Significant Portville Women of the 20th Century
|The Portville Historical and Preservation Society
|17 Maple Avenue
Portville, NY 14770
Portville, New York
teach languages following her graduation from D’Youville College. She made her home with her
brother, Father J. Vincent Growney, pastor of Sacred Heart Church. Genevieve received her
Masters Degree in Education from St. Bonaventure University and became certified as a guidance
counselor through courses at the University of Buffalo and New York University.
Genevieve began teaching Latin, French, and Spanish in the Portville High School in 1943. She left
teaching for two years to pursue her Masters Degree. During that time, she worked as a radio
announcer for WHDL in Olean. In 1946, when Portville Central School was established, she was
named Director of Guidance and continued teaching Spanish and French. In 1949, she became
Vice Principal of Portville Central School in addition to being Director of Guidance, positions she
held until she resigned in 1958.
During her teaching and administrative duties at Portville, she directed school plays, organized
language clubs, taught Religion, and served as class advisor. She served as Secretary of the
Cattaraugus County Teachers Association and President of Zone 5 Guidance Association.
Genevieve was a member of the Professional Education Committee of the Western New York
Zone of the New York State Teachers Association, and a member of Delta Kappa Gamma, the
National Honor Society for women teachers. She completed her 45-year career in education as a
guidance counselor at Niagara Wheatfield.
She, along with other members of her family, was a benefactor of the Randolph Children’s
Home. They also donated family land for the construction of the Growney Medical Arts Building
at St. Jerome’s Hospital in Batavia.
Genevieve Growney died on January 30, 1999 in Batavia. Her niece, Moya Peterson, remembers
her fondly as a very warm and sociable person, who loved get-togethers with family and friends.
Athalene Regan was born on November 23, 1905, in Lyndon, N. Y. She was the daughter of
Charles S. and Anna G. Maxwell Regan. Prior to opening her store in Portville, she lived in Duke
Center, PA. "Miss Regan," as she was familiarly known, owned and operated Regan Variety Store
at 8 South Main Street, in the Business District of Portville next to the Portville Pharmacy for
Miss Regan's was a kind of "five and dime", a friendly stop for everyone in town because she
carried so many useful items. There were dress patterns and cloth, thread, and zippers for
sewing. She also sold clothing, shoes, laces, yarn, embroidery floss, combs, toys, and many gift
items. If you were a child in the village during those twenty-five years, you probably remember
the big jars of penny candy and lollipops and the real ribbons on a roll that you could buy by the
yard in many colors. Frequent customers would also remember Mrs. Anna Regan, Athalene’s
mother, who often worked in the store.
On the 25th Anniversary of her business, Athalene was honored by the village Mayor and Trustees
(above photo). When Police Chief Lyman Baker presented her with a gift of flowers, he
remarked, “She is an asset to the community, she takes payments for electric and telephone bills
here, and she is good to our children, who come into the store daily.”
Athalene was a member of the Keystone Chapter 2, Order of the Eastern Star of Duke Center.
She was also a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Portville, where she taught Sunday
School for many years.
Miss Regan died in Olean on May 7, 1992.
Mertie Keller was born September 16, 1887, in Bedford
Corners, Town of Portville, the daughter of Addison T.
and Effie Roberts Keller. Mertie was a graduate of
Portville High School in 1904 and later from the
Westbrook Commercial Academy in Olean, NY.
Among her employers were Forster Pulley Works, Phelps
and Sibley Company, and the Leggett and Keller law
office, Cuba, N.Y. She worked for Provident Mutual Life
Insurance Company in Portville for 36 years. In addition,
she was a correspondent for the Portville Review, the
Olean Times Herald, and the Allegany Citizen.
During Mertie's 93 years, she was a member of the First
Presbyterian Church, where she started the Westminster
Guild in 1919 and was its president for 53 years. The
Guild was interdenominational. In addition to domestic
and foreign missions, the Guild contributed annually to the
Red Cross and welfare cases in the Town of Portville.
Mertie taught Sunday School for many years and was a
Camp Fire Girls leader. She was a 60-year member and
Past Matron of the Tyler Chapter of the Eastern Star and
a 50-year member of both the Order of the Amaranth and
the Rebekah Lodge 663. She was also a member of the
Daughters of the American Revolution through her
ancestor, Christopher Keller, an immigrant from Germany
to Hamilton Township, PA.
Mertie Keller died in Olean, N.Y., on June 13, 1980, at the
age of 93.
Helen Elizabeth Johnson was born in Portville on August 29, 1897, the daughter of Lewis and
Amanda Valentine Carlson Johnson. She was a graduate of Portville High School in 1916 and
Westbrook Commercial Academy in Olean.
She was employed in 1917 by the First National Bank of Olean as secretary to the President,
William A. Dusenbury, working there for 25 years. She was also employed in 1944 as a secretary
by the Fremont Lumber Company of Lakeview, Oregon, a Dusenbury enterprise.
Miss Johnson was the first woman licensed to sell insurance in the Olean area and was the first
agent in Cattaraugus and Allegany Counties to represent the Nationwide Insurance Company. She
was also a real estate broker and won several awards for her achievements.
She was elected Republican County chairman in 1928, serving in that post for many years. In
1936, she became vice-chairman, serving for six years. During her term as vice-chairman, she
attended the New York State Republican Conventions. She was also a voting delegate to the 1940
Republican National Convention in Philadelphia when Wendell Willkie was nominated to run
against Franklin D. Roosevelt for the Presidency of the United States. During that campaign, her
office was in Republican Party Headquarters in a storefront in Olean.
Helen was a member of the Portville High School Board of Education from 1931-43 serving as its
president from 1936-43. She also organized the Parents-Teachers Association in Portville. The
association maintained the Portville Band at the time, and she served as committee chairman.
Helen served for many years as superintendent of the Sunday school at the Bethel Lutheran
Church where she was a lifetime member.
Helen died at her home in Portville on September 18, 1976.
Kathryn McEwen Rider was born on March 4, 1908, the daughter of Duncan and Helen Crocker
McEwen. She learned to be independent early in life. At age 12, she drove herself six miles to
school in a horse and buggy. When the weather was good, she left the horse at a farm on the a
village home where she took care of herself, living on bananas and peanut butter cookies she
bought from the general store.
In 1914, at the age of sixteen, Kathryn left her parent’s farm in LeRoy, N.Y., and went to Elmira
college to major in Latin. After graduation, she taught in a one room schoolhouse near the farm in
LeRoy. After her father’s death, she found a teaching job in Portville. It was there that Kathryn
met and married the Mayor’s son, Cecil Rider.
Kathryn began teaching in the Jr. High School at the Portville High School from 1933 to 1937.
She returned in 1947 and taught 7th Grade until she became the Elementary Supervisor for
Portville Central School. She served in that capacity until 1960. She ended her career teaching Jr.
High School, once again, until retirement in 1964. During her years in the teaching profession she
worked with the gifted, the educationally challenged, and at-risk teens.
Kathryn was widowed in 1984. She lived the rest of her life in the Rochester area near her
daughter, Charlotte. Two sons, David and Cecil, reside in California.
Kathryn died on August 26, 1990, in Fairport, N. Y. She faced many difficult challenges in her
life, but in her daughter’s words, “Everyone who knew Kathryn was touched in some positive
|HELEN E. JOHNSON
(1897 - 1976)
(1904 - 1999)
(1908 - 1990)
|MERTIE A. KELLER
(1887 - 1980)