August 29, 2014

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The Dash Between: ‘Tupper Greeter’ Eva Mae Pugh succeeded in sales

A plastic mold for making gel­atin desserts and salads sealed Eva Mae Pugh’s decision to become a Tupperware lady in the 1970s.

Eva couldn’t afford to pur­chase a Tupperware Jel-Ring Mold, so she agreed to host a Tupperware party in exchange for receiving the coveted mold as a complimentary gift. By the end of the party, she had become enamored with the products and was certain that she could sell them.

During her 30-some years of peddling plastic, Eva’s consis­tently high marks in Tupper­ware sales earned her a livable income and many more impres­sive gifts, including fine jewelry, furniture and a van, which she could not drive.

“She was always up in the top with her sales, even though she never drove a day in her life,” said Susan Enzor, a Tupperware colleague. “Her husband would drive her (and the Tupperware products) to parties.”

After her husband, Oris, died in 1986, Eva earned a van from Tupperware and engaged others to act as her chauffeur.

“At the time, with your sales, you could earn a vehicle that Tupperware paid for — insur­ance and everything,” Enzor said. “You had to be in the higher ranks of selling to be van­eligible. Eva was always in the higher ranks.”

The Dash Between:
About this feature
Alana Baranick

Alana Baranick

The Dash Between is an obituary feature written by Alana Baranick about regular folks from Lorain County and adjacent areas.

Baranick wrote her first obit in 1985 when she was a reporter for The Chronicle. She wrote obituaries for Cleveland’s Plain Dealer from 1992 through 2008.

"Life on the Death Beat"

"Life on the Death Beat"

She is the chief author of “Life on the Death Beat: A Handbook for Obituary Writers” and director of the Society of Professional Obituary Writers. She won the 2005 American Society of Newspaper Editors Distinguished Writing Award in the Obituary category.

Today, Alana Baranick examines The Dash Between April 19, 1924, when Eva Mae Fisher was born in West Virginia, and July 24, 2010, when the Tupperware lady died at New Life Hospice Center at Community Health Partners Hospital in Lorain at age 86.

The Dash Between is scheduled to appear in The Chronicle every other Sunday.

To suggest a story or make a comment, contact Baranick at abaranick@chroniclet.com.

Read more:

The Lorain resident, who died July 24, 2010, at age 86, did more than demonstrate how to burp the air out of food storage bowls to create an airtight seal. She shared recipes and entertained partygoers with first-person accounts of using Tupperware products in her own kitchen.

She also offered tips on saving money and being pragmatic.

Fellow Tupperwarians called Eva their “Tupper Greeter.”

“She loved being at the door to welcome everyone who came into our sales meetings,” said Mary Rust, who worked with Eva for 10 years.

Eva embraced challenges, such as presenting skits at national sales meetings.

“She did a skit on how not to conduct a Tupperware party,” Rust said. “She was so hilarious that people were rolling on the floor. She kept such a straight face. All the while, she was doing everything wrong. She came out dressed in the most awful clothes, rollers in her hair and cigarette in her mouth. It was so-o-o not Eva, but so-o-o funny!”

The West Virginia native was born Eva Mae Fisher, a coal miner’s daughter, on April 19, 1924. Her father also worked in construction and ran a store with her mother.

Eva graduated from high school and began her sales career at a store in Webster Springs, W.Va.

She married Oris Pugh, a World War II Army veteran, on July 20, 1946. They were the parents of six children: Larry, Michael, James, Edward, Regina and Ronald, who died in 2008. In 1953, the Pughs joined a large portion of the population of Webster Springs in migrating to Lorain for job opportunities.

Oris worked at the Lorain steel mill for a short time before getting into the mobile home business. The Pughs also ran P&L Mobile Home Park and sold trailers in Lorain for more than 20 years.

“Dad did the maintenance; Mom did the selling,” said their son, Michael. “They always had partners. They started in the 1950s and stopped in the 1970s just before Mom started with Tupperware.”

Eva had gained experience as a public speaker in the 1960s as a result of losing weight with TOPS — Take Off Pounds Sensibly. During her first 10 months with the TOPS program, she lost 80 pounds and was crowned the 1964 Lorain County TOPS Queen.

She lost more than 100 pounds, and held leadership posts at meetings in Lorain, Erie and Huron counties.

In the late 1960s, Eva and Oris moved to Middletown, where they sold mobile homes. They returned to Lorain in about 1972. Within a few years, Eva switched from trailers to smaller items and sold Avon products before switching to Tupperware. She became a mentor, always advising people, “You have to work your business. You can’t wait for business to come to you.”

“She always shared her ideas how to be a good Tupperware rep,” said Nora Ritter, whom Eva took under her wing. “My goal was always to match her in sales each month. Trust me.

It was hard to match her in sales, and she loved it that I tried.”

Eva continued with Tupperware after having a stroke that affected her speech and mobility. She set up her product display in her living room and had customers come to her.

She also worked at the Tupperware kiosk at Midway Mall and the Lorain County Fair, using a wheelchair or walker to get around. Eva eventually regained her speech and walked again but retired when bad knees interfered with her doing parties.

“She taught us all: Tupperware is more than just selling plastic,” Enzor said. “We became a family. She was like a mom to me.”

Contact Alana Baranick at (216) 862-2617 or abaranick@chroniclet.com.