The Grand Island Chamber of Commerce has named Teddy Linenfelser Citizen of the Year for Service to the Community.
The chamber will honor Linenfelser at the 48th annual Citizen of the Year Awards Thursday, April 24, at Byblos Niagara Resort and Spa.
Teddy Klingel Linenfelser was born to Ted and Marion Klingel shortly after they and daughter Mary Ellen moved into their new house in Grandyle Village. She attended grades kindergarten through ninth grade at Charlotte Sidway School before taking the school bus off the Island for 10th through 12th grades. Her children attended Sidway and her grandchildren also went to kindergarten and first grade at Sidway.
A 1960 graduate of Riverside High School, Teddy held a Civil Service job at the downtown Buffalo & Erie County Library and at the same time took her longtime hobby of baton twirling a step further. The Grand Island Fire Co. gave her permission to teach baton twirling in the firehall where she eventually formed Teddy's Islettes. The fire company at the time felt that there was so much more for the Island's boys to do and believed this would be a much-needed activity for girls. The fire company served as sponsor for several years, going so far as to provide a bus for the group to attend the annual Erie County Fair's Firemen's Parades. Teddy began teaching 21 seventh-, eighth- and ninth-grade girls in January 1961. A year later, younger girls were invited to join the classes. At one point in the 1960s, the 100-plus twirlers were proclaimed the largest contingent in the Erie County Fair's Firemen's Parade.
Eventually Teddy started a drum corps of about 6 to 8 boys, adding much-needed rhythm for the baton twirlers. Also added was a boys' rifle team, and eventually a mothers' drum corps was enthusiastically formed. The first Grand Island Blvd. Independence Day parade took place in 1969 and Teddy's Islettes received a long and loud applause from the local crowd.
Known as Miss Teddy, her upbeat personality and attention to every student and every detail, as well as her appreciation of the self-esteem her students gained through the lessons and performances, made Teddy's Islettes an ambassador for Grand Island for many years.
At the end of the summer of 1987 she made the decision to retire.
At that time, she began a new career, joining the editorial staff at The Island Dispatch, and learning the ropes from editor Joelle Logue. From there, she moved on to the new Grand Island Record. It was then that Reg Schopp offered to post her weekly column, "Between the Bridges," on the Internet at Isledegrande.com. The response was outstanding. Former and current Islanders from here and around the world found Schopp's Grand Island Internet guest book. In 2000, he started the isledegrande.com all Island, online newspaper and gave Teddy the editor's chair, one of the highlights of her life.
As an active member of the Grand Island Historical Society and its board, Teddy has helped to maintain its headquarters, River Lea in Beaver Island State Park. Teddy, who has an extensive collection of old Grand Island photos, has presented several programs at the society's monthly meetings. As town historian for the past 16 years, she has enjoyed hearing from young and old, former and present Islanders and sharing the Island's unique history with them. She enjoys greeting visitors to the Christmas luncheons and Victorian teas, taking part in the yearly fourth-grade tours and serving as a Sunday afternoon docent at the society's open houses at River Lea. When a representative from Tops Market's headquarters asked her for 10 or 12 old Island photos last year for a display in Grand Island's Tops, they accepted all 30 of the pictures Teddy submitted. They are and will remain attached to the foyer above the Tops Market windows.
As a former member of the town's Historic Preservation Advisory Board, she has worked with that group to impress upon the residents the importance of saving as much of the 100-year-old-plus homes and buildings.
Teddy, who served on the town sesquicentennial's executive committee in 2001-02, created the Sesquicentennial Program Book of Island history, became involved with the historic pageant of Island history, continued throughout the year to supply sesquicentennial publicity, and served on the Sidway School reunion committee, a gathering of Sidway grade school classes from 1937-1963. Teddy and more than 30 former members of Teddy's Islettes in the 40-50 age range and older, practiced a twirling routine by attending classes here and watching a video in homes across the country. This was followed by an impressive appearance in the sesquicentennial Independence Day parade in 2002.
As an active 47-year member of the Fire Company's Ladies Auxiliary, she organized the first members' memorial service. At the time, a plaque was hung in the firehall where names of deceased members are added.
Lifelong residents, Teddy and her husband, Jim Linenfelser, are parents to son Jim (and Laury) and daughter Julie Dee (and Donald) and grandparents to John and Amy Bidell and Evan Linenfelser, all Island residents.
"Thank you to the members of the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce who have provided this top-notch, yearly awards dinner for nearly 50 years. It is an honor to be a part of the long list of very deserving Citizens of the Year," she said.
Tickets for the Citizen of the Year Awards dinner are available at the chamber office, 2257 Grand Island Blvd., or by calling 773-3651.
Other Citizen of the Year Award winners include:
•Nonnie Carroll - Volunteer Service
•Hizair Hair Salon - Business of the Year
•Lynn Alan Konovitz - Professional Contributor
•Cheryl Chamberlain - Educator 2013