After being a stay-at-home mom and raising two boys, Paula Blangger decided she wanted to start working on a career outside of the house.
After being a stay-at-home mom and raising two boys, Paula Blangger decided she wanted to start working on a career outside of the house. Today she is the communications coordinator for Jackson Local Schools and produces the Polar Bear Pride publication, among other activities.
She first decided to become a writer after finding an ad in the Jackson Journal newspaper for a reporter. Blangger always loved the written word and felt confident that she could handle the job. Bill Russell was the editor of the Jackson Journal when Blangger walked in his office one day and told him she wasn't leaving until he gave her the job.
“He finally reached in his desk drawer and pulled out an assignment and gave it to me,” Blangger said. “I turned it around pretty quick and he gave me the job.”
She later became the editor for the newspaper and went on to be a columnist for the Canton Repository. While Russell has since passed away, he remains a person of influence for Blangger.
“Bill Russell taught me everything I know about reporting and editing,” Blangger said. “He refused to hear that I couldn't write a certain kind of story. He would kick me out of his office and tell me not to return without the story. He really taught me to be a mirror for the community and to not to take myself or any community problem too seriously.”
Other persons of influence in Blangger's life include her mother Rina Mannella and her grandmother. Her mother was, as Blangger describes, “a typical ’50s wife who married right out of high school.”
Mannella made a good home for her children and found her happily ever after as a career woman and single mom. She divorced Blangger's father several years into the marriage and found the determination and strength to support her young family.
“My mother is one of the most impressive people I've ever met,” Blangger said. “The way she conducted herself after getting a divorce taught me there is more than one way to play the cards you are dealt. It was a time when divorce was a word a woman could barely breathe let alone take action on it.”
Her mother started working in a job packing eggs into cardboard boxes, the same boxes used to pack eggs today. Later on, her mother went to keypunch school and then got a job paying $52 a week.
“Watching her take charge and survive gave me a sense that nobody can keep me down for long,” Blangger said. “It was a lesson on how to be in control of your own outcomes. My mother went on to get some higher education and rose to be the manager of the data entry department.”
Blangger’s mother still lives in Pennsylvania and continues to go to work every day as a teacher's aide. She also volunteers at a local hospital. Blangger believes her mother is living proof of how an education can help a person “lift themselves out of any situation.”
Another person of strong influence was her grandmother who owned and worked a farm during the depression. Blangger said her grandparents “would feed anyone who needed it and for free.”
A drunk driver killed Blangger's grandfather. Her grandmother was also injured in the head-on crash and couldn't attend her husband's funeral. Blangger said her grandmother continued to “play the cards dealt her and continued to count her blessings.”
Blangger said she comes from a long line of hard-working, strong and impressive women. In addition to her mother and grandmother, her aunt Mamie worked the fields on the farm. Her mother's cousin, Marie who was a nurse practitioner, traveled to third-world countries to inoculate children.
FAMILY OF HER OWN
Blangger was born on an army base in Augusta, Ga. She was raised in a coal town 25 miles south of Pittsburgh in Monongahela, Pa. She earned a degree in speech pathology and audiology from the University of California of Pennsylvania. After marrying her high school sweetheart Dean, they moved to Illinois before settling in Jackson Township.
“There was coal or steel all around us in Pennsylvania,” Blangger said. “My roots are blue collar, hard-working people who were real, honest, loyal and kind. The values of the people there continue to be a driving force for me today.”
Blangger and her husband have two sons. Brandon, a graphic designer, lives in Cincinnati with his wife and two children Drake, 2, and Ella, 6. Blangger’s son Andrew is a construction engineer with Selinsky Force in Canton.
ARTIST AT HEART
Blangger always believed she was a maker and wanted to be an artist from a young age. She informed her mother of her plans one day while riding in the car with her.
“I was 8-years-old and popped my head over the back seat of the car and informed my mother I was going to be an artist when I grew up,” Blangger said. “She responded that I could wear a Green Beret hat and paint in the park and be a starving artist. None of that sounded all that great to me so I shelved the idea and got a degree in speech pathology.”
