Who are Hometown Mentors?

By Cathy Ostrum Swarmer

Hometown Mentors are not always much older than the person they are mentoring.  Mentors come in all ages.  They can be elderly and wise, mentors can be peers or even children who teach us to look at things in a more simple, tender way.

You may not even recognize them as your mentor at the time, but your eyes are opened later in life to say, “Hey, that’s who helped me to know I could do that thing.”

I’ll bet one thing, though.  Mentors do not sit around and think of themselves as having had a life long impact on any one person.  They hope and pray that they are making a difference and they know they are doing their best to live by example, but many times they will never see the personal impact.

Do mentors think to themselves, “I helped Cathy to push herself when she didn’t have confidence in that area.”

Do mentors come home from an event patting themselves on the back, saying, “Little Joey will remember me for the rest of his life because I taught him to do that thing better.”


Mentors go through life doing the best they can and attempting to make a difference, but most of the time, you have to tell them to their face that they had a personal impact on your life.  They do not even recognize how big an impact they have had on any one individual because that’s the modesty most real mentors have.

HMI wants to recognize your personal mentor.  We would like to post as many stories of as many hometown mentors as we can.  We want to let them know what a difference they made in the lives of some individuals.

Do you have a hometown mentor whose story should be told?  Will you help us to get the word out, by sending us an email about that hometown mentor, please?

Past or present mentor stories are solicited to be posted here on our website.

If you have a story of a hometown mentor in your life, we would like to know about it.  email Cathy for more information on how to get their story told:  cathys15834@hometownmentors.org


Hometown Mentor: Clare Brown Bolster

Although we have not seen each other in person for many, many years, Clare Brown Bolster was that type of mentor for me over fifty years ago. I know that she will be surprised by this post, because I didn’t tell her what I was going to write.

Clare was not that much older than I, but as a member of the same church and a friend of the family, I watched her live her life and I wanted to be just like her.

While an underclassman in high school and a follower of her leadership in an American Baptist group of girls called, “Guild Girls”, I was impressed with her knowledge and with her quiet outgoing mannerisms.

Clare stepped up, at that time and showed Cathy Ostrum (me) that she could do anything if she just put her mind to it.  My Mom had always said it, but Clare sat with me, looked me in the eye and told me that it was possible.

You see, a group of kids from all over Pennsylvania were going to Arizona to teach Bible School to Native Americans at Camp Middle Verde.  This was a Hope Indian Reservation and I had seen the notice, but dismissed it because I was from little Emporium.  Who in the world would take me as one of this group?

In my brain, I thought that only kids from bigger towns or more famous families got picked to do anything like this.  In my brain, it was out of reach.  But in Clare’s brain, she knew it was possible.  She helped me fill out the application, I wrote an essay about why I wanted to go and a couple weeks later, I found out they had chosen me to go!!

Did I tell you they chose me to go?

I was so excited, but it wouldn’t have happened without Clare Brown.

There are so many other mentors in my life.  I don’t want Clare to think that she was the only one because her head might grow two sizes too big.  But she for sure, is a memorable mentor in my life.  Thank you Clare.

So, what ever happened to Clare Brown Bolster?

Here is part of Clare’s story, in her own words…..

“I feel privileged to have grown up in Emporium, Pennsylvania during the 1950s and 60s.  Not only was I surrounded by the natural beauty of the Allegheny Mountains but by many relatives on both sides of my family as well as a loving church community.

I played in the CCHS band for four years and loved going to the football games as well as Band Day at Penn State.

Some of my favorite activities included hiking to fire towers in the area, swimming at the community pool, and attending Baptist Youth Fellowship events.

My dad, Warren, better known as “Brownie”, enjoyed being a police officer in Emporium and Elna, my mom, also made us proud by being a high school secretary.  Then a secretary in the elementary school, until she retired.  At that time my parents moved to Florida.

My brother, Warren and sisters, Peggy and Mary, have also moved away but have fond memories of growing up in their hometown of Emporium.

I have fond memories of the annual carnival on Broad Street and the ecumenical Christmas Eve Services.


Fifty years ago, I married the Baptist minister serving on the other side of the mountain in Port Allegheny, leaving Emporium at the age of 19. We have been blessed with three children and two grandchildren.

As a pastor’s wife, I have been very active in church life and continue to rely daily on my faith in Jesus Christ to see me through the challenges we all encounter.

Eventually I graduated from Michigan State University with a teaching degree in elementary and special education.

I recently retired, although I continue to be an active substitute teacher.

I have always enjoyed crafts and handwork as well as painting in watercolor, oil and acrylic but recently developed a strong interest in pencil drawing.

My husband, Peter, and I enjoy traveling and tend to spend a great deal of time in the outdoors. We love living in New Hampshire and hiking it’s many mountain peaks, which are a bit different than those in Emporium, but both are equally beautiful.”


Clare’s note cards with her pencil drawings are available for sale.  You can see some of her artwork below, along with beautiful travel pictures that she posts on her FaceBook page.

If you are interested in purchasing her note cards, you can send an inquiry to CathyS15834@hometownmentors.org and I’ll forward your inquiry on to Clare.

Clare Brown Bolster, thank you so much for being a good example and for being a great Hometown Mentor.



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