Today will be bittersweet for Jackie Kelley, longtime optician at Eyecare Associates of Parsons, 501 Main, as it will be her last day with Drs. Wayne Gilmore and Craig Newland.
Kelley has been working with Eyecare Associates for 27 years. Her husband, John, former Ducommun president, is taking a job in Hot Springs, Arkansas, so they will be moving.
“It’s definitely a very emotional time,” Jackie Kelley said on Wednesday between assisting patients with their eyewear. “Everyone is really happy for us since John found a great job with Radius Aerospace as the president there. But I know I’m going to miss all of our patients and the community. There’s been a lot of tears.”
Kelley joined Eyecare Associates of Parsons in 1992 working with Dr. Steve Bartholomew. The current building was built in 1999 and Kelley also worked with Dr. Roland Robison.
“Back when I worked at Peoples Savings and Loans, it was declared insolvent, and we were all worried about the status of our jobs,” Kelley said. “A friend of mine told me that Dr. Bartholomew had a position open at his practice, and at first I wasn’t sure. I knew absolutely nothing about optics. But he and Dr. Robison were very sweet and patient with me as I learned as much as I could. It’s all a learning process, really. The first frames I sold, it was a man’s double-bar frame. I had sold it to a woman, and needless to say she didn’t come back. I got better, though!”
The practicing optometrists assisted Kelley by sending her to educational conventions for the latest trends in eye care as well as the best ways to fix broken or mangled frames.
“I was terrified trying to fix these mangled frames at first, but now I think I’ve gotten much better,” she said. “The hardest part about us leaving is saying good-bye to the patients, our regulars. In this business, it’s different from a doctor’s office in the sense that you’ll see patients maybe once or twice a year. But I’ve established great relationships with everyone who sees us. They’re not just patients, they’re my friends. Saying good-bye to them will be very hard.”
Kelley also credited her “amazing co-workers” and the optometrists who run Eyecare Associates now, Drs. Gilmore and Newland.
“They’ve all taught me so much about optics. I’m the kind of person that gets a little scared of new things, but I have to say this is really exciting for us. My husband is thrilled, but he knows how hard this move is going to be for me at first,” she said.
Although she’ll be about five and a half hours away, Kelley said she would try to make visits when possible.
“Oh, I won’t say it’s the end once we’re settled. I’ll have to come up here and see everyone again,” Kelley said. “As for what I’ll be doing down there, I’m not sure yet. John has a great job that doesn’t really require me to work, and I’ve been working since I was 14 years old. I love cooking and gardening, so I’ll focus on that for a while. I did drive through the area and found where some of their optometrists and optic shops are, though. I just want everyone to know it’s been such a pleasure to help people pick out and adjust frames. The most rewarding part of this job is seeing the smile and look of children who have trouble seeing. We get them what they need, and you can just immediately tell they’re able to see better. Those are the best feelings to me.”
Dr. Gilmore wished Kelley the best of luck on her new adventure, but parting is such sweet sorrow.
“She’s been here before I started back in July 1999,” he said. “We hate seeing her go, but we want her to be happy. This is a great opportunity for her. She’s always been a viable part of our team. She’s the kind of person that people just gravitate to. Jackie develops these relationships with our patients and you can see they really enjoy talking to her and having her help them. She’s going to be greatly missed by all of us here.”
Dr. Gilmore invited Kelley’s patients to stop by today at the office to send her off with a warm farewell.