A friend of a friend- Kate Locklear and Mary Winfree- April 26

One thing I have learned is that good friends have other good friends. This is a series of stories about “friends of my friends”. The post below is the story for April 26, 2015.

My goal in 2015 is to learn or get re-acquainted with 365 people and doing a daily post on the “the friend of a friend” is helping me get closer to my goal.

Every community has people who seem to have no boundaries on what it means to give and serve. If you live in Lumberton, NC or Pembroke, NC than you know that there is a woman by the name of Mary Winfree that fits that description.

Mary is a leader that combines some magic ingredients to make a huge difference in people’s lives. She has a tremendous amount of compassion, she values the joy in each day, she is selfless, and she is always demonstrating ways to serve others. She is a person that is hard to say no to. Our community is better off with her in it.

Mary and her husband Bob Winfree own a business called Staffing Alliance. The Staffing Alliance, LLC began business on October 1, 2002 as the result of an acquisition by the Winfree family. Staffing Alliance operates in North Carolina in the Triangle (Raleigh and Durham), Sandhills (Fayetteville, Raeford, Southern Pines/Pinehurst), and in Southeastern North Carolina (Lumberton, Laurinburg, Whiteville).


Staffing Alliance is a full-service employment agency serving a variety of North Carolina industries including some found below:

  • Light Industrial
  • Manufacturing (production and assembly)
  • Golf Course Maintenance
  • Printing
  • Legal
  • Clerical
  • Hospitality & Call Center Industries

Mary serves as the Vice President for Business Development and she is a professional businesswoman. Bob and Mary’s family includes three children daughters Laci and Morgan, and son Trey. They also have grandchildren that they have been accused of doting on. According to Mary Bob’s addiction of spoiling the grandchildren has been diagnosed as incurable.

Bob Winfree

Mary is not a person that doesn’t have her own set of struggles but you will never see her bringing someone else down with her woes. If you meet her or talk to you the result of that interaction is she is going to lift you up. Mary has been a pillar in a number of local non-profits especially the Kiwanis. Mary just recently finished serving up as president of the Kiwanis Club of Robeson/Lumberton (NC). She is shown below with a group  of children she escorted to a UNCP Basketball Game in February 2015.

Kiwanis Group shot


Mary and I are connected in a number of ways but the common thread in our friendship quilt has to be UNC Pembroke. Her in-laws are Frank and Rosa Winfree who are iconic supporters to the university. Her husband Bob Winfree came to a number of Pembroke Basketball camps when I was a young assistant coach. Bob’s dad Frank was a standout college basketball player at Pembroke State (now UNC Pembroke) and had a teammate and lifelong friend named Ron Miller. Ron Miller was a friend of mine and legendary North Carolina high school basketball coach. Bob referred to Ron Miller as Uncle Ron.

There are many more UNC Pembroke connections that Mary and I share. They lived in Oklahoma and while they lived in Norman UNCP Alum and friend Kelvin Sampson was the basketball coach at Oklahoma University. The Winfree family is proud of their OU ties. Despite all of the UNC Pembroke connections the biggest one is Mary’s Aunt Ms. Kate Locklear who was an employee at UNCP for 37 years before she retired in August 2003. Mary Winfree grew up in Pembroke, NC as did her aunt Kate Jacobs Locklear.

The Friend-MARY WINFREE shown with her husband Bob

Mary and Bob Winfree

The Friend of the Friend-KATE LOCKLEAR

Kate located on far right in pink hat

Kate Locklear

Kate located in khaki pants suit on back row-Mary located on back row far right

Kate Locklear II

UNC Pembroke first Fashionista

Kate Locklear came to work at UNC Pembroke in 1966. She was married to Fred Locklear in 1952. Fred attended Pembroke State College where he played on the college’s first football team and was an avid supporter and contributor of University of North Carolina at Pembroke Football.  Kate and Fred were married for 57 years before Fred died at the age of 86 on November 25, 2009. Fred was an US Veteran who  served in United States Army during World War II in Company I of 367th Infantry. After college he went to work for US Post Office and retired in 1980.

Kate and Fred had one daughter Wanda Kay who was UNCP student who was beautiful and extremely popular in the community and on campus.  Wanda was crowned Miss Pembroke Senior High School, Miss Pembroke State University (now University of North Carolina at Pembroke), Miss Lumbee, Miss North Carolina Blueberry Queen, Miss Montgomery, and was a contestant in the Miss Indian American contest in Wyoming. Wanda died in 2010 less than a year after her father Fred had passed away.

The Kate Locklear I got to know started in 1998 when I became Athletic Director at UNC Pembroke. Miss Kate as everyone called her on campus was the Director of Human Resources. There were certain qualities about Kate that I loved and admired.

One she had an unbelievable institutional history about the university, its people, and the community. A visit to Kate’s office would almost always involve a story about some person or event that was interesting to me about the university I worked at. I am happy to state that some of those stories and facts I share with co-workers today. Kate knew what was happening at UNCP.

A second thing I loved about Kate was her patience with me when I didn’t have an “I” dotted or a “T” crossed in her world of bureaucratic approval steps. Kate would gently lecture me about what I needed to do next time and move my personnel matters on to the next stage. As a rookie administrator she made me look efficient and effective. As a friend I attempted not to make the same mistake again in the future.

The third and final thing about Kate was her sense of fashion. The woman was an absolute fashionista. Her outfits were cutting edge and there was never a day you did not see Kate Locklear impeccable dressed and groomed.

In today’s business world there is such a recognition and appreciation for the professionalism of a businesswoman. If you stepped on the campus of UNC Pembroke during Kate Locklear’s 37 year career I promise you would see and experience those best practices in all interactions with her. Kate was a “Fashionista” before the word existed.

Mary Winfree has a special aunt and I and many others in our community have a special friend.

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