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Meet Gerald and Viacita Fowler, Part 2

April 24th, 2020

By Becky Chapin, Archivist

During Gerald Fowler’s time working for Schine, his wife Viacita started working at the WGVA radio station and continued to do so for eight year. She was then offered a position as the Director of Press Release & Advertising at the Penn Yan/Dundee station WFLR in 1957. She joined the Geneva chapter of the Zonta Club was the Cortland St PTA President (where their daughter Lynda attended), and became quite an avid golfer at the Geneva Country Club in addition to being involved in Trinity Church and the Girl Scouts.

woman pointing at writing on a chalkboard with writing on it with three adults looking on

Viacita Fowler  teaching a Spanish class.

Viacita was fluent in Spanish, having been born in Mexico City because her father’s medical profession led the family to Central America and Mexico during the construction of the Panama Canal. She would teach the Latin teacher at the high school Spanish, so that the class could be added to the curriculum. Viacita sometimes worked as a translator for the police department after an influx of Spanish-speaking population came with the construction of the Seneca Army Depot, the Sampson base, and the expanding agriculture industry. She also taught Spanish at Adult Night School, was involved with the Geneva Woman’s Club, and the Geneva Youth Bureau.

political  ad

An advertising card for Viacita Fowler’s campaign for the fourth ward alderman

Viacita was asked to run for Common Council in 1959 and won, becoming only the second woman after Helen Maney to serve. She was elected again in 1962 and continued to be heavily involved in the Geneva community. She organized the Youth Council, volunteered for the Chamber of Commerce, and served as a chairperson for the Tourist Committee where she introduced Geneva’s Cleanorama Week to clean up Geneva. As the Chamber’s Chair for the Fund Raising Committee for the Tourist Booth, she oversaw the installation of the booth at the north shore of Seneca Lake in 1961.

woman standing in front of an informational booth  at a lake

Geneva Chamber of Commerce’s  Tourist Booth  at the end of Seneca Lake in Geneva

In 1961, she formed her own company, Geneva Services, with Gerald and a reporter for the Geneva Times  and Rochester D&C, Anne Conboy. The company provided copy services, mimeographing, and laminating in addition to personal services like checking up on your home while you go on vacation. Through this work she created and published four editions of the “Community Spotlight” which highlighted local businesses and events.

Schine’s Geneva Theatre was updated again in the 1950s, but it was fruitless. Schine theatres began to be sold off in 1965 and all employees were terminated in 1966: Gerald lost his job (though he admits to taking the typewriter from the theatre as “severance pay”). Viacita became the family breadwinner with Geneva Services where Gerald would help out the booming business. Viacita was even named in the 1965 Who’s Who of American Women.

It wasn’t long before Gerald was able to find another job, though he admits to struggling with the loss. He had previously been named Commissioner of the Geneva Board of Public Works in 1952 and then in 1962 he had been named President of the Geneva Housing Authority. He tendered his resignation to GHA to concentrate on finding employment. Shortly after, he was hired as the Housing Project Manager of the Chartres Homes project. Thereafter, he was urged to apply for Executive Director and was in charge during the construction of Elmcrest Apartments in 1970. His health began to fail in 1972 and he retired from the position.

Business card for Geneva Services

Viacita Fowler’s business card for Geneva Services

During the 1960s, Viacita had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, but continued to work during treatment which continued into the 1970s. She became busier when she was appointed Secretary of the Finger Lakes Board of Realtors in 1964 (holding the position until 1981). In 1972, she decided to close Geneva Services, but she never really retired. In 1978 she was named to the City Zoning Board of Appeals.

Gerald and Viacita would travel all over the continent and would celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in 1979. Gerald passed away in 1984 at the age of 73.

Viacita continued to be involved in the community into her 80s. She had a seat on the Geneva Housing Authority board, Town & Gown HWS Advisory Board, and implemented programs that led to the Neighborhood Watch of Geneva. Viacita died in 2002 at the age of 95. Her recollections were recorded by her friend from the Presbyterian Church, Elizabeth Heaton and were donated to the Historical Society by Lynda Fowler Bailey along with other family papers.

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One response to “Meet Gerald and Viacita Fowler, Part 2”

  1. Charles Bauder says:

    Becky,
    Great additional article about the Fowlers. Viacita certainly worked to improve Geneva. I had occasion to met her when I was selling Fuller Brushes in the early 1960s

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