you.“
As the SIR motto says: Live longer, live happier, join SIR.
For more information, visit
www.branch149.sirinc2.org or contact
Branch 149 Big Sir
Ron Irwin at (707) 363-8754 or email@example.com
For Branch 65, visit www.sirinc2.org/branch/65
or contact Membership Chair Jeff Richard at firstname.lastname@example.org