From soldier to soap maker: Lanark business owner pushes through life’s challenges to put her House in order

LANARK – Running a small business can be tough. But it’s pretty safe to say Mary Keller’s got what it takes to clean up at her new shop.

She served her country for 20 years, survived a fall from a 60-foot tower and she’s battling a genetic disorder, so keeping her house in order shouldn’t prove too much for the Army veteran turned business owner.

Today, the 42-year-old is the Mary behind Mary’s House of Soap and More at 125 N. Broad St.

Keller sells soaps she makes herself – in dozens of different scents – along with other handmade personal care products like lip balm and bath salts. And just like the store name says, there’s more: Scentsy products (left from her time when she was a consultant), home decor, serving trays, T-shirts, onesies, jewelry and more.

She and her husband, Dan Webb, 44, both of Fairhaven, held a ribbon-cutting to open the store April 2.

Keller, who grew up in Clinton, served in the Army from 1994 to 2014, becoming a logistics specialist. She spent time in Kuwait and Iraq, including a tour of duty that took her to one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces.

The danger didn’t end when she left the battlefield. While serving stateside, she was injured in a fall from a 60-foot tower in Kansas during a training exercise.

In 2003, she was diagnosed with a form of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects her connective tissues. Symptoms include loose or unstable joints, frequent dislocations, pain, and fragile skin.

“I don’t produce collagen, so I dislocate really easily. Eventually, I will have to use a wheelchair,” Keller said.

She’s also dealing with a type of epilepsy, an irregular heartbeat, and other medical issues. She travels to the veterans hospital in Iowa City, Iowa, for treatment.

Still, she finds time to make the merchandise to keep her shelves stocked and run a business. In what free time she has, Keller likes to paint and stay active shooting hoops.

Whatever she does, she does with determination, setting aside the setbacks and pushing ahead.

“I suck it up,” she said. “I just keep going.”

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