The strong feeling of community took root early for the Struss family when they made the decision to become the first homebuyers in Del Webb’s new Anthem community. It was their confidence in Del Webb’s brand and past successes that helped them make the decision to move from their Glendale home; but it was the neighborly atmosphere in Anthem that has made them stay.
To say that the Struss’ were pioneers of Anthem isn’t an overstatement. Twenty years ago, many of the amenities, stores and businesses that we’re accustomed to seeing today didn’t exist.
“Truly, it was pioneer-ish back then,” said Fred Struss. “Everybody had an ice chest in their trunk because the closest grocery store was at Bell and I-17.” Neighbors would call each other when they were headed to the store asking if they needed anything.
Sandy Struss may have felt a bit more hesitancy to make the move north than did her husband. At that time, the Struss family also included two young daughters who were busy in their academic careers. The eldest, Jen, was getting ready for her freshman year of high school, and the youngest, Emily, was getting ready to tackle the sixth grade, which she would start at Anthem Elementary. Sandy insisted the girls be active in extracurricular activities, such as marching band, sports and clubs, to help ease the stress of the transition and to make friends.
While Fred and Sandy were the first homebuyers, Sandy’s brother and sister-in-law weren’t far behind. Jacque and Steve Wagner purchased their home just a week after the Struss’ bought theirs. The Wagner clan at that time also included two children, Chase and Katie, and the two families decided they would take on this new adventure together.
Both families sold their homes before their move to Anthem and shared a rental home for about six months.
“We made it work,” said Sandy referring to the relationship between both families. “It was a nice bonding time. The kids have always been very, very tight and when we got up here we just said ‘we’re two families with five kids.’” (The Wagner’s son Brett was born after their move to Anthem.)
Anthem provided a small-town feel that wasn’t possible in their old neighborhood in Glendale. The kids would often take Fred’s electric car for outings around the community, and Sandy could locate the kids by reaching out to friends around the community.
The uniqueness of growing up in Anthem wasn’t lost on the Struss children. Fred recalled a conversation with Emily after she left to attend college in California. She remarked with a bit of sarcasm, “Dad, you know every place is not like Anthem.”
“Yeah, I know,” he replied. “That’s why we live here.”
The feeling of a small, tight-knit community is still as much a part of Anthem now as it was when the Struss family moved in 20 years ago.
“Young families are coming in [to Anthem] just like we were 20 years ago, and it seems like everything is coming around full circle,” said Fred. “What better place is there to raise your family?”