Longest serving board member does for the love of movies

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BRATTLEBORO — There have been many local people who have helped look after the Latchis Theatre and Hotel since the Latchis family sold it to the Brattleboro Arts Initiative in 2003, but none have been engaged as long as Pam Matweecha — that's 14 years. This 56-year-old tall, slim, bright-eyed woman with close-cropped hair and a ready laugh wears pearls and earrings every single day. She has been living in southeastern Vermont since the fall of 1986.

Her love of live theater and movies goes back to her childhood in Bethlehem, Penn. She was born in 1961. David Matweecha, her father, was an engineer for the Fuller Company that saw to the design and construction of cement plants worldwide. Matweecha told this writer, "He would come home after many, many trips abroad to places like Turkey, Germany, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Austria and my older brother Tom and younger brother Dean listened to his travel stories. My world got bigger and bigger.

"I loved the movies too. I went to the movies — and live performances — all the time as a kid. I loved the whole experience there in the Boyd Theater in Bethlehem." I went to the movies at the lovely Boyd Theater as a kid and as a teenager and then went on to live performances at other venues.

Her mother Penny also played a big role in who Matweecha would become. "She was a huge volunteer for non-profits, especially Girls Scouts for 30 years. I was a Girl Scout from ages 5 to 18. My mom was also deeply involved in volunteering and fundraising for the YWCA in town, as well as the church and the ladies auxiliary."

Matweecha graduated from Liberty High School in 1979 and two years later completed a two-year program in business administration from Harcum Jr. College in Bryn Mawr, Penn. She lived in Washington, D.C. for awhile but then her love of the outdoors began to take over. During the winters, she skied in Snowshoe, W.V., where she became a certified Nordic ski instructor of what was then known as skiing "treehugger skiing", that is, Nordic skiing.

In 1983, age 22, she traveled alone throughout Europe, visiting among countless other places, 28 Greek islands as she went. The summer of 1985 she returned to travel with her brother Dean for three months, going all over Europe as well as Morocco, Egypt, visiting many people their dad had worked for. "We got to see history. That trip opened my eyes to art. We visited The Louvre in Paris, the Tate and the other art museums in London, Amsterdam, Florence. You name it.

"I returned to D.C. for a few months, then left for backpacking, hiking, Nordic skiing, I married. All that — especially my love of nature, led me to Vermont. We built a house in Dummerston where we lived for 13 years before divorcing." During those years Matweecha was the Nordic Skiing Director at the White House Touring Center. In 1992 she took a position that would use her business training skills, first at Bank North in Brattleboro followed by eleven years working at Merchants Bank on Main Street. She is now the office administrator for Stevens and Associates.

But her love of live theater and art resurfaced when she volunteered to be part of the Friends of Latchis in 1998. She and Donna Simons (the owner with her husband Larry of Candle in the Night) and a few others met monthly with Spero and Elizabeth Latchis to bring live theater, dance and music to the main stage of The Latchis Theater. Then, in 2003, The Brattleboro Arts Initiative (BAI) a non-profit board formed to purchase The Latchis building for $1.4 from the family in conjunction with the for-profit Latchis Corporation (LC).

Matweecha served on the BAI board from 2002-2008, holding the position of President for three years from 2005-2008. In 2009 she moved to The Latchis Corporation board where she remains today. Rick Hashagen, the head of LC, and knowing Matweecha had banking and finance experience, asked Matweecha to join him, Rebecca Day, Phil Steckler and others on the for-profit LC board in 2004. She, and they, have been on it ever since. In many ways her volunteer board work helped her combine her experience with the arts with her interest in sound business management. Hashagen told this writer, "It's great to have Pam on our LC board. She brings her fondness for Brattleboro, her love of the arts and her community knowledge to the table along with her business skills And, she's fun to have around."

One incident that Matweecha has vivid memories of was the December, 2004 fire that raged through the top two of four stories in the Wilder Building that is attached to The Latchis. "That fire made me see how vulnerable The Latchis really was. I have stayed loyal to the building and its programming ever since. I hold this building and all the movies, live performances and the hotel and the history of it all dear to my heart."

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