In Memoriam: Art Coleman (1939 - 2018)

By Nolan Marciniec

More than a decade ago, Art Cole­man and I had an appoint­ment to meet at the Arbore­tum so that I could inter­view him for the newslet­ter. I found him strapped into a har­ness and more than halfway up a huge white pine, prun­ing saw in hand. Art was clear­ly in his element.

To be hon­est, it was a dif­fi­cult inter­view. Art, soft spo­ken and hum­ble, was reluc­tant to talk about him­self. Although I knew that he trained as a chemist, I had no idea his degrees were from Har­vard and RPI.

Nor did I know that he was invit­ed to give the com­mence­ment address at his alma mater, the Burr and Bur­ton Acad­e­my in Man­ches­ter, VT, in 1981. Art was proud that his small man­u­fac­tur­ing plant pro­duced chem­i­cals for med­ical uses and uni­ver­si­ty research facil­i­ties, although he didn’t speak of the sev­er­al patents he held. It was obvi­ous, how­ev­er, that he was most proud that his work ben­e­fit­ed oth­ers.

Art was most effu­sive when he spoke about how in his retire­ment he was enjoy­ing those same activ­i­ties he trea­sured while grow­ing up in Vermont’s Green Moun­tains. It was appar­ent that he was a man most at home in nature. Art spoke to me about his whole­heart­ed ded­i­ca­tion to the New York For­est Own­ers Asso­ci­a­tion and Trout Unlim­it­ed – and the Lan­dis Arbore­tum. For many years, he was a reg­u­lar Lan­dis vol­un­teer, help­ing to pre­pare for the spring and fall plant sales. He said that he loved the com­pa­ny and the ener­gy” (his word, repeat­ed­ly) of his fel­low vol­un­teers.

Art spent many soli­tary hours prun­ing and car­ing for the Arboretum’s trees.

Some­one at the Arbore­tum who knew Art – and I can’t remem­ber who it was – once told me that Art flew under the radar.” He would nev­er boast about his benev­o­lence, but we want to rec­og­nize his most gen­er­ous con­tri­bu­tions to estab­lish the Art and Bar­bara Cole­man Lilac Col­lec­tion, as well as his dona­tions to help main­tain the his­toric Lape plant­i­ngs and the Native Plant Trail.

I imag­ine that Art was a true friend to a select few – the kind of friend that one is priv­i­leged to have, that rare friend, that friend for life. He cer­tain­ly was a friend to Lan­dis. Art remind­ed me in many ways of my father. We ded­i­cat­ed a tree in Dad’s mem­o­ry at Lan­dis after his recent pass­ing. On the plaque, we record­ed these words: If you would know strength and patience, wel­come the com­pa­ny of trees.” I think that these words also get to the heart of the per­son Art Cole­man was.

Spring 2018

Volume 36 , Number 2

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