Member since 1998
By Carol Hollenbeck, Web Manager
Charlotte Spoto has been an active member of CDA Court #330 since 1998. Following her retirement in 1995, she and an English friend and co-worker named Tess Barnett decided they would join. Charlotte is “doubly related by marriage and blood,” to other Court members: Jo Meade, Mary Roush and Rose Spoto.
Charlotte attended the original Abraham Lincoln High School on 5th Street, walking there each day. She worked after school in the Mercy Hospital Diet Kitchen providing special dietary meals. After High School she worked for the Council Bluffs Bus Transit system. Following employment at the Council Bluffs Savings Bank, she began her career with Mercy Hospitals. Charlotte spent one year at Bergan Mercy in Omaha, then transferred to Mercy Hospital in Council Bluffs, where she spent a total of 32 years doing office work in Payables and Payroll. She states that she “had good times at the old Mercy.” They parked their cars at Little Blessings and were bussed to the hospital before the underground garage was built. There were Halloween parties, Christmas parties, skits and roasts. She recalls one time when she was called up on stage and given a great big diamond ring as a prank. Back in the early years of her employment it was a family atmosphere. She had a lot of fun and Mercy was “like a second home.” She saw the construction of the new Mercy Hospital facilities and the transition to a strictly business workplace.
Charlotte is proud to be “100 proof Italian.” Although her mother was born in Louisiana, she was full Italian. The family comes from the town of Mussomeli, Italy on the island of Sicily. Charlotte has made several trips to Italy over the years. Two of the trips were with her friend Tess, during which she spent a week in England followed by a week with her relatives in Mussomeli. She also went on a European tour with a priest from St. Francis Church. They flew to Ireland, proceeded to Paris and Rome, and enjoyed a cruise down the beautiful Rhine River of Germany. She noted the “huge statues in the Italian Churches and how they place many expensive gold necklaces on their Virgin Mary statues.” A Catholic Church was just ten paces from the front door of the house and was cared for by two maiden sisters.
The area including Avenues G, H, and I in Council Bluffs was known as “Little Italy” when Charlotte was growing up. Her mother did all the cooking of the wonderful Italian dishes. Families would spend time with their neighbors outside in the evenings, talking under the trees, while the children played. She was very close friends with two sisters next door, Josephine and Angela Cash, active and longtime members of Court #330, recently deceased. During the 1940’s these three young women would walk down to the old St. Francis Church for Novenas and then they would stop to have dinner on the way home. They were devoted to prayer from a young age. She was baptized, made her first communion and was confirmed at St. Francis. She attended Mass there until St. Francis was torn down.
Charlotte has lived in the family home her entire life. The Spoto family included four brothers, three older and one younger. Sebastian was the oldest, then came Sam, Phillip and Joe. She was raised to stay inside and do “girl things” while her brothers were elsewhere. Because there were more boys in the family, they held claim to the second bedroom, while Charlotte slept in the living room. The house is a two bedroom, one story building. She laughingly “always dreamed of an upstairs.” The entire backyard of the home was her father’s garden, filled with vegetables and herbs. The children were forbidden to work in the garden, except when it was time to pick beans, peas or the like. Her father claimed that the kids “don’t know plants from weeds” and the food from the garden was important for the family.
The family always had dogs. Charlotte carries on that tradition by providing a home for Lily, who was rescued from a neighbor’s kennel when they moved away. She also has a Boxer puppy. She remembers the family having only one cat, and that one surprised them by “having her kittens in the bathroom hamper!”
Charlotte has lots of nieces and nephews. One of her nephews has been living with her for the past 10 years. Taking care of family is the bedrock of Charlotte’s life. She was devoted to the care of her brother Sam throughout his battle with Lou Gehrig’s Disease. She also cared for her mother, her other brothers, and a very special sister-in-law named Joan. While taking care of her father she attended St. Patrick’s Church, she has since attended St. Peter’s Church in Council Bluffs.
Charlotte continues caring for others and is currently an active member of the Altar Society and the Mercy Guild. She is an avid reader who recycles all her books for those who otherwise wouldn’t have them. She has knitted an afghan for nearly all the members of her family. Now she needlepoints twenty-five colorful coasters and delivers them to the four nursing homes in town, on a rotating schedule. (She even gave a lovely coaster to this interviewer when I admired her workmanship.) She has many samples of her afghan and needlepoint skills throughout her home. However, on a wall in the living room hangs a painting on black velvet of Christ crucified which was not her handiwork, but that of a sister of her sister-in-law. It is quite striking and was given to her father as a birthday gift. It has hung there ever since. (See photo above.)
Charlotte has given freely of her time to her family and is a blessing to others as well. In typical Catholic Daughter fashion she wonders why anyone would be interested in her life because “I haven’t done anything.” She said this as I stood next to her washing and drying dishes at our latest CDA Court #330 Salad Luncheon! It is undeniable that she has been helping others, and living in prayerful modesty, all her life. Thank you Charlotte for your active participation in our Court and your Christian example of family.
Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them: ……if one does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Romans 13:6,8