FLORENCE, S.C. – Helping people realize their dream of home ownership has been Missy Stephens’ mission for 27 years.
Last Monday, Stephens retired from her job at Finance of America Mortgage – The Pee Dee Mortgage Group on West Evans Street to join her husband traveling the countryside on the seat of a motorcycle.
“Every once in a while, someone extraordinary comes into your life who makes a difference and leaves a lasting impression on everyone around them, someone who would give you the shirt off their back, the change in their pocket, and the most … warm and caring smile,” said Greg O’Connor, Finance of America Mortgage branch manager. “Missy Stephens is one of those special people, and after 27 years dedicated to making the lives of those around her better and serving the Florence community, she will retire … to travel and spend more quality time with Marty, her husband, their children, and many other family and friends.”
O’Connor said Stephens has helped families in probably every subdivision in this town acquire their homes.
“People come to us to finance their homes,” Stephens said. “All we do is mortgages.”
“Over the course of her career, with kindness and compassion, Missy has guided thousands of people in realizing their dream of homeownership,” O’Connor said. Stephens said it is rewarding to help people realize their dream of homeownership, but it is especially rewarding to help first-time homeowners.
“Watching the first-time buyer when they get the key to their first home is an amazing feeling,” Stephens said.
“For the past four years, I have had the good fortune and been blessed to have her work at my local branch of Finance of America Mortgage,” O’Connor said. “To say she is a dedicated and loyal employee and friend is an understatement. She is that and so much more. I am honored to have had the privilege of working with Missy these past four years and incredibly fortunate to have her as a dear friend.”
Stephens said she will miss all the people she works with and her customers but she is looking forward to retirement.
“My husband and I have only been married a year,” she said. “He retired and wants to travel.”
She said many of the people she helps come back to refinance or to purchase another home.
“A lot become friends, like family,” she said.
Stephens said she will miss interacting with all the people she comes in contact with but especially her work family.
“I see these people every day and text them at night,” she said. “We text each other photos of our cats on the weekends.”
“This is not a 9 to 5 job,” O’Connor said. “We work a tremendous amount of hours, trying to get people closer to home ownership.”
“It can be a very stressful job,” Stephens said.
“She is our office mom,” said Cara Watson, a co-worker. “When I started she taught me things and watched out for me.”
All of Stephens’ co-workers said they will miss her.
“I will miss her positivity,” said Megan Hite. “And her compassion, drive and work ethic. She has worked with some people for years to help them achieve home ownership.”
Stephens said not everyone is able to finance a home on first try.
Hite said she is the “mom of the office.”
“She cares about people and wants the best for you,” Hite said.
“I miss her walking in and asking ‘did you feed the children’ (referring to the fish in the tank by the front door),” Watson said. “She takes care of everyone. She encourages us.”
O’Connor said he will miss her customers’ praise.
“She has the patience of a saint,” he said. “She turns no one away.”
O’Connor said he will miss the qualities she brings to the industry, her dedication to helping others, not only with home ownership but other things as well. He said she gives others inspiration.
Tim Shorter said, “Missy is very helpful.”
He said she worked with his dad, too.
“She is always so thoughtful,” Shorter said.
“I’ll miss everything about her,” said co-worker Ray Taylor. “Missy is special. She is one of the kindest people that I’ve ever met. The first day I came in the building she made me feel welcome. She is a special lady.”
O’Connor said he wants the community to join him as he wishes Missy l and her family the best this world has to offer and in thanking her for the years of heartfelt service she has given to our community.
Stephens said her first job was in the snack bar at Ocean Lakes Camp Ground.
She went to college at James Madison University in Virginia and studied hotel, restaurant and hospitality management with a minor in nutrition.
Stephens started her career in the mortgage industry at First Union Bank in Charlotte and Myrtle Beach. She then went on to Wachovia Bank in Florence.
She said once you get in it, if you like it, you’ll stay.
“Most people just fall into a career in this field,” she said.
Stephens said she is looking forward to spending more time with family, her husband, children and mother.
And she and her husband plan to travel.
Last weekend they took a motorcycle ride to Florida.
“I’ve been riding for only about three years,” she said. “Marty has been riding his whole life.”
Between them they have three children – Jamie, Parker and Lacey.
Stephens said she wants to do more volunteer work within the community. Her co-workers said she is all about helping others.
Stephens said she is a recovering alcoholic and looks forward to becoming more active in the recovery community.
“We have treatment centers here,” she said. “This is a huge recovery community.”
She said there is not a family here that hasn’t been touched by an addiction.
“I plan to do a lot more. Volunteering is important,” Stephens said. “Florence is such a great community. It became home. I’ve been here 25 years.”