Born and raised in Wilmington, Marion “Tina” Lee was brought up in a home that encouraged compassion. Her parents taught their two daughters to be kind to others and treat people only as they would want to be treated. This lesson resonated with Tina, forming her personality and influencing her every move, from raising her daughter to opening her massage therapy practice, Soothing Touch Therapeutic Massage.
Tina’s father is from Wilmington, while her mother was a Leland native and her grandparents also called Leland home. Tina spent her childhood summers working on her grandfather’s local farm, helping with the crops and earning money and learning work ethics. Tina and her family worked hard and played little. But when they had an opportunity to vacation out of the area, she enjoyed time at amusement parks like Carowinds and Busch Gardens.
When Tina wasn’t working or riding an occasional rollercoaster, she stayed busy in her church’s choir and usher program. The neighborhood community center across the street from her home in downtown Wilmington also saw a lot of Tina. She served as a youth leader for downtown Wilmington’s Northside Neighborhood Center, an organization that offered childcare and recreation for the youth of the community. Tina participated in several of the center’s programs, including leading sewing classes for the little girls, a memory that still holds a special place in her heart. And then there was her position as one of the leader of the center’s majorette group that kept her busy and offered the opportunity to participate in The Azalea Festival for three years.
At the beginning of Tina’s teen years, her family moved across town to Castle Hayne. Although it was only a few miles, the social butterfly had been taken out of her environment at an age where friends and familiarity are so important to little girls. And so her life shifted. Tina entered middle school a little more reserved. She was forced to make new friends, something that was not a welcome task given her passion for her old stomping grounds in downtown Wilmington. But Tina’s outgoing and compassionate personality would not stay silent for long. She began playing the flute in both the marching and symphonic band under the great leadership of a teacher she continues to admire today.
But music wasn’t the only thing that caught Tina’s eye. The career of her aunt, an X-ray technician at Delaney Radiology, generated a new interest. Tina’s history of helping others within her old community and her desire to become involved with her new community led her to join Laney’s Medi-Bucs Club, a medical club that allowed Tina to pursue a newfound interest in becoming a nurse.
Upon graduation from high school, Tina was accepted at Winston-Salem State University, a historically black university known for offering one of the best nursing programs in North Carolina. After several years of study at WSSU, Tina moved back to her hometown and accepted a job as a Physical Therapy Aid at New Hanover Hospital. Tina fell in love with her new career in physical therapy. But that’s no surprise because, once again, Tina was back in her natural habitat — an environment where she could help others.
Tina enjoyed therapy so much that she began researching higher education in the assisted therapy field.
Unfortunately, the closest school was in Fayetteville. Because she did not want to commute such a distance, she decided to stay put and continue working. It’s a good thing, too, because in doing so, Tina married and gave birth to her precious daughter, Deona, in March 1998. It was then that Tina decided to put future education on hold so that she could focus on her family. She continued working at New Hanover Hospital and was soon transferred to Coastal Rehab Hospital, a division within New Hanover. And, there, Tina thrived. She worked with physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, nurses, case managers, care takers and patient families. Tina and her co-workers quickly became a family with one goal in mind — to band together and fulfill the needs of the public.
Tina’s tight connection to her work family helped her through the next chapter of her life. She relied on their support as she endured a difficult time, the dissolution of her marriage. It was this season that left Tina desiring change. She had been working as a technician for sixteen years and was ready for something new, something to refresh her mind and her spirit after all that she had recently endured.
In passing, a close friend of Tina’s asked, “What about massage?” And it clicked. Massage therapy deals with the same types of materials — hands on and muscles — and produces the same result. Massage helps people. Tina’s friend secretly sent her information about a local college, intriguing her even further and faster. Tina went for it. As a single mom with a full-time job, an enthusiastic Tina added full-time student status to her load, studying her way to becoming one of the first graduating students in Massage Therapy at Miller Motte Technical College.
It was toward the end of her time in school that Tina ran into a man that would change the direction of her life once again. During a normal workday at the hospital, Tina ran into Eric, a high school acquaintance she had not seen in 15 years. When she ran into him again a few weeks later, she quickly determined that there was something more to these two coincidental meetings. And that something more led to wedding bells.
Tina and Eric became a beautiful blended family with three children — Tina’s daughter Deona along with Eric’s two children, Jay and Erica. Two of the children remain close to home, with Deona at Calvary Christian School and Jay enrolled at Cape Fear Community College, while Erica attends UNC-Charlotte.
Eric inspired and encouraged Tina to open her own practice, and in 2005 that dream became a reality. Tina opened Soothing Touch Therapeutic Massage, a business that successfully fills her need to help others. Which, according to her clients, she does well.
When she is not working at one of her two office locations, Tina enjoys time with her family. Pampering with her daughter is a must, with some time to feed her love for shopping and interior decorating in there somewhere too. And if that load doesn’t exhaust you just thinking about it, don’t forget Tina’s own line of gift baskets and handmade lotions and body scrubs.
In her words, “gratification comes from being able to help people and make them feel better.” And, whether it’s through her therapeutic massages or must-have peppermint foot lotion, you can bet that the people of Leland are stress-free and smiling thanks to our very own Tina.