Big Chuck: Cheers to five local women who make us proud

A few months ago, I wrote a column for this paper called Five Impressive Men. Today my list is about Five Impressive Women. These ladies are part of our area’s fabric that contributes to who we are, what we do and how we succeed together.

Congratulations to these five, and many others like them in our area. And thank you!

Helen K. B. Rees: Helen is one of those people so important to any small community. She is a doer, she is a motivator and she is a person who gets results. I put Helen on this list not only for her own contributions, but as a representative of all the women who, perhaps behind the scenes, keep the faith, preserve the past and plan for the future. No better example of this is how Helen and a small cadre of women (they call themselves “mothers” and “sisters”) keep history alive at the Swart-Wilcox House in Oneonta. They tend it like it is their own home and have made it (Oneonta’s oldest house) one of our area’s great historical landmarks. Her work with other small groups of women, such as the Oneonta chapter of the DAR, stands as an inspiration for all women in the area to get up, get involved and join an organization. Well done, Helen Rees!

Michelle Childress Osterhoudt: How lucky we are to have this dynamic woman in our Oneonta area. A 20-year career as a teacher, an Oneonta city councilwoman, education administrator, vice president of the Oneonta chapter of the NAACP, social justice advocate, possessor of a big heart. Do not get in this woman’s way if she is on a mission. She follows her righteous compass to the horizon and beyond. I myself have ridden in a bus with her on a long, lonely journey to stand on a mountaintop in Delaware County, shoulder to shoulder with our fellow residents who found themselves threatened by outside forces. I have seen her in action. Yes, how lucky we are.

Carol Mandigo: Carol has touched so many aspects of life in the City of the Hills. Whether teaching through her puppet mastery, heading up some of the largest citywide events like the Hometown 4th of July, or gracing our fair city with the beauty of her artwork, Carol is an important part of life in Oneonta and she is a very impressive woman. If you doubt it, go and see the magic she created on the exterior walls of the Oneonta History Center. Brilliant!

Erin Insinga: For various reasons, the COVID pandemic has hit our area animal shelters hard. Erin is the director of the small Delaware Valley Humane Society shelter near Sidney. If there is a harder-working woman, a fiercer animal activist than she, I have yet to find them. If you are the owner of a thirsty dog chained up out back on a beastly hot summer day, the next vehicle that you hear pulling into your driveway could be Erin. If you are operating an evil, hidden dog-fighting training camp in our mountains, Erin will gather up a posse and hunt you down. If you are a little piggy who has escaped from an area livestock auction, Erin will find you in the neighborhood and make sure you are safe. All of these events, and a hundred others, have actually happened because of this impressive woman. Thank you, Erin, from all your furry friends.

Leslie Ann Parmerter: I have had the great pleasure of working with this woman for more than a quarter century. Leslie Ann has been on the air at WZOZ radio in Oneonta doing mornings longer than any other female in Oneonta radio history. She has given tirelessly of her talents throughout the community. She has emceed dozens of events, promoted thousands of nonprofit activities, and put a smile on the face of her large legion of radio followers every morning for over a generation. I am lucky to call her colleague and friend; Oneonta is blessed to have this local broadcast legend on the air every day.

I’ll catch you in two…

 “Big Chuck” D’Imperio’s morning radio show can be heard weekdays from 6 to 10 a.m. on WDOS-AM 730 in Otsego County, WDLA-AM 1270 in Delaware County and WCHN-AM 970 in Chenango County.  All of his columns can be found at


Recommended for you