Lifelong Bala Resident Mark Gidley Retires After 52 Years In Real Estate

Mark Gidley boating
Mark Gidley boating on Bala Bay. Photo courtesy of Patricia Gidley

After more than half a century of pairing people with their perfect properties, lifelong Bala resident Mark Gidley retired from his career in real estate at the end of 2020.

Mark became licensed as a real estate salesperson in 1968 by taking a one-week course at The War Amps building in Toronto. He then started working at his father’s firm, E. Walter Gidley Insurance and Real Estate, which he took over once his father retired. In the early days, most cottages he sold were small, simple and made only for seasonal use. An offer to purchase was two pages long and a listing agreement was one page, Mark recalled, compared to today’s standard of 10 pages or more. 

Mark Gidley wedding photo
Mark Gidley at his wedding in September 1970. Photo courtesy of Patricia Gidley

“They all needed to be signed in person,” Mark said. “Sometimes this required me to make numerous trips to various parts of Ontario to get signatures. That continued until the fax machine arrived and became accepted for signatures.”

Mark’s many trips around the province are something his wife Patricia remembers well. She quickly discovered the chaotic schedule of real estate 50 years ago in the early days of their marriage. 

“I learned early that in the summer season, I never made an agreement with anybody to go out for dinner or never invited people in because I never knew if he was going to be here or not,” she said.

Though Patricia never got her real estate license, she did get a chance to work side-by-side with her husband when she joined the team at the office in 1979. The experience grew her admiration for his work ethic and the way he dealt with his customers.

“He had a lot of integrity and I learned that very early on by watching him,” she said. “That’s why people came back years later because of the way he talked to them and dealt with them.”

Mark’s favourite part of working in real estate was the people he encountered, whether they were his clients or his colleagues. After leaving the office, he said the thing he missed most was folks dropping in for advice, conversation or just to say hi. He appreciates the many friendships he had with salespeople over the years as well as the chance he had to help clients “meet their dream within their budget.”

A barbecue for Mark’s 40th anniversary in real estate held at the office with friends and clients. Photo courtesy of Patricia Gidley

The cottages and price points have changed drastically over the years, Mark said, but the hope and excitement of buyers remains much the same. Throughout the years, he has stayed in touch with families who still have their properties generations later. He’s also helped families upgrade to bigger and better cottages and assisted families in transition as parents pass and their children go off in different directions.

“The best part of my real estate years has been the people,” he said. “I have made friendships and lasting acquaintances with people from all walks of life, families big and small, from all parts of Ontario and the northern states.”

Mark Gidley and Brad Burgess
Mark Gidley and Brad Burgess playing the role of their grandfathers, Thomas Jr. and John Burgess, at the Bala 150 celebration. Photo courtesy of Patricia Gidley

In addition to making connections with people across the province, Mark has always been an active member of the Bala community, which was founded by his great-grandfather Thomas Burgess. Along with manning the Burgess family cemetery and answering questions about local history, Mark and his family have gotten involved in a wide variety of community causes and events. 

Mark helped start the local Santa Claus parade and ski show, assisted with snowmobile races for the Lions Club and sits on the board for the South Muskoka Hospital Foundation. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

“We did all kinds of stuff and it was just part and parcel of what we did as a family,” he said. “We wanted Bala to be better.”

While many of their usual activities are on hold due to the pandemic, Mark and Patricia look forward to once again having the chance to get involved and reconnect with their fellow community members. As he moves on to the next chapter of his life, Mark has just one thing to say to the salespeople and clients he’s worked with over the years: it’s been a pleasure.



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