OKEECHOBEE — This week I had the pleasure of getting to know more about our Inspiring couple from people who know them best. Truth be told, I have known Fran since high school, but I did not know her well at the time. Later when she and Cary married and raised their children here, we had the pleasure of sharing many memories together as their children and two of our children graduated the same years. Many nights were spent at middle school and high school events watching our children grow up in our great community.
Cary and Fran are both from Belle Glade, Fla. They suspect they played together as very small kids when their family members played intramural softball. Fran’s family later moved to Okeechobee when Fran was a young child. Fran attended school in Okeechobee from grade school to her eventual graduation in 1984, graduating third in her class. Cary graduated high school from Christian Day School in 1983 where he played baseball, basketball and football.
Cary traveled home for a visit, and met Fran when she attended church with her sister Elise (Prevatt) King who lived in Belle Glade. They met again four months later at church, and decided to begin dating soon thereafter.
After six months of dating, Fran was set to transfer from Indian River Community College to attend the University of Central Florida (UCF). Cary had attended several colleges, but after dating Fran, he too decided to attend UCF in Orlando. Graduation from UCF came in May of 1988 and the two were married two short weeks later. The couple moved back to south Florida with Cary coaching at John I. Leonard High School for five years prior to being named head football coach at Okeechobee High School. Fran taught at several Palm Beach County Schools, but upon Cary’s acceptance of the football position in Okeechobee, they both agreed to move to Okeechobee to teach math at Okeechobee High School. One day years later, while I was visiting the Okeechobee Freshman Campus, for some unknown reason, I spoke with Cary whom I came to know through both my work and my children. It was then he told me he was leaving his position with the school system to go into the ministry full time. Although I never let on, I was a bit puzzled. I have always been a believer, but walking away from the safety and security of a certain income to the unknown, is never something that I could wrap my head around. When I had that same “a-ha” moment years later, I completely “got it.” Now I totally understand that when you are called, and listen, you go and do.
Daughter, Valerie tells the rest of the story as follows:
“My parents, Cary and Fran McKee, are what I would call spiritual pillars in this community. If God is building a church in Okeechobee, a church being a community of Christ-followers, then my parents are certainly instrumental parts of that church’s structure and formation. All of my life, I have watched as my parents gave countless hours to people in our community, whether that was through the school system in their professional roles, in a church office counseling and speaking truth out of love for those they counseled, at community events serving and connecting people to each other, or in a home surrounded by grieving loved ones. My parents taught me from an early age what it means to love and value people wholeheartedly above all else. They taught me how to ‘see’ people, even the people who often go unseen. And they do it all not to add anything to their names as Pastor Cary and Fran McKee of More 2 Life Ministries of Okeechobee. No, they do it all to add to the Lord’s name, to make His name greater and farther and more real to the people of Okeechobee.”
Valerie continues, “Dad is the classic extrovert. He does (rarely) meet strangers, but he’s still going to call you ‘Buddy’ and try to connect with you in some way. It’s because he knows that connecting with you is the best way to figuring out how he can serve you, and serving you will lead to leading you to his Jesus. I see dad’s heart for building up men carry over from his time as a football coach at Okeechobee High School. Today, he spends his time coaching husbands and dads and young men to be godly leaders in their homes. He coaches strategies for how to love their wives and families better. He coaches training in God’s word and discipline of the mind and heart.
“Mama is the introvert who has learned how to recharge in her own way while still valuing people enough to push through and engage with them as much as possible. Mama has taught over 3,000 students during the course of her 24 years at Okeechobee High School, and I dare say a good portion of them have come back to her for one reason or another. Why would they come back to her? Not for more math help, but for more of the wisdom and care that she is known for providing her students. Mama also doesn’t miss a beat when it comes to being a pastor’s wife. She’s always right there beside my dad, loving on people. From their days as football coach and coach’s wife to now pastor and pastor’s wife, they support each other in their ultimate goal: loving and leading Okeechobee to Jesus.”
I am certain I could tell the story of numerous parishoners and other pastors at More 2 Life, but they would all say similar if not the exact same thing.
Parishoner, Kari Steiert wrote, “Cary and Fran have been role models in our lives for many years. Not only do they preach and pour into our lives on Sunday mornings, but they are available at any time of day or night to give guidance, support, and mostly prayer. They live by and play out the words that they preach. You will never go without getting a handshake or a hug and a how are you doing. It is in all sincerity, as they both truly want to know how you are doing. You will never walk away feeling that you don’t matter in the lives of Cary and Fran McKee. Rest assured you will be put on their prayer list and they will follow up to see how God answered your prayers. Cary will talk hunting and fishing stories and even go play a game or two of golf with you. Fran is always about telling a story of how your child’s story reminds her of her very own children. They are just two ordinary people living out God’s plan.”
Youth pastor Aaron Hall noted, “Cary and Fran are two people that inspire, because they love like Jesus. No matter who the person is, what mess they are in, they love people. I can honestly say ever since I came on staff at More 2 Life Ministries as the youth pastor, I have learned to love people more because of the example they have set. Cary models what kind of pastor and father I aspire to be. Fran is a living testimony of what a godly woman, wife, and mother looks like. I love them dearly and am thankful for their servant leadership and hearts of compassion. They inspire me, all of us at More 2 Life, and so many others simply because they are responding to Jesus.”
I simply couldn’t think of another couple to inspire us this week. Well done you good and faithful servants.
Leah Suarez is a freelance writer.