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’ve made to community and family.
The club was founded in 1930, originally known as Punxsutawney Business & Professional Women’s Club. On 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 IV in a five-part series.
PUNXSUTAWNEY — Despite the fact that she is an individual who many know for her service to the community in many aspects and many facets, Charlotte Fye said she was surprised to hear she'd been selected by the Career Women's Club as one of this year's representatives who the club recognizes for serving as positive role models to the young women of Punxsy.
"It was really quite a surprise when Jane Cunningham called and told me," Fye said. "I never had even given it a thought. She said they felt that I was someone they would want their daughters to emulate, and that is quite an honor."
Fye said her dedication to service started back in high school, and she said she recommends the lesson she learned then to others, as well.
"When I joined a club in high school, someone told me you only get out of an organization what you put into it," she said. "I have always tried to remember that whenever I have something to do. Life is like that, too. I'd like people to always remember to put their best into whatever they do, because I've learned myself that you only get out of life what you are willing to put into it."
While many in town know Fye as a familiar face, her beginnings weren't rooted here in Punxsutawney. She was born in Forest Hills, Pa., a daughter of the late John and Agnes Savage and grew up in Wilkins Township — a graduate of Wilkinsburg High School.
From there, Fye went on to Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP), where she received a B.S. degree in elementary education, and where she met her future husband, Terry — another familiar face in town —
whom she wed in 1965.
Some of the couple's proudest achievements, though, are their family members, including daughters Laurel Sciukas, wife of Paul Sciukas of York, Pa., and Bethany Stanford, wife of Todd Stanford, of Selinsgrove, Pa., both of whom are Groundhog Ambassadors, and grandchildren Veronica, age 8, and Quinn, age 5, Stanford.
After graduating from IUP, Fye taught one year in Church Hill, Pa., before making the move to Punxsy with her husband. Fye taught for more than 33 years in Punxsutawney.
"I've done everything from kindergarten through sixth grade, plus some special education subbing," she said. "I subbed for 16 years and taught for more than that. I would say that I've had a lot of good experiences in a lot of different grades."
One thing Fye concentrated on during her time as a teacher was doing her best to make the learning experience fun for her elementary students — including lessons for her 2nd-grade class about dinosaurs.
"I always hoped to make the learning experience interesting and fun," she said. "Growing up, I didn't know anything about dinosaurs, and the first year we did them, I learned right along with the students. All of the kids really seemed to enjoy them so much because it was such an interesting subject. Even now, we're still learning new, different things about dinosaurs than I even taught. It's an ever-changing process, and education continues for the adults."
When asked how teaching benefited her, Fye said that she never really thought of it that way, but the other way around.
"I don't often think about what teaching does for me," she said. "It was more about what we gave to the students and about helping create a learning environment. It's still nice to do that, even though I'm not teaching anymore. It's nice to use the experiences that I had and to share them with others to help them learn."
One way Fye puts her love of teaching to use, even in her retirement, is volunteering in classrooms throughout the district assisting teachers at Parkview Elementary and working with students who need extra help and assisting with reading tests at other schools when requested.
"Basically, I appreciated the people who helped run papers and cut things out when I was teaching," Fye said. "I'd always said that when I retired, I'd go back and pay it forward. It takes time, and lots of folks don't realize how many extra hours some teachers are putting in. So, it's nice to help, at least a little bit, with some of those things."
Volunteering at the school is only the beginning of Fye's list of places with which she is involved, and the list continues with her work as the former treasurer of the Punxsutawney Theatre Arts Guild (PTAG).
Her responsibilities there include "devoting countless hours each month to maintaining complex financial records," coordinating lobby activities and serving as a member of the PTAG's executive board. She has also served as a seamstress, director, props seeker, stage crew worker and clean-up helper.
Terry was one of the founders of PTAG, so Charlotte said her involvement there made sense.
