By BRIAN BUSH
Considering everything he's achieved, Charles D. Springman is a pretty humble guy.
The recipient of numerous community honors and service awards, Springman didn't go into public service for the accolades.
"You know, they're probably in a closet at home," Springman said, speaking about the whereabouts of the awards he's received. "I'm not really an ego-seeker. My satisfaction is getting the job done."
Last month, Springman added yet another award to his list of accomplishments. At a ceremony in Cleveland, Ohio, Springman was awarded the 33rd Degree of Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite Freemasonry for the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the United States.
Typically, the Scottish Rite has 32 degrees that are earned by its members over the course of their Masonic careers. The 33rd degree is bestowed on those who have lived and practiced the principles of Freemasonry and who have been committed to working in the community.
The award is especially reserved for those who - as Springman put it - "serve mankind above self."
Very few Scottish Rite Freemasons achieve the 33rd degree. According to Springman, it's less than one half of one percent, which puts him in a very select group.
Asked about how he felt about this unique distinction, Springman kept things in perspective.
"I just keep doing what I should be doing," he said. "What comes with that is a bonus. Yes, I'm elated, but I don't do things in order to achieve awards. I do things because I think that's the way you should live your life."
Given how modest he is, it's no surprise that Springman came from humble beginnings. Born in Hummels Wharf, Springman is the son of the Rev. H.F. and Laura Springman.
"I came from a family that had to work hard," Springman said. "Both of my grandfathers were carpenters. One was a builder and owned a little country store."
Springman said his commitment to serve others was likely learned from his father.
"My father was a minister and had a calling to help people," Springman said. "He came out of the Depression. People at that time needed help. They needed to develop faith in themselves. I learned by exposure to my father's commitment to help people."
Springman has lived in Williamsport at three different times in his life. He first came to the area with his parents when he was 16 years old. After graduating from Williamsport High School, Springman went to work as an apprentice carpenter.
"That was during the Korean War," Springman said. "I wasn't too happy about the fact that I was going to be drafted, so I enlisted in the Air Force."
After serving for four years, Springman returned to Williamsport and took up his old job. "Employers had to take returning veterans back at that time," Springman explained. "So I went back to work in construction until I got laid off. After that, I got a job driving a bread truck. I had the city routes here. One day, I said to myself, 'young man, what are you doing in this bread truck?' The next day I drove my truck onto the Lycoming College campus and went in to see if I could register. Fortunately, a friend of my dad's was there and he said, 'Well, you're a G.I. We have to take you because of the G.I. Bill.' So that's how I got to college."
Springman graduated from Lycoming College in 1959 with a bachelor's degree in economics. After graduation, he was recruited by a human resources director from Joseph Horne Department Store in Pittsburgh, who arranged a full scholarship for Springman to attend the University of Pittsburgh for a master's degree in retailing. After finishing his master's degree, Springman worked for Joseph Horne in Pittsburgh.
Four years later, Springman accepted a position with the May Department Store Co. in Cleveland, Ohio. He stayed in Cleveland for 27 years, before moving to New York City, where he ended his career as senior vice president of operations for Lord & Taylor.
In 1995, after 37 years in the retail industry, Springman retired and moved back to Williamsport with his wife, Shirley.
The couple were married in 1953 and will celebrate their 60th anniversary next year.
Upon returning to the Williamsport area, Springman took on full-time volunteer work for numerous nonprofit organizations, government agencies and the United Methodist Church.
Springman's long record of public service includes serving as chairman of the Lycoming County Planning Commission; trustee emeritus of Lycoming College; vice chairman of the Loyalsock Township Zoning Hearing Board; vice chairman of the Blooming Grove Historical Society; vice chairman of the Salvation Army Advisory Board; director and treasurer of the Williamsport Ross Club; a 50-year member of the Scottish Rite; trustee of Pine Street United Methodist Church; member of the Williamsport Rotary Club; member of the Lycoming County Board of View; past trustee of the Central Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church; and past board member of the Children's Development Center (now Hope Enterprises).
Springman has received several awards in recognition of his commitment to public service, including the 2012 Lycoming College Alumnus of the Year Award, the 2006-07 Rotarian of the Year Award and the Salvation Army Volunteer of the Year Award.
Springman also has spent countless hours working as a volunteer with the Little League World Series, American Rescue Workers, Lycoming County Food Bank and the Salvation Army Thrift Stores.
Springman's years of retail experience have served him well in his volunteer work.
"I found that social organizations are very good at their mission, but they often lack the support system and expertise needed to succeed," Springman said. "In other words, they don't have good financial or operating people. Well, my background was in operations. And so you find that the contribution you're able to make is well-received. You get results and the next thing you know, another organization is asking for your expertise."
Because of the results he's produced for various nonprofit organizations, Springman is in high demand.
When he first became involved with the Salvation Army, the organization had one thrift store in Williamsport. Using his retail expertise, Springman opened two other thrift stores in the area, both of which provide much-needed funds for the Salvation Army.
"I got them to open the thrift store on West Fourth Street and then we expanded to a much bigger store in Pennsdale, down by the mall," Springman said. "Those two stores today produce a healthy revenue for us to come back and do programs. So because I was a merchant, I knew how to put it together and it provides funds which are constant. It's not like going out and getting donations. It's continual and brings in funds every day."
Given all the organizations he's involved with, Springman doesn't have much time for hobbies.
"Public service IS my free time," Springman said. "The last 17 years that I've been working with local organizations have been the most rewarding part of my life. Helping people: that's my pleasure."
Springman added that he could not have accomplished everything he has without the support of the local community.
"Sometimes I feel like a turtle sitting on a fence post," Springman said. "If you've ever seen a turtle sitting on a fence post, you know that he didn't get there by himself. He was helped. In the same way, I didn't get to where I am today without the support of this community. You can't succeed by yourself.
"I have never lived in an area where people are so generous with their time, money and caring for each other. Almost everyone you talk to is involved in volunteering; not just in one organization, but several. Shirley and I are grateful to be part of this community."
For Springman, a man with many priorities, a lifelong commitment to learning is near the top of his list.
"Life is a learning experience," he said. "If you're lucky enough, it can last right up until they close the lid on that casket."
And just what has he learned from all his years of public service?
"What it taught me about myself is that I like to be involved," Springman said.
That's putting it mildly. Springman, who turned 81 this year, shows no signs of slowing down. He wants to keep busy. Staying active in the community is part of the reason he's remained in such good health.
"Did you ever get up in the morning and have nothing to do?" Springman asked. "When you get older and you get up in the morning and have nothing to do, it's a bad day."
As busy as he is, Springman doesn't have too many days like that.