Community spotlight: Andy Ridenour and Mary Watters

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. – Married couple Andy Ridenour and Mary Watters live in Shepherd Village in Shepherdstown.

Ridenour is retired from West Virginia Public Broadcasting and is a co-founder of the NPR radio show Mountain Stage. Mary Watters is a playwright, director, writer and former corporate communications director.

Shepherd Village is an adult co-housing community. The Shepherd Village website states that the 19-acre property was purchased in 2013, and construction ended in May 2019.

Watters said the journey to create Shepherd Village began when she lived in Mount Rainier, Maryland.

According to Watters, a Sojourners group from Washington, D.C. began moving into her neighborhood in Mount Rainier.

“[We were] this group of people talking about what it would be like to grow old together,” Watters said. “We’d always had these rural longings to live in nature even though we had been real city folks. We were an urban tribe with rural dreams.”

Watters said the idea became more serious after some of her neighbors visited the ElderSpirit co-housing community in Abingdon, Virginia.

“They came back with the idea that this would be a really good thing for us, but we needed land,” Watters said.

Watters said she and her neighbors became aware of undeveloped land for sale in Shepherdstown.

“So we bought the land,” Watters said. “That made it absolutely like a thing we were going to do. Before, it was just an idea, but the land made it real.”

Ridenour said that Shepherd Village architect Charles Durrett designed homes to be affordable, eco-friendly and socially placed.

“Our front porches face each other as you go around the loop,” Ridenour said. “So, you’re always seeing your neighbor.”

Ridenour said the community co-owns a common house in which members hold dinners and other gatherings.

“There’s something that happens with older folks,” Ridenour said. “They tend to become less social. So a neighborhood like this is to encourage maintaining social contact.”

Ridenour and Watters said that part of co-housing is knowing and caring about their neighbors.

“If there’s something I can do, and they ask me,” Ridenour said, “I would do it because that’s just a part of our spirit here.”

Shepherd Village residents still value privacy, according to Watters.

“Our backyards are our private spaces,” Watters said. “A lot of people have screened-in back porches, which they can sit out in in the summer and enjoy the quiet.”

Ridenour and Watters said they are thankful to be close to Washington, D.C., a city that is special to them.

Ridenour was born and raised in Washington, D.C. He spent much of his professional life in West Virginia.Watters grew up in Princeton, West Virginia. She spent most of her life in and around Washington, D.C.

“It’s funny how that works out,” Ridenour said. “We reconnected 37 years after our college days.”

Ridenour went to Concord College, now Concord University, in Athens, West Virginia.

During Ridenour’s broadcasting career, he traveled across the United States. He settled in West Virginia in 1977.

Ridenour worked for many years at West Virginia Public Broadcasting before he became a co-creator for Mountain Stage. He has been retired from Mountain Stage for eight years.

“It’s another family for me,” Ridenour said. “Most of the folks there are still in contact frequently.”

Watters also graduated from Concord University. She later earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

Watters said she eventually realized she needed to make more money, and she took a job as a corporate communications director. After Watters retired from her corporate job, she remained active in the theatre.

Today, Watters has written children’s plays and musicals. Watters’ said her plays have been produced in Washington, D.C., Atlanta, and New York.

Ridenour and Watters said they have loved living in Shepherdstown.

According to Watters, the Shepherd Village community plans to build a trail around the perimeter of the village. Residents of the larger Shepherdstown community would have access to this trail.

Ridenour and Watters said they have also enjoyed the amenities and resources provided by Shepherd University, such as the Wellness Center and Lifelong Learning program.

“The more I got to know the area, the more this area just calls to me,” Watters said. “You have nature, history, the people, our own little funky shops that we have here. It’s really cool.”

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