Archive for Wednesday, March 3, 1999

SISTERS FIRMLY ROOTED IN CITY

March 3, 1999

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Three sisters have made their home in Baldwin City; they have added to education, art and the population.

Three sisters sat in the kitchen of their home on Ninth Street, enjoying last Saturday morning.

They came to Baldwin City to attend Baker University and later built a home together. They raised their children together and now they entertain their grandchildren together. Charlene Potter, Alice Anne Callahan-Russell and Mary Jane Chubb built their house in 1964. All three taught -- one at the grade-school level, one in high school and one at the university -- while raising five children. Chubb's two sons, Jeff and Chuck, were the oldest, and Potter's three girls, Christine, Julie and Charlene, brought up the rear.

The large family never minded the fraternity house next door, Chubb said.

"I think we could outlast them in noise," she said.

Baker, the family school

The Callahan sisters, from Independence, Kan., all came to Baldwin City in the 1940s and 1950s to go to Baker University. Their parents met and married at Baker in the 1920s; several of their children have attended the university, too.

"I guess you'd call it a family school," Chubb said.

After school, each left Baldwin City only to return for one reason or another.

"I never thought I'd end back up in Baldwin," Potter said.

Russell returned in 1953 to teach at Baker after teaching at Southwest Texas State College. She taught music and fine arts until retiring in 1989. Chubb moved to Baldwin City in 1958 and took a job at the high school in 1959. She was a counselor. Potter returned to town in 1963. She played violin in the Kansas City Philharmonic and attended Kansas University to work on her master's degree in education. She left the philharmonic and later began teaching as a reading specialist in Baldwin City in 1968.

Building a home

Chubb and Russell purchased land and began planning for their home in the early 1960s. Potter soon joined them. They had a friend design the house to fit their needs and built the house in 1964.

"He wanted to build a garage, but we said we needed bedrooms," Russell said. The modified A-frame home was quite different from most homes in Baldwin City at the time; Potter said some people accused them of building a ski lodge.

Living together worked out well, the sisters said. There was always a built-in baby sitter, and the first one home had to make dinner for the whole crew.

"We were the masters of casseroles," Potter said.

Though they have "totally different personalities," Russell said, they all got a long.

"We all had differences, but we were never here long enough for it to become a knock-down, drag-out war," Chubb said.

All grown up

The children are grown and gone. Jeff Chubb, a lawyer, lives in Independence with two of his children, Nick, 17, and Lacy, 13, while a third, Greg, 19, attends KU. Chuck lives in Lee's Summit, Mo., and works at a lumberyard.

Christine Potter, an artist, lives in Baldwin City with her four children, Dan, 14; Rye, 11; Claire, 3; and Sophie Wang, 2. Julie Craig, a certified public accountant, lives between Baldwin City and Vinland with her three children, Dennis, 14; Amy, 11; and Callie, 9. Charlene Hannon also lives nearby with her four children, Andrew, 13; Aaron, 11; Annie Jane, 9; and Asher, 5.

"We have a lot of family dinners," Potter said.

Now Russell coordinates the university's co-curricular events, bringing different lectures, music events and theater to Baldwin City. She left the sisters' home after marrying Tom Russell in 1978, but she didn't go far. She lives a few blocks away.

After Chubb retired from teaching in 1991, she approached education from a different angle -- she ran for the school board.

Potter teaches at Marion Springs Elementary, where she started the Environmental Center. She also performs with the Lawrence Chamber Players.

The sisters' six-bedroom house is filled with small chairs for children and comfortable spots for visiting. Paintings from Potter's daughter and Russell's husband, Tom, are displayed on all the walls. The refrigerator is covered with pictures of grandchildren.

"I'm surprised none of them are here," Chubb said.

"Every weekend we have somebody sleeping over," Potter said.

-- Felicia Haynes' phone message number is 832-7173. Her e-mail address is fhaynes@ljworld.com.

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