Lou Stoker Named Concord University’s 2013 Grand Groundhog Watcher

For Immediate Release: 
Jan 28 2013

CONTACT: Sarah Dalton
Concord University
Office of Advancement
PO Box 1000, Athens, WV 24712
(304) 384-6312, news@concord.edu


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

**A photograph of Lou Stoker, a Concord Charlie logo and a list of Grand Groundhog Watchers are also part of this press release and are attached below.


Lou Stoker



2013, Ms. Lou Stoker
Volunteer, playwright, actress, community leader
2012, Mr. Pete Ballard
Artist, educator, Concord alumnus
2011, Mr. Scott A. Martin
Film industry personality – actor, director, producer, started Sorry Dog Productions in 1998
2010, Ms. Beverly Wellman
Executive Director, Retired, Mercer County Convention & Visitors Bureau
2009, Gen. Robert H. “Doc” Foglesong, USAF (Ret.)
United States Air Force General (Retired); Executive Director, Appalachian Leadership and Education Foundation (ALEF)
2008, Mr. Everett Lilly (deceased)
West Virginia bluegrass artist and inductee into the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Hall of Honor
2007, Ms. Barbara Hawkins
Political correspondent, columnist, investigative reporter
2006, Ms. Kate Long
Writer, bluegrass musician
2005, Mr. Hershel Woodrow “Woody” Williams
Congressional Medal of Honor recipient
2004, Dr. Ancella Bickley
West Virginian and African American educator, historian and author
2003, Dr. Jay Banks
Retired physician and author, lives in Union, W.Va., with his wife, “Marty”
2002, Dr. J. Douglas Machesney
Concord’s Vice President for Development from 1986 through 2002
2001, Mr. Andy Ridenour, Mr. Larry Groce
Ridenour is originally from Washington, D.C.; Groce is originally from Texas; and both are with West Virginia Public Radio
2000, Mr. Andrew Paterno
President and Chief Executive Officer of Acordia Mid-Atlantic, a Concord alumnus and Kanawha County native
1999, Mr. Jerry Jarrell
Retired Director of the National Hurricane Center, a Concord alumnus and Raleigh County native
1998, Recent Concord Retirees
Harold Bailey, John Seago, Paul Morgan (deceased), Bill Ryan, Bill Wells, Beryle Santon (deceased), Violet Martin (deceased), Kevin O’Sullivan, Ed Lowe, Dale Geiger, Carl Chapman, Shelva Rarick, Bernard Kiernan (deceased), Karl Fezer, Kenneth Baker
1997, Dr. J. Elliott Blaydes, Jr.
Retired Bluefield eye specialist and philanthropist
1996, Mr. Frankie Ferrante (deceased)
Owned Mercer County restaurant, Frankie’s La Salute, and was an active civic and community leader
1995, Mr. Thomas Conlin
Former West Virginia Symphony Artistic Director and Conductor
1994, Ms. Denise Giardina
McDowell County native, successful novelist focusing on the vibrant culture of the coalfields
1993, Ms. Katharine Tierney (deceased)
Bluefield civic leader and longtime friend of Concord
1992, Ms. Jean Battlo
Published poet and playwright from McDowell County
1991, Ms. Nelrose Richards Price (deceased)
Retired Registrar of Concord, 41 years of service
1990, Dr. James Bailey (deceased)
Co-founder of Veterinary Associates of Princeton and a Mercer County civic leader
1989, Reverend Harry Christie (deceased)
Former pastor of Princeton Presbyterian Church
1988, Mr. R. T. Hill (deceased)
Father of the Concord Groundhog Day Breakfast and former Professor of Geography at Concord
1987, Mr. Edward J. Cabbell
Appalachian scholar, founder of the John Henry Foundation
1986, Mr. Ken Hechler
Former W.Va. Secretary of State and former Congressman
1985, George A. Daugherty
“The Earl of Elkview,” a prominent Charleston attorney
1984, Dr. Charles Kenneth Sullivan
Executive Director of the West Virginia Humanities Council
1983, Mr. James Dent (deceased)
Humor columnist and cartoonist for The Charleston Gazette
1982, Mr. Don West (deceased)
Director of the Appalachian South Folklife Center, Pipestem, W.Va.
1981, Dr. E. Meade McNeill (deceased)
Professor of Biology at Concord
1980, Ms. Shirley Donnelly (deceased)
Historian and columnist for Beckley Newspapers, Inc.
1979, Mr. Jim Comstock (deceased)
Editor of The West Virginia Hillbilly
1978, Mr. A. James Manchin (deceased)
Former Secretary of State and State Treasurer of West Virginia


Persons with disabilities should contact Nancy Ellison, 1-304-384-6086 or 1-800-344-6679 extension 6086
if special assistance is required for access to an event scheduled by the University on campus.