In a twist of fate, Blangger said she could not have lived on the money she made from that particular degree, but she has made money from creating artworks. She continues to work on her art in her spare time, working with glass and fine-art photography.
Blangger helped other women artists promote their works by co-founding and organizing the Art for Women's Sake/Artissimo art show. She has a long list of contributions to Jackson Township and Stark County including leading the committee on moving and restoring Jackson's one-room schoolhouse and being a member of the Fife Stadium renovation project.
She is also a member of the Jackson Belden Chamber of Commerce, Jackson Rotary Club and the Hillfield Garden Club. Her current board positions include ArtsinStark, Jackson Student Loan Association and Willowdale Board of Trustees. Past positions include trustee of the Jackson Center School and the Jackson Township Branch Library.
“I believe my personality definitely led me to my career,” Blangger said. “As a child, I asked so many questions that my family would pay me quarters to be quiet or go and play. I was one of those ‘why?’ kids with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Inquisitiveness is a necessary ingredient for a journalist. I read every day. In fact, I read like some people smoke. If I don't get my reading in, I get a little grumpy.”
Balancing a successful career and a family can become a juggling act. According to Blangger, the right attitude goes a long way.
“Family is who I really am,” Blangger said. “My career is something that I do. Having said that, I must admit that my family and career are interwoven, and my husband and boys have always appreciated it. I have always worked long hours, just like my family of origin did on the farm.”
She said she has been able to include her family in her work. The boys would frequently attend events with her while she gathered information for a news story. Later, when Blangger started working at her sons' school, they would pop into her office for a hug or lunch money. It was absolutely delightful for Blangger.
“When you work for a school district, the day does not end when the recess bell rings,” Blangger said. “There are after-school events to attend at six different buildings. This is not only true for me but also for most school employees. I rarely work a 40-hour week, but I enjoy every minute of my day at work and at home.”
Blangger's motto is to “do what it takes to get the job done.”
“My husband always says that if he ever started a business, he'd want to hire my mother, my sister and me because we are supremely devoted to the job at hand, whether it be work or family,” Blangger said. “I think we got that from the farm. I never worked a day on that farm. I just played there, but I saw and absorbed the work ethic and felt the pride of making a worthy product.”
In the end, Blangger has learned that hard work is gratifying, but family is only thing that truly matters.
“… Preserve family at all cost,” Blangger said, “because the world can be a wicked place that knocks you down, and your job will never be a soft place to fall, but family will be.”
Through and through, Blangger is a people-person. It’s why she is always looking for ways to improve the lives of those around her.
“I absolutely love being with people. So my kind of giving is rarely solitary. You won't find me solitarily sewing a quilt or knitting socks for someone in need. You will find me volunteering with a group of people,” Blangger said. “Service to others, with others, makes me come alive. I don't really enjoy cooking, but love preparing a big meal in the company of family and friends. I enjoy working on community projects with other like-minded people.”
Working with others on community projects, Blangger believes she gains knowledge, meets great people and gets a sense of pride in accomplishment. She believes that when a person brings their own talent to the table and combines it with the talents of others; you become a part of a powerful force for good.
“I'm often so inspired by Jackson teachers who devote their entire careers to crafting confidence in young people,” Blangger said. “At this point in my career, I have been able to emulate them a bit by mentoring young people who are interested in journalism, writing, photography or public relations. It is thrilling to see the light of understanding and excitement in a young person's eyes. I hope I inspire confidence in them.”
ENDING THE DAY
Blangger tries to spend a portion of each day not thinking, but instead meditating. It's a method she uses to balance her mind She said she never stops thinking about the past and worrying about the future. Spending a few moments each morning and each evening helps to her to fall into the gap between thoughts.
“Many times I emerge from that gap with an
‘ah-ha’ moment,” she said.
Friday is the worst day at work for Blangger, in part because she is usually one of the last ones to leave because she's tying up loose ends.
“I try to remind myself that when I die, my in-basket will still be full,” Blangger said. “So I just have to force myself out the door, and once I do, I leap into the weekend's activities with glee. I look forward to being with family, friends, books, TV shows I have recorded, and my art studio where I make things with glass and clay.”