Sandy and Elizabeth Hester: The Perfect Package
Fifty-five-year-old Sandy Hester dusts off his boots and sets down his freshly fired shotgun, just used to eliminate a copperhead snake that had taken residence in his yard. He walks casually to his 3 year old daughter, who waits patiently nearby, singing silly songs about her daddy. They grasp hands and saunter inside where they talk of princesses and sip tea with teddy bears.
“There’s not many dads like Sandy,” says a smiling Elizabeth, his wife of six years. “We are certainly a unique couple. Sandy has grandchildren older
than his daughter. Most men his age are golfing while he is watching ballet lessons and having tea parties.”
Sandy was born and raised in Riegelwood, a small town just outside of Brunswick County. For 30 years Sandy worked at the local DuPont plant, a career that came to an end when the company was sold, renamed and restructured. The next step in his job path was only natural, thanks to an unexpected — but very welcomed — change in his family dynamic.
“How did we meet?” asks Elizabeth in response to my question to both of them. “I’ll tell this story,” she says with a laugh.
“I was a single mother running a ballet school and raising a child,” she explains. “I had been single for five years and was really, really busy. So I asked my mother, who had been a widow, how she met the good man that raised my brother and me. She said, ‘Tell people that you trust that you are ready to date. That’s how you’ll meet someone that you can trust.’”
“So one day,” continues Elizabeth, “I was getting my back popped and I asked my chiropractor if she knew of any good Christian men with not too many problems.”
Sandy snickers in the background.
“Turns out my chiropractor’s husband’s best friend was just that,” says Elizabeth. “She told him to call me but I was never home to answer. He would never leave a message so I missed him again and again.”
“After eight weeks,” interjects Sandy, “I picked up the phone and said a prayer. I said ‘Lord, if she doesn’t pick up the phone this time, I’m gonna throw this number away!’”
“And guess what?” asks Elizabeth. “I was there that day. And we set a date to meet.”
Sandy met Elizabeth, with her 9-year-old son, Caleb, by her side, at J. Michael’s Philly Deli on April 28, 2004. Elizabeth remembers the date like it was yesterday.
“We were a family from the start,” laughs Elizabeth. “My son always says ‘when we dated,’ ‘when we got married.’ He considers the three of us one unit. Sandy, Caleb and I fell in love with each other almost instantly.”
At the time, Elizabeth lived in Wilmington, where she owned the Wilmington School of Ballet and Creative Arts Center.
Although a graduate of N.C. State with a degree in civil engineering, Elizabeth’s first love was always ballet. So when an opportunity to take over a ballet school presented itself, Elizabeth pliéd into place.
“That was my first big leap of faith and Sandy was my next!” says Elizabeth.
Sandy lured Elizabeth and her son across the bridge with a promise to build a perfect home on Sandy’s family property in Riegelwood.
“Sandy courted us in Brunswick County,” says Elizabeth. “He introduced Caleb to the woods, taught him how to hunt and fish. We went up and down the Cape Fear River and in and out of the woods. I even learned to track a deer! My son and I had lived in a town home in Wilmington and had never had a yard. Now the country was our playground.”
Sandy built a beautiful custom home for his new family, saving thousands of dollars by hiring good friends, serving as his own contractor and scouting great deals on materials. A stunning home was built and special memories were made in the process.
“Sandy and my son, Caleb, hunted deer from what is now a Tinkerbell playroom,” laughs Elizabeth. “Our back yard is a 40-acre cornfield so while our house was being built it served as a deer stand.”
“And one of my favorite memories,” continues Sandy, “is when my granddaughter and my stepson went through the house writing scripture on the walls before the insulation was placed. My granddaughter told her mother that nothing could happen to them in our house because God was protecting it.”
With a house complete and several memories already made, the couple married and about two years later welcomed their daughter Mary Elizabeth to the wild world of the Hesters. The term “wild” is used in only a positive manner: the 45 and 55-year-old parents already had a 37-year-old daughter (Tracy) from Sandy’s previous marriage and three grandchildren (Cayman, 14, Chance, 10, and Cash, 9) as well as 16-year-old Caleb from Elizabeth’s previous marriage. (Not to mention the charismatic couple’s “wild” schedules, inspiring energy levels and a lifestyle expected only from a primetime
television show.) It was with the addition of Mary Elizabeth that Sandy made the decision to retire from DuPont.
“After 30 years of shift work and becoming a dad again in his fifties, it was time for a change,” says Elizabeth. “So we took another leap and opened a UPS Store in the Waterford Shopping Center in 2009.”
“I wanted to be home with my new baby,” says Sandy. “Shift work and being away at nights just didn’t feel right.”
The Hesters looked at many franchise options. Their goal: to find the best fitting career for their new life.
“I needed a job that would allow me to work for a long time without killing me,” says Sandy. “Working at a chemical plant, you know you can’t maintain that pace of work until you’re 70. The UPS Store was something I could continue to do until I dropped dead.”
Sandy is now the laid-back, princess-playing, deer-hunting, 50-something dad that he never imagined he would be, even in his wildest dreams.
“If you told me ten years ago that I would have a 3-year-old, I would have looked at you like you were a crazy person,” chuckles Sandy. “But I know that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing today and I look forward to the next ten years with anticipation for a very good time. I do believe that God has a plan for us and He’ll show us every step of the way.”
The Hesters’ life today is not what they could have ever predicted it would be, but they agree that it is blessed.
Elizabeth stays busy directing The Wilmington School of Ballet, The Wilmington Ballet Company and The Wilmington Preschool of Fine Arts while also re-inventing the annual Festival of Trees benefit for Lower Cape Fear Hospice, opening a photography studio and a fitness studio within her arts center and, most importantly, serving as mom to her tiny ballerina Mary Elizabeth and her aspiring engineer Caleb.
Sandy, in between playing dress-up and attending dance recitals, owns and operates The UPS Store in Leland. He ships, he prints and he now sells gifts, the result of his newest endeavor: adding a candle and gift shop to The UPS Store’s repertoire of services.
“I love running The UPS Store,” says Sandy. “It’s not really a job. I get to meet so many people in Brunswick County. In fact, I’m now more recognized at the Harris Teeter in Leland than I am at the Piggly Wiggly in Riegelwood. That’s big stuff.”
“You know, we just couldn’t be happier anywhere than where we are today,” adds Elizabeth.
Sandy and Elizabeth say that they couldn’t do all that they do without the help from two supreme powers: God, for one. And Mama Faye, the family’s housekeeper, nanny, chef, business assistant and all-around superhero.
With a strong faith, a beautiful family, a valued Mama Faye, successful businesses and personalities unlike any others, the Hester family is the perfect package behind the business that delivers packages for the people of northern Brunswick County.
“We have no idea what the future holds for us,” says Elizabeth, “but we both look forward to relaxing on our back porch, going to soccer games and ballet, playing with our grandchildren, maybe expanding our businesses. We have a lot of people and things in our lives that we love. I don’t have a clue what God will do next but I do know that it will be great.”