2 Clevelanders are Women of Distinction
by JOYANNA LOVE Banner Senior Staff Writer
Jan 26, 2014 | 1181 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Women of Distinction
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Pat Fuller and Sissy Figlestahler have been named 2014 American Lung Association Women of Distinction inductees.

Based in Chattanooga, this is the first year the organization has included two spots for women from Bradley County.

Inductees were notified toward the end November.

“She said they had received several letters nominating me. I had no idea this was going on,” Figlestahler said. “I was shocked. I cried. I couldn’t believe it.”

Figlestahler said she had heard about the honor for years while she was working in Chattanooga.

“I never thought in a million years I would be nominated,” Figlestahler said. “I can think of so many in Bradley County who are so, so deserving.”

Fuller said when she received the call letting her know she was an inductee she thought it was a mistake. This is the first year an inductee has written a recommendation letter for some one else that was chosen in the same year.

“I thought it was a mistake because I had written a letter for Sissy Figlestahler,” Fuller said. “I was very surprised and felt very honored because there are so many more people here who definitely deserve it far above me.”

The honor has been an annual fundraiser for the American Lung Association in Tennessee for more than two decades.

Ten women from Chattanooga are named as inductees with a Women of Distinction for the year being chosen at the organization’s annual luncheon on April 29. Inductees sell tickets to the event to raise money for the organization.

“I am really looking forward to spending time with the other girls. I have met them all now and they are amazing,” Fuller said.

Eventually The American Lung Association hopes to have separate events for the two counties.

“April 29 will be the 29th anniversary of Chattanooga’s women of distinction,” Figlestahler said.

According to the American Lung Association in Tennessee website, “The Woman of Distinction sets herself apart through civic, cultural, philanthropic, human service, environmental or professional commitments as well as her awareness of image and personal style.”

Figlestahler is a radio talk show host on Woop-FM every Monday morning, a Cub Scout den leader, a past present of Cleveland’s Junior Auxiliary and a member of the board of trustees for Broad Street United Methodist Church.

She instructs a free yoga class at the church on Wednesday.

Recently, Figlestahler has also become involved in helping Foundation House prepare to launch to serve pregnant teens through housing, job skills and counseling.

She has also been involved with the Jewish Cultural Center in Chattanooga and the Make a Wish Foundation.

“And I’m not even Jewish. I just like the Jewish Cultural Center. It’s a great organization,” Figlestahler said.

Since the birth of her first son eight years ago, she has been a stay at home mom. Recently though, Figlestahler has been instructing yoga part-time at a studio in Ooltewah.

Through her work with Junior Auxiliary, Figlestahler volunteered with local organizations such as the New Hope Pregnancy Center.

Figlestahler said she enjoys volunteering because it helps her stay busy.

“There is so much that I want to do,” Figlestahler said. “My husband is really supportive, so anytime I get a great idea about something he is always like, ‘Go for it.’”

She and her husband, Andy, have four sons.

Fuller has been involved with the Make-A-Wish Foundation for more than 15 years.

As a “wish granter,” she talks with terminally ill children to discover their wishes.

She is on the board of the Sunrise Rotary, the missions board of Broad Street United Methodist Church and the advisory board for Family Promise Bradley County.

She also assists with the annual banquet for the Bradley Initiative for Church and Community.

In the past, she has served on the Cleveland/ Bradley Chamber of Commerce board.

“The thing that I really enjoy the most is the mission trips I do,” Fuller said.

Haiti and Honduras are her most frequent destinations.

Fuller has made many trips to Ca'ira, Haiti with her husband Gary since 1996.

“We like to call it a children’s village rather than an orphanage,” Fuller said.

After the first trip, the couple returned feeling overwhelmed by the needs of the country. Yet, they determined they could make a difference for the children of the orphanage.

Sometimes the couple organizes a group of volunteers to accompany them. Other times they go on their own.

“Sometimes we just go to be with the kids,” Fuller said.

The Fullers latest project is working to find people to sponsor 18-year-olds who have completed high school to learn a trade or skill. Some of the girls from the orphanage have been able to attend a two–year program at hospitality school

“They learn how to cook, bake and waitress and hotel reception work, how to make beds and clean hotel rooms,” Fuller said.

They are working to find people to sponsor these teenagers’ education.

Fuller’s next trip to Honduras will be with Sunrise Rotary and members of Broad Street United Methodist Church.

Both Figlestahler and Fuller have lost a friend to lung cancer.

For Figlestahler, it was an anesthesiologist who made decisions that saved her life during complications having her fourth child.

“I had to have a lot of care after he was born. I had to have physical therapy. I had 20 units of blood,” Figlestahler said.

She said she came close to death and “had an out of body experience.”

“After that experience, Bill and I became close friends,” Figlestahler said.

Figlestahler said she also has a heightened awareness of the dangers of smoking and lung disease because her father smoked three packs a day.

“Lung cancer kills more women than breast cancer and cardiovascular disease combined,” Figlestahler said. “And the reason why is most people are diagnosed at such a late stage.”

Although the anesthesiologist had been healthy and never smoked, his lung cancer was so far along when it was discovered he was given six months to live. He lived 14 months.

Fuller said she recently lost a friend to lung cancer. She was a healthy eater and never smoked. She lived six months after her diagnosis.

On Jan. 10, inductees met in Chattanooga for the first time. Fuller said she is planning to host the girls at her boutique.