Chorey to be honored

Published 7:46 pm Saturday, October 24, 2015

Billy Chorey Sr. stands outside his realty office on West Constance Road last week. He is widely known as a real estate agent but not so much for his charitable work, which he attempts to keep under wraps.

Billy Chorey Sr. stands outside his realty office on West Constance Road last week. He is widely known as a real estate agent but not so much for his charitable work, which he attempts to keep under wraps.

There’s hardly a person in Suffolk who doesn’t know the name “Chorey,” even if only in concert with “& Associates.”

But many of those people don’t know that Billy Chorey Sr. is more than just a Realtor with some of the most ubiquitous signs in town. He’s also a husband, father, grandfather, driver of “hot cars,” jokester, master of disguise, and one of the city’s most giving personalities — even if few who have been directly affected by his generosity even know he was responsible.

And this year, Chorey is the First Citizen, an award presented by the Suffolk and North Suffolk Rotary clubs.

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Despite his having been raised in Suffolk, it all could have been lost to Pittsburgh had it not been for a disease that debilitated him in his early 20s.

Chorey was a 1969 graduate of Suffolk High School, only a few blocks away from where his father owned Chorey Motors. The elder Chorey used to allow his son to drive the cars, which is how Chorey believes he acquired his enthusiasm for cars.

“The late ’60s were just a great time for me,” Chorey said.

He played tennis in high school with Bill Peachy as his coach. Peachy also was principal of Thomas Jefferson Elementary School when Chorey attended there.

Peachy said Chorey was a “major contributor” to the tennis team.

“As much as anything, he was a real good young man,” Peachy said. “He’s been extremely successful, and he’s got a lot of personality and integrity and is well respected throughout the community.”

Chorey entered the University of Virginia immediately after high school.

“There was a lot of turmoil,” Chorey said. Woodstock and the Kent State shootings happening during his freshman year of college.

Assuming he would be going to Vietnam, he wanted to be flying when he got there, so he joined the Air Force ROTC.

As it turned out, his physical uncovered that he was unable to distinguish a couple of colors, so he could be a navigator but not a pilot. And then his draft number was so high that he didn’t have to go.

Chorey went on to graduate from U.Va. in 1973. That fall, he received an offer from Mellon Bank in Pittsburgh, but he wanted to get his Master of Business Administration degree.

“I worked my butt off, but I did it in one year,” he said. The whole time, the bank was holding the job in Pittsburgh.

But then he came down with a case of ulcerative colitis. It was tough to be sick as his life should have just been beginning, he said.

But “the Lord just came in and healed me,” he said.

Not yet feeling well enough to go to Pittsburgh and leave his doctors in Norfolk, Chorey started looking for opportunities closer to hom.

“Harry Cross said, ‘Why don’t you try real estate while you’re convalescing?’” Chorey said.

Cross now acknowledges that he got his competitor into the business willingly.

“He’s done very well,” Cross said. “We are friendly competition. I don’t think I’ve ever had a fuss with Billy over anything in the real estate business in 40 years.”

Cross added Chorey is “a real asset to the community.”

“He does good work in the community. He’s just a good guy and well liked and a top professional.”

Chorey left Cross after about three years to start his own realty company. He said he enjoys helping people through his business.

“It’s neat for me to see people’s eyes light up when they see the tax deductions of owning real estate,” he said. “I’m dealing with people who I helped their grandparents in the early ’80s.”

But what really earned Chorey this year’s First Citizen award is his community service.

Among many other things, Chorey has served as a Farmers Bank director, as a member and past president of the Suffolk Rotary Club, a trustee and secretary/treasurer of the Birdsong Trust Fund. He is a past director of the ACCESS College Foundation and the Better Business Bureau of Hampton Roads. He is a former board member of the Suffolk Salvation Army, a past director of the Better Business Bureau and a past member of the Virginia State Bar Professional Standards Committee. He also is a former board of trustees member and chairman at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy.

Chorey said he’s in an uncomfortable position as First Citizen.

“This is a paradox for me,” he said. “I’m getting recognition for stuff I’ve done that I purposely didn’t intend to get recognition for.”

Chorey said he enjoys helping behind the scenes.

“I don’t want to be exalted for what I do,” he said. “I’m no better than anybody, but I like to help people without them knowing that I’m helping them.”

Chorey hasn’t always been able to help as much as he’d like, and that’s led to him stepping down from a number of former positions.

“I don’t want to have my name on something, some board, and not do anything,” he said. “That’s artificial. If I do something, I want to put my all in it.”

Chorey was nominated by two different locals, Susan Blair and Marcus Pollard. Both said in their nominations they felt compelled to call Chorey out for recognition since he wouldn’t do any such thing himself.

Chorey said he is excited his daughter Kendall, who lives out of state, will be in town for the Nov. 5 reception. His wife, Gloria, son, Billy Jr., daughter-in-law, Lauren, and grandson, Noah, also will be in attendance.

Chorey will be honored at a reception at 6 p.m. Nov. 5 at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts. Tickets can be obtained from any member of the Suffolk or North Suffolk Rotary clubs or at