GALETON, Pa. (WETM) — In celebration of International Women’s Month, 18 News is highlighting four local women who inspire, lead and forge the way for other women.
This week, we meet Tammie Lancenese.
Tammie lived in Galeton her whole life—a small town located in the heart of Potter County. She didn’t have much growing up, but her parents loved her dearly.
“My parents were the best parents in the world. They were very good,” Tammie said. “My dad worked, my mom never worked, so it was kind of hard growing up. I didn’t have a whole lot but we got through.”
Then she met her husband, Thomas, who lived in Quakertown. He moved just short of four hours to be with Tammie in Galeton. Together they had three beautiful children: Alexis, Austin and Andrew.
But life ahead was far from easy.
“I lost my husband 13 years ago to lung cancer and I raised three small children by myself,” Tammie said. “My 14-year-old, Andrew, actually had like 14 surgeries and procedures. He used to have a trach and he still eats through a feed tube. So my life’s been kind of rocky.”
Before Tammie’s husband passed, she had hospice for him since she took care of him at home. Andrew was also in Geisinger Medical Center’s pediatric intensive care unit at the time. Between taking care of her husband and being busy with the baby, Tammie had forgotten about Easter.
“The nurses actually went and got my kids Easter baskets,” Tammie said. “I felt horrible but I had so much going on. Ever since then, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
Tammie now works for UPMC Home Care & Hospice in Wellsboro where she does a lot on the hospice side.
“My job isn’t easy but I do it and it gives me my job at the end of the day,” Tammie said. “It makes you feel good about yourself that you’ve been there at the end of their life, even if it’s just washing their face.”
When she’s not at work, she’s actively involved in the Galeton community.
“I did a lot for the veterans. I was on the Ladies Auxiliary. We had a lot of functions at the VFW in Galeton,” Tammie said. “I did kids’ Christmas parties and I went to the Bath VA and did Christmas parties for all the veterans. The VFW has a home for children and I always liked to give to them.”
Then last summer, another tragedy flipped Tammie’s world upside down.
“I got up on June 18 like any other day. I actually had somebody pass away that day, so I was dealing with that, but it was like any other normal day in my life. I took my little boy to school, dropped him off, went to work. They were giving away free food in our town because of COVID so I took my neighbor down to get it,” Tammie said. “I came home, I sat down at the table, and the phone rang. It was Tom. Now, this was a friend where [Austin] was able to get to guns. He told me that [Austin] had shot and killed himself. I remember calling my family. I remember talking to the coroner that I was on my way to see him—I wanted to be with him. A lot of it’s a blur.”
Tammie and Austin went hiking right before he passed, something special they often did together.
“That’s the last day we were together,” Tammie said. “He was such a good boy to his mom. He did everything. I love to hike, I am outdoors-y. He’s very athletic, I was very athletic. The other two don’t do that stuff with me. We went all over Galeton. There’s hiking trails, and if not, we made our own.”
Austin was a student at the Galeton Area High School where he played soccer, basketball and baseball. His lively spirit and athleticism inspired Tammie to do something special.
“He was a goalie, very active in sports,” Tammie said. “I started a scholarship at the Galeton School in his memory. So I’ve been really focusing on that.”
The scholarship recipient must be a high school student who played a sport for four years. They must also have a 3.0 GPA and write an essay on how sports impacted their life.
“My son, Austin, had some low self-esteem sometimes. But when he got in that goal, he was amazing—not just because he was my son, he was a good goalie,” Tammie said. “You could see where the confidence would lift and you could see where he would become more confident in himself. That’s what I want to know with them: How did that impact their life?”
Through clothing, bracelets, bake sales and so much more, Tammie pours her heart into not only raising money for Austin’s memorial fund but also spreading suicide awareness.
“We may not hear a lot of it, but I am living proof that it happens,” Tammie said. ” I never saw anything wrong with my son. He never showed anything, he never left anything—there was just no signs. People have to talk to their children. It’s real, you know?”
On April 17, Tammie is holding a 5k/2k memorial run/walk in honor of Austin where all proceeds will go to his memorial scholarship. The deadline to pre-register for the run and receive a t-shirt is March 17. You can also register on the morning of the event.
Given everything she’s been through, Tammie radiates strength. She hopes to share that strength by starting her own support group in Galeton.
“Have faith in God. I ask him every day to help me get through the day,” Tammie said. “Some days, are a struggle but I still get up and I still go take care of my patients. You can do it. You got to want to do it. You know, it’s possible. Just one day at a time, one hour at a time, one moment at a time.”
Remarkable Women is a nationwide Nexstar Media initiative to honor the influence women have had on public policy, social progress and the quality of life.
One local winner will be selected to receive a $1,000 donation to a charity of her choice. They will then be considered for Nexstar’s nationwide 2021 Woman of the Year Award.
Our third local finalist will be announced March 23.