After a long career in radio and television, journalist Charlotte Ames retired on Wednesday and looks forward to spending time with her husband, helping homeless animals and uplifting others through her music and his community involvement.
For most of her 37 years at the WTAJ, Ames has worked as a reporter and, in recent years, has also served as a producer and weekend anchor.
Phil Dubrow, the station’s vice president and general manager, said Ames’ retirement “creates a big hole, but it’s good for her in the same sense.” A lot of knowledge, history and understanding leaves with her, and she was able to share all of this with our staff – it is irreplaceable.
Dubrow has been at the station for 26 years and has seen Ames tackle many roles and excel in all of them.
“Charlotte is a true professional. She is elegant and able to represent the confident professional that a person should look up to and respect. She earned great respect and always put in a lot of effort in her various roles,” said Dubrow.
What viewers may not know is that Ames is an animal lover and plays organ and piano at two local churches.
“Charlotte strives for excellence in everything she does. This is particularly evident in his gift for music,” said Reverend Julia Piper of Juniata United Methodist Church, where Ames has played since 2004.
“It is evident that Charlotte lives the greatest commandment to love God with all her heart, mind, soul and strength and to love her neighbor as herself.”
She added, “This was evident in her daily life and in her reporting. Not only did she promote local news, but she also promoted ‘good health’ practices and made herself available for many community functions.”
Piper was referring to Ames’ long-running Healthcast segments on WTAJ.
“Personally, I’ve been watching Charlotte on the news since I was a young woman. I feel blessed that I got to know Charlotte and pastor her. … I’ve served God among the best servants, and Charlotte is one between them.
Originally from Irvona, Clearfield County, Ames described growing up in the small community where faith and family are the cornerstones and “Everyone knew each other and looked after each other’s children. He went to church and Bible school and my best friend lived across the street,” she said.
These feelings of community and belonging are key to why Ames stayed in Blair County and at the WTAJ. Family tragedies also fueled her interest in medicine and why she was so fond of telling viewers health stories that had a positive impact on viewers’ lives, such as a woman who successfully had a child after watching a story from Ames about a new fertility treatment and two letters from different male viewers who pursued treatment for prostate cancer — each after seeing his segments on the signs and symptoms of cancer.
“I thought it helped people” she said. She had a desire to help others avoid the pain she felt.
Her father died suddenly of a heart attack when Ames was 3, so her mother, Lillian, worked to support her and her brother. A sister died of polio six months before the polio vaccine became available. She grew up especially close to her paternal aunt and uncle Jim and Bebe Spade, whom she walked to for lunch in elementary school while her mother worked.
When Ames was 15, her best friend died of leukemia, and after seeing her friend’s struggle and spending so much time in hospitals supporting her, Ames pursued her love of writing through a degree. in journalism, rather than her other interest – nursing.
But her interest in health issues continued and grew as she stood up for her mother, aunt and uncle through their golden years and their own health issues.
After college, Ames pursued a career in radio, first as a disc jockey for the WRTA music program. “A Little Night Music with Wendy Chase” and later as director of radio news at various stations in State College, Altoona, and Johnstown.
Longtime radio news icon Karl King brought her to WVAM where he mentored and honed his news reporting skills. She then went to the WJAC-affiliated Johnstown radio station. Fellow TV reporter Jon McClintock and WJAC videographer Larry Field helped her create an audition tape, which earned her a reporting gig on camera that ultimately prepared her for her 37-year career. at the WTAJ.
When asked why she stayed at the Altoona-Johnstown Market, Ames explained that she stayed because she loved the people she worked with and the community, and loved bringing the news. to viewers.
While viewers have recognized Ames for her on-air skills, she’s also been a producer behind the camera for the past few years.
“Production is really one of the most important roles of a television channel,” said Dubrow. “It’s about writing informational text, using good editorial judgment, while (knowing) how to space it out and present the news to the viewer in the best possible way. His background in news has provided him with excellent experience to help with this. Finding someone who can fulfill this role of producer is very difficult.
Ames generously shared his expertise with new reporters, which also earned Dubrow respect. “It was great working with her and seeing her share her experience and compassion with the people in our newsroom. It was wonderful to see all the people she influenced. It was a joy,” said Dubrow.
Such sharing was not limited to his editorial colleagues.
Years ago, Marty-Jo Irvin-Stellabotte met Ames when she was new to her role as communications coordinator at Altoona Hospital (now UPMC Altoona).
“I helped connect her with resources for story ideas within the hospital – one that ended up being her future mother-in-law – and she helped me learn more about how it works. on the side of industry news”, Irvin-Stellabotte said in an email.
“Her years of service with WTAJ are truly a testament to her great work ethic and professionalism, and I wish her all the best as she embarks on this next chapter,” said Irvin-Stellabotte, who is pastor of Geeseytown-Newry Lutheran Parish.
After Irvin-Stellabotte became media relations coordinator at Penn State Altoona, she worked with Ames again.
“Because of our mutual love of animals, we have also served together on the board of the Central PA Humane Society. During all this time spent working and serving our community together, Charlotte has become a good friend and trusted confidante. His great vision and sense of humor helped me through many difficult times,” says the current pastor.
Ames is married to former state senator John H. Eichelberger Jr., a lifelong Republican. The couple will celebrate 25 years of marriage later this month.
Ames met Eichelberger while covering a visit to President George HW Bush’s State College for the WTAJ. A few days later, he called her at the station.
“I thought he was calling me to get a tape of the cover,” Ames said, explaining that when she finished explaining how he could get it, he invited her to dinner. “He totally floored me” said Ames. Caught off guard, Ames said she would come back to him.
Like any good journalist, she reviewed Eichelberger with Irvin-Stellabotte, who had worked with John’s mother, Faye. His friend described him as coming from a “Close and loving family” so Ames agreed on a date. But still cautious, she met him at the restaurant and didn’t share his personal phone number until a few dates later. They dated for four years before getting married in 1996.
Due to her Wednesday-Sunday work schedule, Ames said she and Eichelberger look forward to spending their weekends together.
The couple jointly own an insurance business in Altoona, and John’s family remains here – a family that embraced her and her family early in their relationship and for which Ames remains grateful.
“We’ve been talking about learning to kayak for at least a decade, so maybe it’s something new to try,” she said.
She will also remain active in the community through her involvement with the Central Pennsylvania Humane Society, where she served for six years, and after a mandatory two-year leave, stepped back to do three more, Becky S. Felton said, who is director of outreach and development.
“His true love for animals is immeasurable,” Felton said. “Charlotte played a key role in transforming our shelter into a ‘no kill’ shelter nine years ago. Thanks to his relentless drive and that of others to save all animals, we are proud to say that over 1,700 animals will find forever homes at our shelter each year.
Ames also plans to visit his brother and family more, continue his family genealogy, and reconnect with former colleagues such as Tom Casey.
“Casey offered me my first job at the WRTA. He was the one who changed my name to Wendy Chase because he said Charlotte Ames wasn’t euphonious enough. she said. They plan to catch up, as Casey also worked for many years at the WTAJ.
On his last show, meteorologist Joe Murgo came “Just to be with me. He felt that I needed to have someone familiar there. It was really nice of him and it means a lot. I have become good friends with him and his wife, Mara, over the years,” she said.
While retirement is bittersweet, Ames said, she leaves broadcasting knowing she’s made a difference for viewers and new reporters.
“I’m proud of what I’ve done. I tried to be fair. If I was covering something controversial,” she said, “My goal was to tell the story and the viewer never knew where I was on the matter.”