Ryan and Helen Ley have lived in the Porters Neck area for 12 years. Helen grew up in Raleigh, where she attended Ravenscroft School through her sophomore year of high school. She was an avid equestrian and rode competitively for over a decade. In her junior year, she decided to attend Chatham Hall, an equestrian-focused school in Virginia, to have the opportunity to ride on their interscholastic team. After graduation, Helen attended UNCW, where she earned her bachelor's degree in English with a concentration in professional and creative writing. Shortly after graduation she moved to Atlanta and worked for a large commercial real estate firm within their property management division. After a year of being incredibly homesick, she returned to Wilmington, where she spent the next six years working for several clinical research organizations.
Helen’s family is from Wilmington, so everyone is nearby, which is wonderful. Her parents have a beach house at Wrightsville, and her cousin lives right here in Sagewood, just down the street.
Ryan grew up in Michigan, where most of his family still resides. Much of his time outside of school was spent on the soccer field. After high school, he attended Ferris State, where he studied criminal justice and played for their football team. Ryan decided to enlist in the Coast Guard at age 21. He planned to only spend a short amount of time with them and had his sights set on working for the sheriff’s department. That plan was derailed after September 11, 2001, and he was recalled to active duty. In 2004, after being stationed at various places, including Delaware, Florida, and Washington, D.C., he was told he was being sent to Wilmington. One of his fraternity brothers lived in Raleigh at the time. Ryan called him and said, “Where the heck is podunk Wilmington, North Carolina?” His buddy quickly replied, “You’ll never want to leave.”
Ryan and Helen met in 2004 on Myspace, which was a social media platform. They had one mutual friend who encouraged each of them to go on that first date. Helen recalls telling her roommate at the time to “make sure to get a good look at him in case he’s a serial killer!” They went to a piano bar downtown, and the rest is history.
In 2009, Helen and Ryan were married at First Presbyterian Church with their reception at The Bellamy Mansion Museum. A great time was had by all, dancing the night away under the stars. At that time, the newlyweds were living on the other side of town, towards Carolina Beach. Ryan had been working on Camp Lejeune since 2006, and that drive was nothing short of brutal. They began looking at houses in the Porters Neck area. The search lasted for six long months. Finally, a new neighborhood landed on their list. Sagewood was love at first sight for both of them. There were only five homes on the Ramsbury Pond at that time.
In September of 2013, Ryan and Helen welcomed their son, Robby. The neighborhood began to grow quickly and filled up with the most wonderful families and tons of children for Robby to play with. Sagewood quickly became not only where they lived, but it also became their community of close friends. Helen always says, “It’s how my neighborhood was growing up in the '80s — kids riding their bikes, fishing, playing basketball, and knocking on each other’s doors to see who can play. You just don’t find places like this anymore. We feel incredibly blessed.”
Living on a pond, the Leys felt it was important that Robby learn to swim at a young age. By the age of 5, Robby was swimming so well that they decided to join Porters Neck Country Club so that he could be on their swim team. He was the youngest on the team that year and won the Coaches Award for his enthusiasm and commitment to his teammates. He continues to swim for PNCC and is looking forward to the new season that begins next month.
In addition to swimming, Robby has followed in his mom’s equestrian footsteps. His family leased a pony for him in January, and he just competed in his second horse show. He and “Snip” have already accumulated many ribbons, including three reserve champions. They will travel throughout the summer to various North Carolina and South Carolina shows.
Like his dad, Robby loves hunting. During hunting season (both turkey and deer), you can find the father-son duo out in the woods in various deer stands and turkey blinds. Robby shot his first turkey at age 6. When Ryan asked him if he’d like to eat it or mount it, Robby quickly replied, “Let’s mount it!” Robby had high hopes of it being on display in the living room, to which his mother quickly declined. It does, however, have a space with various deer heads, bear capes, and skulls in the “man room” upstairs.
Ryan still works on Lejeune as an instructor and is now a chief warrant officer with 23 years in the Coast Guard. Both he and Helen are so grateful he was sent to “podunk Wilmington” all those years ago.
The Leys thoroughly enjoy living here, cultivating friendships, and meeting new people. You may have met them at their annual Fourth of July party, or hanging at the club pool during the summer. They both feel there is no place like this, and know their sentiments are shared by all who are fortunate enough to call this area home.