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From ministry to real estate

Luke Marshall
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Apr 22/02) - Willy Chidowe enters his office talking on his cell phone. Once a minister, this Yellowknifer now sells real estate in the city.

It all started back in 1979, when a young Chidowe drove to Yellowknife from his home in Saskatchewan to attend a friend's December wedding.

He was only in high school and his initial thoughts of the city were not positive.

"My first impressions of Yellowknife were that I didn't like it," remembers Chidowe.

On the way home, Chidowe and his friends only made it about 10 miles out of the city when they met up with a semi that wouldn't budge and they were run off the road.

"We stayed there for hours and it was so cold," says Chidowe.

He remembers turning to one of his friends and saying, "You know, it wouldn't hurt me if I never came back here."

Finally, someone stopped to rescue the stranded group.

Chidowe was born in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, but left and moved to the United States with his family in the 1960s.

"My dad, and I love him, said that if I was gonna go anywhere I needed to get out of the country because the opportunities weren't there."

By this time, Chidowe was attending elementary school.

The Chidowe family returned to Rhodesia in the 1970s, only to find political unrest.

"There were sort of rumbles of civil war that were taking place," says Chidowe.

So, in the interest of a better education they moved to Canada in 1971 and ended up in Weyburn, Sask. Chidowe attended high school in Weyburn and it was there that he met his future wife Natalie.

Minister on

the move

He then went on to University in Oklahoma in 1979. He majored in psychology and minored in youth ministry at the Oklahoma Christian University.

He played tennis for the university team, a sport that he would later teach others for several years when he arrived in Yellowknife.

He was married to Natalie in 1983.

After university, Chidowe returned to Weyburn and started work as a youth minister in 1984.

Then, in 1986, a day came that Chidowe never thought he would see.

He was persuaded by some of his friends living in Yellowknife to come and work as a minister.

"The congregation here was looking for a minister and they asked me if I would be interested in working with them," he says.

"My first impressions of Yellowknife were that I didn't like it so I gave myself a time frame, which was that I would be here for a year or two years and that would be it, then I would leave."

He began work at the Church of Christ here in Yellowknife in January of 1986. He and Natalie had come to Yellowknife only planning to stay for a maximum of two years.

"I said to her (Natalie) that we were gonna leave here in two years," admits Chidowe.

But, when the two years did finally end, Willy saw the many opportunities that Yellowknife had to offer and wanted to stay.

Going their

separate ways

"When you come to Yellowknife you either like it or you hate it," says Chidowe. "I liked it and she (Natalie) hated it."

She wanted to go back to school and he wanted to stay in Yellowknife to see where it would take him.

This disagreement in direction finally led to their divorce.

"We changed, and the marriage didn't work so the best thing to do was to separate."

In 1994, Chidowe was still living in Yellowknife and decided that a career change was in order.

"Some people can do something all their life and stay in that career for a long time. I need to be challenged and I needed a change."

Change in


Chidowe decided that he needed to change the direction his life was taking while on a drive from Winnipeg to Dauphin, Man.

He was listening to a motivational tape and decided that he wanted something more out of life.

"Up until then I was just getting up in the morning and I was used to what I was doing. I was just waiting for my paycheque at the end of the month."

So he gave himself two months to stop what he was doing and to move on to something else.

"Once you decide that a change needs to take place and it's in your mind, things happen in your life that direct you toward that change."

Things seemed to fall into place after that and Chidowe was pointed in the direction of real estate.

Selling real estate was just the change he was looking for. He had enjoyed being a minister but there were things about it that weren't working for him.

"When you're working with a church it's great, but it can seem like you're living in a glass house," he says.

"People can see things and sometimes they can be critical. Sometimes they have this ideal picture of what a minister should be and it got to the point where I wasn't really fitting that."

With that in mind, he took a correspondence course in real estate through Aurora College and passed his final exam.

He then went on to start work at Century 21 in Yellowknife.

"My first year I did so well that I just said, 'Hey, this is what I want to do.' "

During his second year as a real estate agent he bought Century 21 from its previous owners and has been running it ever since.

Business is going well, but Chidowe says he isn't as busy as he once was.

"The market right now is active, but not like it used to be." He blames at least part of the slowing market on a lack of inventory of new houses.

"For some reason developers and builders haven't had the confidence they did back in the 1990s."

This is the first time he knows of since he has been here that people are staying in hotels for months at a time because they can't find a place to stay.

Body works

Chidowe is also active and enjoys his hobbies as well as sports, but it hasn't always been that way.

"From high school to university I had always been in really good shape."

He taught tennis lessons in Yellowknife, but when he stopped playing things started to change.

"In 1991, changes in my body started taking place. I just let myself go. Walking upstairs would get me so tired that by the time I got to the top I would be huffing and puffing," he says. In 1999, he decided that things had to change.

He took up body building and now makes time in his busy schedule to work out.

"I like to see how my body is changing and I want to see how far I can take it."

Recently he has also taken up off-roading in a jeep that he bought a number of years ago.

"I love driving, it's sort of like my escape.

"I love Yellowknife," he adds. "It's been a really exciting place for me."

Although he plans to retire near the mountains and closer to family, he believes that Yellowknife offers limitless opportunity to those who are willing to look for it.