Mary LeClair

Cape Cod Life  /  Annual Life 2020 /

Writer: Julie Craven Wagner

Public Servant + Community Supporter  \\  A lifetime dedicated to the Cape

Anyone who knows Mary LeClair immediately breaks into a bright smile at the mere mention of her name. People have been overheard staking exclusive claims to her friendship as though she were a singularly social individual. In fact, the opposite could not be closer to the truth. Mary knows everybody; at least if anyone has had the occasion of an introduction to Mary LeClair, they will more than likely be remembered vividly, and referenced succinctly by the octogenarian. With 86 years under her belt, she has had what she describes as her own good fortune to have served the community that she loves and make thousands of friends along the way.

LeClair’s roadmap to service wasn’t marked with signs and directions, it was more of a right place, right time kind of story. LeClair found her way to the Cape in the early ‘60’s when her husband at the time was stationed at Bourne’s Otis Air Force Base. Later, living in Cotuit, she started working at the Hyannis office of Barnstable County National Bank as a teller. It wasn’t long before she made a case to transfer to the new branch in New Seabury. LeClair remembers, “Of course a woman couldn’t be the manager in those days. Years later, my second branch manager defied his manager and decided to go to the Red Sox ALS Championship game. He was told if he went to the game, it would mean his job and turn the keys over to me. They finally allowed me to become the branch manager, probably because there wasn’t much business in the newly formed bank.”

LeClair reflects upon how she believes a local bank can best serve their clients. “I think it should be a community resource,” she says. “When I was the manager, our little bank, the only branch bank in Mashpee—whose name was changed from New Seabury to the Mashpee branch to better acknowledge the community we served—had a robust schedule of activities and events that would bring local businesses and residents together. We sold candy bars for a dollar, took them back and sold them again to fund a certification course for our first Juvenile Officer in town.”

In the late 70’s, District Attorney Philip Rollins convinced LeClair to throw her hat in for Barnstable County Treasurer. “He came in the bank one day and said, ‘What are you doing?’” LeClair recalls. “I told him I was trying to think of who could fill the seat for County Treasurer. He said he had an idea. He said I should. I looked at him like he was crazy and dismissed it. But, he persisted. He said, ‘Mary, why not? Let’s do it. You run a bank. You know how to deal with financial matters. You know your way around a balance sheet.’ I had always been involved with politics, supporting various local candidates in a variety of campaigns, but I hadn’t considered it for myself.” Rollins instinct was spot-on. LeClair committed and was appointed from seventeen original candidates, and remained in the position until 1996 when she successfully ran for one of the county’s three-board seats of County Commissioner. Three four-year terms later, LeClair stepped down in 2008 and turned her energy to local organizations that were positively impacting peoples’ lives.

For a short two-year stint after stepping down as Commissioner, LeClair became the Constituent Service Representative with William Delahunt who was the Cape’s Democratic Congressman at the time. “I learned so much,” she says. “Every day was different and I had to deal with everything from immigration issues to things you could never even imagine.” Many friends and followers of LeClair’s raised their eyebrows at her perceived departure from Republican initiatives. “I was never just a Republican,” LeClair explains. “I learned early on that we all need to work together. There is no room for egos when you are committed to getting something done.”

The fall of 2019 marked the occasion for LeClair to be recognized with the Philanthropy Volunteer of the Year Award. A long list of community organizations that includes Gosnold, the Housing Assistance Corporation, Heroes in Transition, the Mashpee Library, Children’s Cove and most recently Wellstrong (a  gym program for those in recovery founded by Amy Doherty) have been the beneficiaries of LeClair’s heart-driven commitment of time, energy and influential connections. LeClair’s dedication to Gosnold started back when she was still in banking. “Joe Dunn, an attorney in Falmouth, asked me to join the board,” LeClair shares. “I wasn’t interested at the time, but he convinced me to go to a board meeting. Well, I did see ways I could help.” Now, after completing a 27-year commitment to their board, the stories are endless of LeClair’s direct involvement with women at Emerson House (a Gosnold all-female facility in West Falmouth) and other patients who have sought treatment for addiction issues through Gosnold.

LeClair firmly states that her life would not have been what it was without an amazing group of accomplished retirees who ventured into her bank branch on a regular basis. “They were CEOs and founders of national corporations, and they taught me strong economic principals. I was their grateful student,” she states. Mary LeClair’s smile is bright and broad, her mind is forever turning over plans and proposals of what could and can be done to help others, but nothing beats with greater resonance than her heart.

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Julie Craven Wagner

Julie Craven Wagner began her experience with Cape Cod Life in 2010 when she joined the sales team after 10 years of working with local businesses on the Cape and Islands with WMVY. In addition to sales, she is the Associate Publisher/Editor of Cape Cod LIFE, Cape Cod HOME, and Cape Cod ART. Growing up on the Outer Cape has given her a unique perspective of life on Cape Cod, from tip to bridge, and that is reflected in her appreciation and presentation of stories found within the pages of our publications. Julie lives in North Falmouth with her husband, Eric, and their yellow lab, Enzo. When she finds free time, she enjoys her Cape Cod life sailing on Buzzards Bay, spending time on the beach in Wellfleet, or exploring Martha’s Vineyard.