Stoker named Concord's Grand Groundhog Watcher for 2013 - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

Stoker named Concord's Grand Groundhog Watcher for 2013

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Louise Stoker Louise Stoker
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ATHENS, W.Va. – Lifelong Bramwell, W.Va. resident Louise Dawson Stoker has been named Grand Groundhog Watcher for the 35th Annual Concord University Groundhog Day Breakfast. The gathering, which includes a prediction by famed groundhog weather prophet Concord Charlie, will be held on Friday, Feb. 1, 2013 at 8 a.m. in the Jean and Jerry Beasley Student Center Ballroom on the Athens campus.

The Grand Groundhog Watcher honor is bestowed on an individual who has positively impacted life and culture in West Virginia.

Lou Stoker is known as a consummate volunteer, professional, artist, friend, neighbor and community leader. Now the mayor of Bramwell, her contributions to community, county, state and region began long before election to her first term in 2007.

Lou grew up listening to the stories of friends and family about the people, places and events that impacted the southern West Virginia coalfields; she has translated that interest and knowledge into a body of important historical research in the form of oral and written histories and an archival collection of documents and photographs unique to the region.

Her monograph, "Bramwell: A Century of Coal and Currency," tells the story of the early coal pioneers in Bramwell. Lou also co-authored "Bramwell: A Town of Millionaires," a book that compiled photos and stories from private and public archives and illustrates the diversity of early immigrants to the Pocahontas coalfields. She has also contributed stories to the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Princeton Times, Hearthstone Magazine and other journals and has won writing awards in the Sherwood Anderson Short Story Contest and the National Federation of Press Women annual awards contest.

In addition, Stoker has dedicated her gifts of teaching and storytelling to hundreds of schoolchildren in the region and those who have come to this area to learn about local history. She has visited schools throughout Mercer County, as well as conducting hundreds of tours for students and visitors of all ages. She was the tour director for the Bramwell Millionaire Garden Club, the organization responsible for initiating the public home tours in Bramwell in 1983.

Stoker is an accomplished playwright and actress and has been affiliated with Summit Players community theatre since 1978. She often performs one-woman interpretations of historical figures for groups and events throughout the region. Her play, "Bramwell 100," written for the town's centennial celebration in 1983, and a few years later her play, "Magic of Coal," were chosen to represent West Virginia at the Southeast Theater Festival.

She has served on numerous boards and agencies, including the West Virginia Association of Museums, West Virginia Preservation Alliance, West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Fatality Review Team, Pam's Place, Mercer County Sexual Assault Response Team Victim Advocate, The Bramwell Foundation, Historic Pocahontas, Inc., Mercer County Tourist Train Authority, and has been involved in other committee activities with the Greater Bluefield Chamber of Commerce.

As Mayor of the Town of Bramwell, Stoker has spearheaded planning and fundraising for projects such as a community playground, restoration of the Pence Hotel building and the Bramwell Theatre building. Her work with the Hatfield-McCoy Trail Authority has made possible the location of its newest Trailhead – the Pocahontas Trail – in Bramwell.

Stoker will address the Groundhog Day Breakfast audience sharing the spotlight with Concord Charlie. Charlie has a standing appointment with the University's President each year to offer his predictions and insights on the duration of winter. The President relays the forecast to the breakfast guests.

According to Groundhog Day tradition, if the groundhog sees his shadow the morning of Feb. 2, six more weeks of winter can be expected. An early spring will be on the way if he doesn't see his shadow.

Wanting to get a head start among groundhog weather prognosticators, Concord Charlie has decided to make his 2013 prediction the day prior to the official Groundhog Day observance.

The Concord Charlie tradition was originated in 1978 by the late Professor R.T. "Tom" Hill. As chairman of both the geography department and the Appalachian Studies program at Concord, Hill started the Groundhog Day Breakfast as a means to celebrate a bit of Appalachian heritage and highlight the program.

Cost per person for this year's breakfast is $10 in advance for current members of the Concord University Alumni Association (2012-2013) and $12 in advance for all others. All tickets at the door are $15. Advance reservations must be made by Wednesday, Jan. 30. Reservations are requested and may be made online at www.concord.edu (click on the Groundhog Day Breakfast billboard), by emailing advancement@concord.edu or calling 304-384-6311.

For additional information about the breakfast including payment options contact the Concord University Office of Advancement at 304-384-6311 or advancement@concord.edu

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