Mary Kelley makes connections easily.

Not just the LinkedIn kind — though she’s got buckets of those as an Executive Search Consultant for Lee Group Search.

Mary fosters genuine, authentic relationships. Talk to her for the first time and you’ll feel as if she’s an old friend. There was the time when her Toyota 4Runner needed tires. …

“I went in to the store to buy tires and that’s how I met my husband,” says Mary, divorced today but still good friends with her ex. “It’s not hard for me to make friends. I’m not afraid to go out by myself because I know I will meet someone, and I will talk to them.”

The native of Buckroe Beach in Hampton was in her early 20s when a job transfer meant a cross country move. She flew solo and moved into a Los Angeles apartment, weathering the culture shock with regular calls back home to Mom. Her circle expanded initially by meeting people on the job — she initially worked for Cablevision before transitioning to a pager company and later her husband’s tire store.

Having her son, Jake, helped to broaden her network. From a young age, he enjoyed soccer, baseball and football. “That’s where I met my closest friends,” Mary says. “He was in football from age 5 to high school and all of the boys stayed together. All of the families spent a lot of time together over the years.”

Mary spent two decades in California before wanting to return home to be close to her ailing mother, Jo Ann. The two were forever close despite the distance. They enjoyed watching old movies together; her mom favored Clark Gable, Greta Garbo and Lucille Ball flicks. They often played gin rummy and spades.

They did a lot of laughing alongside each other.

“There were times when we could sit in a room together and not say a word,” Mary says. “But we were both perfectly happy and content because we were together.”

Mary was planning a move back to Virginia as her mother’s health declined. After undergoing a procedure to put in a stint, Jo Ann weathered complications twice. Mary returned to California on a Sunday and during the layover in Denver, she got a call from her sister. Jo Ann was unable to breathe. Mary took the next flight back to Richmond.

Three days later, Mary’s mom passed away.

“I wish I could have made the move back home sooner,” Mary says. “Timing was everything. I just have to believe that. God made it happen when it was supposed to.”

The loss has been hard for Mary, who continued with her plan to return to Virginia, knowing that’s what her mother would want.

“I miss her very much,” she says.

In searching for a new job, Mary got a call from The Lee Group. She was surprised to hear Vice President Sarah Fulton’s voice on the other end. They talked opportunities when Sarah said

“I want you to work for us.”

Mary previously worked for a search firm that focused in the life sciences industry in California. At Lee Group Search, her focus is senior living. Ensuring senior residents have excellent care and quality of life is a passion that goes back to when she was a little girl.

“My aunt worked at a nursing home,” she says. “On the weekends, I would go with her. It was so sad. People were in wheelchairs without activities; they had no family visits. I would go in and talk to them and I started bringing cards and doing things to help them feel good and have fun.”

Today she recruits through Lee Group Search for top talent committed to raising the bar for the care of seniors living in the various communities that include Independent, Assisted, Memory Care and Skilled Nursing.

“It’s a goal that occupies a part of my heart,” Mary says.

Mary has made a home in York County, living in a house next door to her sister’s, where her sibling cats, Olaf and Princess, provide good company. Her favorite time is spent outdoors.

The adjoining properties have chickens along with a vegetable and flower garden. “I find yard work therapeutic,” says Mary, who also enjoys bike rides and the beach.

The relaxed atmosphere at Lee Group Search suits her well, too. “I have enjoyed getting to know everyone I work with,” Mary says. “They’re all good-hearted, and it’s great to surround yourself with those type of people.”

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