very day is Red Nose Day for Academy Avenue resident Charlie Goettler.
Red Nose Day is a hugely successful fundraiser, originating in the United Kingdom in 1988 as part of Comic Relief, a charitable organization founded in 1985. Red Nose Day spread to the U.S. in 2015, which coincidentally, was the same year Charlie saw the movie Patch Adams. The 1998 film, which—fun fact—co-starred Mt. Lebanon native Dan London, made such an impression on Charlie that he went out and bought a red nose, like the one Adams, portrayed by Robin Williams, wore in the movie.
Charlie made a discovery: When you put on a big red nose, people will laugh. And laughing is always a good thing.
Charlie added a pair of giant sunglasses to his ensemble and took his act to the streets of Mt. Lebanon.
“I’d just walk around town,” he said.
“He would almost cause wrecks,” said friend and neighbor Kelly Reda. “Everybody welcomes him.”
He later added an umbrella hat to the look, something that belonged to his father.
“Dad was a jokester,” Charlie said.
Elaine Kelly, a crossing guard at Washington Elementary School, knows Charlie from his sojourns around town.
“He’s a nice fellow, very friendly,” she said. “He always says ‘hi,’ he knows my name.”
Last March 31, Charlie’s birthday, he and Kelly came up with the idea of a picture book featuring Charlie, sometimes with the hat, sometimes with the sunglasses but always with the nose, popping up in familiar places all over town. The fountain at Clearview Common; Martha’s Playground in Mt. Lebanon Park; the fire station with a kid-size fire helmet; Blue Devil Stadium with a traditional Tom Landry-style fedora. The project is ongoing.
Charlie was so inspired by the movie that he wrote to Patch Adams, who wrote back, and the two continue to correspond today.
“He invited me to go on one of his clown trips,” said Charlie of the Clown Missions that Adams takes to remote places on the globe. So far, Charlie hasn’t gone.
During the height of the pandemic, a neighbor sewed Charlie a mask that featured a big red nose, so he could continue his journeys. So if you happen to see a character walking along, with a red nose and a smile, be sure to say hello.
“He just wants to get out and make people smile,” Kelly said.