Each year, five women are chosen by the Punxsutawney Career Women’s Club for Career Women’s Week. The criteria used for choosing these women are based not only on their professional efforts, but also on the contributions they have made to community and family.
The club was founded in 1930, originally known as Punxsutawney Business & Professional Women’s Club. Sept. 8, 1998, the club name was changed and incorporated as a non-profit organization under the name of Punxsutawney Career Women’s Club, with objectives to promote growth and respect of women in the workplace; improve self-esteem in all careers; educate women; and support community projects. This article is Part I in a five-part series.
PUNXSUTAWNEY — Kay Curtis was shocked when she heard that she had been chosen by the Punxsutawney Career Women's Club to be one of this year's Career Women. For the past 30 years, she has been working as a waitress at Punxy Phil's restaurant.
"I enjoy being a waitress and meeting new people," said Curtis. She said she never dreamed that someone would nominate her, and that the identity of the person who did is still a mystery.
She grew up on a farm in Sprankle Mills, where her father still resides.
Growing up, she learned to work with a variety of animals — horses, pigs, chickens and cats. Her love for horses inspired her to join the 4-H Club and participate in horse shows.
"Growing up on a farm showed me what hard work is," she said.
She went to school in Punxsutawney, and while attending Punxsutawney Area High School, she worked as a candy striper.
After graduation, she attended the DuBois Business College, where she majored in Executive Secretarial for nine months, earning a certificate in that field.
While attending college, she began working at Perkins restaurant in DuBois.
Though she had originally planned to be a secretary, she said an accident threw her off course.
However, it was through that twist of fate that she was led to what was originally known as Perkins in Punxsy, before becoming Punxy Phil's Restaurant.
She took a job as a waitress, and once she got into it, she found that she enjoyed it much more than she would have enjoyed her work had she had become a secretary. Her passion, she decided, falls in the restaurant business, where she gets to meet and mingle with a variety of people every day.
She works five days a week and said she loves going to work.
Out of all the employees, she has been at Phil's the longest and has formed a close relationship with the owners, Dean and Diane. Though Dean has passed away, Curtis is still very close with Diane.
As for her co-workers, she said they have become like family, and together, they work as a team.
Perhaps the best part of her job for her, though, is working with the customers.
Being a waitress has given her the chance to meet all kinds of people who love to come in and share their stories. Around Groundhog Day, people from as far as California call up and ask about Punxsy Phil and the town of Punxsutawney.
For the past 30 years, she has been married to her wonderful husband, Ed, who currently works at Thermal Guard.
Together, they have two children — daughter Jacque, 26, and Joey, 23. Jacque recently received her master’s in health and physical education and works as a substitute teacher.
Joey, on the other hand, has discovered that the restaurant business is his passion as well. Although he is currently a college student, he is working as a server at a restaurant in the Greensburg area.
He is majoring in business management and hopes to one day own and operate his own restaurant.
When asked if she would ever consider owning her own restaurant, Curtis replied, "I'd prefer working at one."
And when asked if she had to do it over again, would she have chosen the path of executive secretary or that of a waitress, her reply was, "I would choose the restaurant business! I have met a lot of great and wonderful people whom I have become good friends with." Curtis added those people have become like family.
A famous face who came into the restaurant, who Curtis said it was a privilege to meet, was Jack Lambert, former middle linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who is now a member of the pro football Hall of Fame.
In her spare time, Curtis said she loves to exercise, read and walk five miles a day on the Mahoning Shadow Trail with her husband and dog Nellie. She is also currently planning her daughter's wedding.
She currently attends S.S. Cosmas and Damian Roman Catholic Church, where she and her husband were married.
When asked what her major accomplishment has been, she said, "I have accomplished 30 years of a wonderful marriage and raising two beautiful children."
Speaking about who she admires most, Curtis reflected on one of the people with whom she's worked with the closest: "I admire my former boss Dean for his hard work and dedication to the restaurant," she said.
Curtis closed by offering a word of thanks.
"I would like to thank the Career Women's Club for choosing me. I am very honored," she said.