BERKELEY SPRINGS – Jeanne Mozier’s accomplishments since her arrival here in 1977 include making a Depression-era movie theater into a weekend gathering spot, fostering the Apple Butter Festival into an event that draws thousands each October, helping to create an award-winning arts council that’s become a state and national role model and introducing a unique water-tasting competition that will make headlines around the world Saturday.
As many downtowns have become all but ghost towns in recent decades, Berkeley Springs continues to flourish, which generates an interesting question: How different would Berkeley Springs look today if Mozier had brought her ideas and energy some place else?
“It’s very hard to imagine Berkeley Springs without Jeanne Mozier,’’ explains Beth Peters Curtain, the executive director of the Berkeley Springs-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce.
“Jeanne is a dynamo with so much talent and enthusiasm,’’ she said. “She has a lot of ideas, but she doesn’t just put an idea out there and then hope someone else brings it to fruition. She tackles tough things and sees them through – and more than that, she has fun doing it and gets those around to have fun, too.’’
Mozier grew up in Troy, N.Y., where her parents operated a small appliance store.
Over the years, she’s been named a Distinguished West Virginian and been honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award for Community and Volunteer Service for logging more than 50,000 volunteer hours. In 2008, the Small Business Administration selected her its Women in Business Champion not only for West Virginia but for the region of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and D.C. as well.
Traditional Home Magazine selected Mozier as a “Classic Woman in America,” one of just five women honored each year for their contributions to improving their communities.
In an interview, Mozier explained she never intended to make her living as a business person and had “no concept” of West Virginia prior to the mid-1970s when she and her husband Jack Soronen bought property in Morgan County as a getaway from their hectic lives in D.C.
“We took a year off to travel and ended up driving back to Morgan County across Route 50,’’ recalls Mozier, who had originally planned a career as a psychiatrist before switching to the political science track at Cornell, then earning a master’s in international relations at Columbia University.
“All along I’d assumed we’d go back to living in Washington. I’d been working as a trends analyst for the CIA and thought someday I’d be Secretary of State, but as we drove to the farm, it was like a lightning bolt hit – ‘This is where I’m met to be.’ ’’
Faced with making a living in Berkeley Springs, Mozier purchased the shuttered Star Theatre, a brick movie house dating to 1928.
“I think from watching my parents run their own business, I learned you’ve got to be fast on your feet,’’ she said. “No one’s handing you a paycheck every week. You’ve got to take your ideas and act on them.’’
Mozier’s work as a community booster began in 1977 when she sought to join the local chamber of commerce. “There were, literally, six guys sitting around bemoaning the fact they didn’t have the quorum needed to dissolve the chamber,’’ she remembers. “I couldn’t believe it. I said the chamber had to keep going – I’d just gotten here.”
Those chamber leaders also planned to scrap the Apple Butter Festival, launched only a few years earlier. No one wanted to sign on to organize it.
“I said, ‘I’ll do it,’” Mozier recalls. “I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into, but I wanted to do whatever I could to help create a renaissance here.”
Then and now, the Star Theatre has been the ideal business for her, Mozier said. “It makes me very visible and very accessible, but because it’s only open on the weekends, I have all week free to do the work I consider my real mission – promoting arts, helping women artists and others develop as business leaders, and doing everything I can think of to promote the town of Berkeley Springs.’’
After more than three decades in Morgan County, Mozier hasn’t slowed in her efforts to put Berkeley Springs on the map, Curtin notes.
“Year after year, Jeanne has invented events, promoted information and organized photo shoots and press visits,’’ Curtin said. “Jeanne has made it her life work to transform Berkeley Springs … and she has never stopped.”