Every day is Saturday

My Territory Story: Mary and David Foote

On a hot summer day in 1976, Mary and David Foote trekked in a car with no air conditioning to a family wedding.

By happenstance, the travelers, including Dave’s brother-in-law, Bill, stopped for lunch on U.S. 20 amongst a heavily wooded, picturesque area that only three years earlier was christened The Galena Territory.

Bill fell in love with The Territory during that drive in 1976 and began bringing his children twice a year. That tradition lasted for 20 years before he purchased a weekend home in The Territory in 2007.

“We had no idea he bought that house,” David said.

The Footes, their children, and other members of the family received keys to the new house.

Soon Mary and Dave were making regular weekend visits to The Territory.

“We got to the point where we really hated Sunday mornings because that was the morning we had to strip the beds, do the dishes, and clean up for the next people to come,” Dave said.

As time went on, they extended their stay to three to four days as The Territory continued to tempt them back.

“It was like waking up every day to Saturday morning,” Mary said. “That’s sincerely what it has felt like since.”

A shift in life
Mary and Dave pondered purchasing property in The Territory as they drew closer to retirement. A medical scare, however, prompted a shift in their lives far from the “maddening crowd” to a place of restoration. Now instead of fighting traffic, they marvel at Thunder Bay Falls as they drive by.

“There’s just such beauty around us,” Mary said. “The ambiance of the entire Territory—nothing beats it.”

The Footes started living full time in The Territory in 2019 after three years of searching for their perfect home on Harbor Drive that their children affectionately call Tranquility Harbor. A rafter of turkeys welcomed them on their first morning.

“We have a beautiful setting,” Mary said. “It’s gorgeous. Our views are spectacular!”

More home than any other place
Many days, and especially nights, the Footes can now be found in their sunroom admiring nature’s beauty and listening to Thunder Bay Falls in the distance.

The couple, Mary said, has also been blessed with fun and caring neighbors since settling down in The Territory.

“If you’re willing to be open and talk to people, they’re here for you,” Mary said.

Both are also active in several activities, including women’s coffee, water aerobics, and Just Show Up on Fridays.

“We have met and socialized with more people than in the 20 years combined before moving here from our old neighborhood in the Naperville and Aurora area,” Dave said.

He still keeps busy as a real estate photographer after being in residential selling for 28 years. Dave often finds himself in metro areas and is always anxious to come home.

“Once I get just outside of Rockford from the city of Chicago, I feel the tension lift from my shoulders,” he said. “This is more home to us than any other place.”

As an avid nature photographer, Dave loves the colorful canvas of Territory mornings.

Mary was part of a physician’s group and worked in some of the toughest neighborhoods in Chicago.

“This is paradise for me,” she said. “There’s a peacefulness here and you can be one with nature.”

Their advice to potential property owners:

“Be prepared to unwind. Whatever you think is a vacation, it’s here.”

Dusk on the water

My Territory Story: Denise and Frank Sedlak

Sitting in the home on Augusta Drive you get the feeling you’ve been here before. The warmth of the nearby crackling fire is only bested by the comfort of the conversation.

Denise and Frank Sedlaks’ Territory Story began in 1992 when they rented a weekender place on Creekwood Lane to attend the Chicago Bears training camp at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.

“We instantly fell in love with The Territory,” Denise said. “I still wake up and taken aback by it all.”
They made the annual journey from their home in Villa Park located in the western suburbs of Chicago. During each trip they spent more time in The Territory.

Frank taught history while Denise was a principal. As educators, the school calendar provided several opportunities, especially holidays, to enjoy time with their children inside The Territory.
Frank retired in 2003 after 34 years while Denise retired in 2010 after 31 years.

A little apprehension
Denise comes from a large family and was somewhat hesitant to commit to The Territory at first. She worried the distance would be too far for their two children Jennifer and Brian, who still live in the Chicago suburbs, and other family to travel.

To quell some of that uncertainty, the Sedlaks rented a house in Elmhurst until they grew more comfortable with the transition. But it didn’t take long before they called The Territory home.

“It became very clear that we loved it here,” Denise said. “All my concerns about others not coming here—you kidding me? Now everyone is pounding on the door. It’s been awesome!”

Settling down
The couple became property owners in 2001, purchased their retirement home in 2005 and called The Territory home permanently in 2012. Their four grandchildren visit often.

“The pace, peacefulness and serenity of life slows down enough to enjoy each day,” Frank said. “It’s completely different from the hustle and bustle of a city.”

The Sedlaks found a welcoming and friendly community once they settled in.

“You meet the nicest people out here,” Denise said. “They’re all very down to earth.”

Drawn to the Driftless Area
The Territory, located in the Driftless Area, offers breathtaking sunrises and stunning sunsets. It’s one of the first things that plucked the Sedlaks out of their suburban trappings.

Their living room and kitchen now overlooks rolling hills and an endless skyline.

“The natural beauty is mind boggling,” Denise said. “Sometimes you have to pinch yourself.”

Loving the lifestyle
Both Denise and Frank volunteer for or host several GTA events, including Territory Trivia which has become an entertainment staple.

“You can be as busy as you want or just relax,” Denise said.

Both use many GTA amenities, including indoors and outdoor pools, fitness center and the myriad social events. As boat owners, you’ll often find them traversing Lake Galena. Frank has a garage full of trophy catches mounted on the walls.

“Our favorite place to be is on the water at dusk,” he said.

Location, location, location
Besides being nestled in amongst one of the most scenic places in the Midwest, The Territory is about 20 minutes away from renowned restaurants, crowd-pleasing performing arts, and specialty shops in Galena.

Such rich experiences are normally reserved for metropolitan areas.

“You get the country flavor, but you have everything you need or want in a community,” Denise said. “We never felt like we lost something. There’s nothing lacking.”

A secret no more
Once a best kept secret, The Territory is garnering attention from younger families and individuals who work from home or commute.
“They’re finding it really an easy place to live and be able to raise a family,” Frank said.

The Sedlaks expect their love of The Territory to spread across generations as they pass their home onto their children who will, in turn, leave it for their children.

“We have no intention of selling,” Denise said. “We love it here too much.”