This Villages couple summers in Iceland, where she has a huge family
Story and pictures by SANDI NEWMARK
Remember the childhood game played while bouncing a ball: A my name is Alice and my husband’s name is Al; we come from Alabama, and we ate apples……etc…all throughout the alphabet?????
Well, it’s a pretty sure bet they don’t play that game in Iceland…..a Villages resident who hails from there has the name: Gudbjorg Baldursdottir (although she is known as Pippi, because of the long stockings she wore when she met her husband.)
And her American husband’s name is John Cassidy………….
They live in the Village of Largo during the winter, but every summer they journey back to her homeland for five months with her large family. They have viewed the Northern Lights, although that is more often in winter, and are accustomed to long hours of daylight. But from November till March, the sun is barely visible. People cook and barbeque at home more there rather than go to restaurants, which are special treats and more expensive than here. Lamb and fish are popular entrees, and the couple often imports some of these to The Villages for winter.
There, John and Pippi frequently swim in the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal body of water with healing chemicals. There are golf courses as well.
When she was growing up and raising her children in Reyjkavik, the capital and main city, there was a small-town atmosphere…”Everyone knew everybody” and doors were never locked. Children played freely in the streets and slept outside on balconies when the weather was warm. Women learn to cook and clean there as part of how they’re raised, but they don’t take their husband’s name when they marry: the first name of one’s father becomes the woman’s last name from childhood throughout life. If one had a single mother, she takes her first name.
Since both Cassidys were married previously, their family is exceptionally large and geographically scattered: Pippi has three children, 11 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, all in Iceland; John has four children, 11 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, living all over the U.S. He and Pippi lived in Virginia Beach, VA, since 1989 before moving to TheVillages in 2006. They have been married for 25 years now.
He had joined the Navy at age 17…growing up in Maine and Massachusetts, John loved the sea. He grew to enjoy Iceland when he was stationed there in 1969. Later, when he returned, because he loved to dance, he met Pippi at a downtown hotel dance. But “she wouldn’t dance with me because she had a boyfriend.”
“I chased her for four months,” John said, until she agreed to date him. She spoke little English at the time, although the language is taught in all schools in Iceland.
Loyalty is a big thing in Iceland, John says: “If you make a friend, you have them forever as a friend.”
John was a sailor for 22 years, and Pippi owned a beauty shop in Iceland. He also worked for several major companies.
Iceland is not as cold as people think, John says. “They named it Iceland so no one would come,” he laughs, “but it is not as cold as Greenland.” In fact, there’s no humidity in winter, he says, and the Gulf Stream passes through to keep temperatures moderate. In summer, there are sometimes 24 hours of daylight, and Pippi loves that. She says they stay up later, and go out for walks in the middle of what would be the “night.” Temperatures are generally in the 70s, she says. Residents are very athletic, she adds, so they climb mountains, go bicycling, hiking and camping out. They crawl in the grass for good luck.
While Pippi has become an active Villager, she still looks forward every year to visiting Iceland and reuniting with her family and their way of life.