A distinct honor

Girl Scouts’ ‘Women of Distinction’ luncheon to honor 3 in community

Susan Caperton

MARTINSBURG – Jean Neely, who will be honored here today at the Women of Distinction luncheon put on by the local Girl Scouts, may be in her 80s, but she isn’t slowing down.

Since retiring as a captain from the Navy, the Shepherdstown resident has spent several decades serving in public service roles in the Eastern Panhandle.

Thirty years ago, she helped found the Potomac Valley Audubon Society and served as the first president of the organization that now has more than 800 members.

Jean Neely

Jean Neely

She’s held key roles with the Jefferson County League of Women Voters and the West Virginia Air Quality Board, and her most recent effort involves Shenandoah Area Independent Living, an organization aimed at helping senior citizens stay in their own homes as long as possible.

Neely seems to downplay her many contributions to the community. “One day at a time, it doesn’t seem like so much,” she said.

She gives credit for her work in the community to her upbringing. A graduate of Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, she also serves as vice president of her alumni class.

For the Girl Scouts, holding an annual Women of Distinction luncheon is a way to spotlight women who can serve as role models, explains Kathy Deffer, the area membership manager for Girl Scouts of the Nation’s Capitol.

Deffer said the $40 luncheon also provides a way to raise funds to support Girl Scouts programs.

Also being honored at today’s luncheon is 98-year-old Ethel Bovey, a real-life “Rosie the Riveter” during World War II, and Berkeley Springs’ Susan Caperton, who interrupted a successful legal career to dedicate herself to her kids and to public service.

Bovey, a member of Martinsburg’s Otterbein United Methodist Church since 1923 who has been active in many leadership roles at the church, also has written two books and spent decades as a newspaper writer.

Caperton became active in community projects in Morgan County after relocating from Shepherdstown. Her husband – Gat Caperton, son of former Gov. Gaston Caperton – owns the GatCreek furniture company in Berkeley Springs.

Among Caperton’s good works: a backpack feeding program that provides weekend meals and snacks for more than 250 children in need.

Ethel Bovey

Ethel Bovey

This the ninth year the Girl Scouts have chosen residents of Jefferson, Berkeley and Morgan counties for recognition as Women of Distinction, according to Deffer.

Unlike in past years, this year’s honorees have made a difference in the community either after retirement or in stepping away from their careers, Deffer said.

“It’s like they can’t sit still,” she said.

Deffer said money raised at last year’s Women of Distinction event paid for improvements to the troop camp in Capon Bridge. She said this year’s luncheon proceeds are earmarked for outreach to area girls who haven’t previously been served by Girl Scouts.


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