Concord Charlie predicts more winter - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

Concord Charlie predicts more winter

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From left: Dana Cochran, Lou Stoker, Alicia Besenyei, and Sarah Turner. Photo by Sterling Snyder From left: Dana Cochran, Lou Stoker, Alicia Besenyei, and Sarah Turner. Photo by Sterling Snyder
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ATHENS, W.Va. - A snowy blast of winter set the stage for Concord Charlie's yearly weather predication at Concord University's 35th Annual Groundhog Day Breakfast held Friday morning, Feb. 1, in Athens.

" ‘Charlie has reported he saw his shadow,' " Alicia Besenyei, Concord's interim vice president of advancement, told the audience in the Student Center Ballroom quoting a text from Dr. Gregory Aloia, the University's president. 

"I hope you enjoy the cold weather this morning," Besenyei said, "because you're going to get six more weeks of it."

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 decided to make his 2013 prediction the day prior to the official Groundhog Day observance.

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.

"I am currently in Concord Charlie's burrow," Dr. Aloia said in his text. "He is using his new computer software to make his prognostication."

After fulfilling his duties as Charlie's spokesperson, Dr. Aloia attended a meeting of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission in Charleston, W.Va. and was unable to attend the breakfast.

Along with showcasing Charlie's announcement, the popular breakfast also honors an individual who has positively impacted life and culture in West Virginia with the title Grand Groundhog Watcher.

This year's recipient is Bramwell, W.Va. Mayor Louise "Lou" Dawson Stoker. A lifelong resident of Bramwell, Stoker is a consummate volunteer, professional, artist, friend, neighbor and community leader. She has an extensive list of community, county, state and regional service to her credit.

In her remarks, Stoker called on the breakfast guests to savor "magic moments" as she recalled special times in her own life like the "birth of a child" and "running across the mountaintops in summer."

"Being invited and being here is a magic moment for me," she said.

"Do not be afraid of your shadow because the groundhog who is afraid of his shadow and goes back into his burrow, he does not experience six weeks of magic moments," she said. "Think what you'd miss."

Lou grew up listening to stories of friends and family about the people, places and events that impacted the southern West Virginia coalfields. She translated that interest and knowledge into 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 of photos and stories from private and public archives that illustrates the diversity of the area's early immigrants. She has 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.

Stoker has dedicated her gifts of teaching and storytelling to schoolchildren and those visiting this area to learn about local history. She served as tour director for the Bramwell Millionaire Garden Club, the organization responsible for initiating public home tours in Bramwell.

An accomplished playwright and actress, she is affiliated with Summit Players community theatre and performs one-woman interpretations of historical figures for regional groups and events. Her plays, "Bramwell 100," written for the town's centennial celebration in 1983, and "Magic of Coal," were chosen to represent West Virginia at the Southeast Theater Festival.

She has served with numerous boards 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. and Mercer County Tourist Train Authority and has assisted with projects at the Greater Bluefield Chamber of Commerce.

As Bramwell's mayor, Stoker spearheaded planning and fundraising for a community playground and restoration of the Pence Hotel and Bramwell Theatre. Her work with the Hatfield-McCoy Trail Authority has made possible the location of its newest trailhead, the Pocahontas Trail, in Bramwell.

The breakfast, originally planned to begin at 8 a.m., was delayed two hours due to Concord University being on the inclement weather schedule.

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