As is often the case with coastal Alabama transplants, it was the lure of the weather and the slower-paced lifestyle that attracted Iris and Sam Fitts to Baldwin County more than a decade ago. “Our children moved to Elberta in 1998,” Iris says. “And when our grandchildren came along, we decided it was time for us to make our way down, too.”
Both natives of Birmingham, Iris and Sam bought a house next door to their son and his family in 2004, and quickly immersed themselves in the local community.
“We love the slow pace, that there are no freeways and that people actually look you in the eye and want to get to know you; they want to connect,” Iris says.
“She also loves the beach,” Sam says. “I do!” Iris says. “We try to get to the beach as much as we can and we love to drive around and discover restaurants off the beaten path, the great places where the locals go.”
Introduced by their respective best friends in high school, the couple will celebrate 52 years of marriage in August. Iris finished her career in physician credentialing at Sacred Heart Hospital and now works at the Gulf Shores boutique Geez Louise. Sam, an ordained minister, has served many congregations, including Oyster Bay Baptist Church, where he leads a Bible class and teaches senior adults.
It was a bad turn in Sam’s health that paved the way for his career in ministry. After having a long series of heart attacks that began in 1981, Sam underwent a heart transplant in 1988. While he came through the surgery successfully, he was no longer able to continue his work as a glass salesman.
“When they told me I was no longer fit to work in my old job, I was given the opportunity of vocational rehab,” Sam says, adding that he had always felt called to the ministry. “I enrolled at Samford University and earned my B.A. in ministry, my Master’s in divinity, and I even started on my Ph.D., although I never finished that one,” he laughs. “I like to say I went from peddling glass to peddling Jesus.”
Of all the reasons Iris and Sam enjoy Baldwin County, it’s their family who truly makes it feel like home.
“The best thing about being down here is being here for the kids,” Iris says of their grandchildren. “When they were little, we were here to take them to appointments and to take care of them when they got sick and their parents were at work. Now we love going to all their athletic events at Gulf Shores High School.”
“Now that they’re older and driving, they might not need us as much,” Sam says. “But we sure do love having them close.”