"PTAG sort of grew up with Terry and me, because he was one of the original founders of it, and I wasn't a member at first — at least not officially," she said. "But I did a lot of hauling around of people and things, and finally, I decided I might as well join. I just finished over 12 years as treasurer."
While the group is known for its stage productions, Fye said she's not the on-stage type.
"I don't act on stage," she said. "I did try directing once, and it was OK, but it's not really my thing. I enjoyed doing a lot of the work in the lobby and behind the scenes, and I'm happier that way. And people are just as familiar with me in that context as they are with some of the actors. So, it's been a good way to meet people."
Another organization Fye is known for dedicating her hard work and time to is the Jefferson County Chapter of Pennsylvania Association of School Retirees (PASR), which she is still currently involved in, serving as the co-editor of the PASR newsletter, coordinator of the Support the Troops Drive, coordinator of Spring is Sharing and Christmas Gifts projects, and regional chair of the Social Service Memorial Honor Fund (SSMHF) of PASR.
Fye said it is a very rewarding organization to be a part of, and she enjoys her service there.
"PASR is a very worthwhile organization, trying to keep retirees going, interested and sharing everything they have to share," she said. "It's very interesting, especially the work we've been doing with the soldiers. We've received letters back from some of the chaplains saying some of the troops were ready to give up until they got a package. Some of the things we take for granted, they receive them and they know they aren't forgotten. I'm sure it's easy to feel forgotten, so I hope what we're doing helps in that sense."
As chairperson of the SSMHF's sixth region, Fye said she has another chance to share with a group of people which is always appreciative.
"Right now, as the chairperson, and working with that, we've been trying to get a Christmas gift out to those who might need a little more encouragement and don't necessarily have someone to provide that for them. We've received cards back saying, 'You don't know how much this card meant to me.' That's very rewarding."
As a fan of reading — "books, something you can hold in your hand" — Fye served as a volunteer for the Punxsutawney Memorial Library, with her main focus being on the Hot Dog Days fundraiser, as Terry was serving as a member of the library's board.
"When Terry was on the board, I was one of the people who organized the 150 volunteers for Hot Dog Days and made sure folks were there. It was quite the task," she said. "I started out as a volunteer in the hot dog wagon, and that was a lot of fun. It was always amazing how people looked forward to Hot Dog Days, both those volunteering and those coming out. It was a good way to raise money for the library."
In addition to scheduling 150 volunteers each summer to work the event, Fye also worked at various games at Barclay Square and Saddle Club events and all the Warehouse books sales the library held. She and Terry also donated countless prizes for games and raffles, and she served as a consultant and assistant to the board when needed.
Despite all of her service to the other organizations, though, there is one that stands out to Fye as "the most important" — the church.
Fye serves as a member of the Board of Deacons, filling various offices and sitting on many committees.
Fye has also worked as the head of the Dough Committee, which held annual Groundhog Day Lasagna Dinners, which later transitioned into "Take it, Bake it," for 15 years. The project started out to raise money for funeral dinners and the kitchen, Fye said, but has turned into a fundraiser for missions, as well.
Her involvement with the church doesn't stop there, though, as she's also the president of the local chapter of the American Baptist Women (ABW), teaches Sunday School and "helps here and there where needed."
"It's hard to separate what you do," she said. "It becomes a part of your life, and I feel like that's a great thing."
According to Fye, her faith-filled upbringing and feeling of a call to serve has become a family tradition.
"My faith background certainly drives me," she said. "My parents volunteered a lot, because they were church goers who felt that was important. Terry feels the same, and so we raised our kids that way, too, encouraging them to serve others."
When asked if she had any words of wisdom to pass on to those she has been chosen as a positive model for, Fye said: "Think of others, and do for others, and you will reap the benefits just as well as they do. There are so many people in the world that need help. If you can help just one person, it's good. So, if you go out every day and help one person, you're happy and you've made another person happy. If everyone did that, the world would be a better place."