The Arboretum mourns the passing of Louis Suarato, whose service was wholeheartedly appreciated by the Landis community. We will miss this gentle naturalist who gave so much of himself to the Arboretum — by day and by night. We reprint this edited portrait from the Fall 2013 issue of the newsletter below.
Landis Portraits: A Look at the People Behind the Plants at the Arboretum.
By, Nolan Marciniec
Louis Suarato is a man who is taken by the wonders of nature, be they light-years away or right in his own backyard.
Lou relocated to the Capital District in 1995, leaving behind a successful Wall Street career. While working in the financial services in the Albany area in the late 90s, he attended the Sage Colleges, and he needed a few science credits to complete his degree in business administration. His childhood interest in the stars and planets led him to take an astronomy course with Dr. George Tucker, whom Lou credits with opening his eyes to the marvels of the cosmos.
His passion for astronomy only increased with a gift subscription to SLOOH, an astronomy website that allows subscribers to use the site’s professional telescopes to view celestial events. Lou went on to become the developmental director for another astronomy website, Astronomy FM. He considered the service so valuable that, under a blue moon on a bitterly cold New Year’s Eve in Saratoga Springs, he and his wife, Ann Marie, held a First Night bake sale to raise money to fund the website.
Lou bought his first “real” telescope in 2009. In conjunction with the Dudley Observatory, he set it up at SPAC during the Philadelphia Orchestra’s performance of Gustav Holtz’s “The Planets.” More than 300 concertgoers lined up to look at the planet Jupiter. To prepare for the SPAC event, he attended the Albany Area Amateur Astronomers’ (AAAA) public Star Party at the Landis Arboretum. He arrived early to hike some of the trails and was won over by the panoramic views of the Schoharie Valley.
He continued to attend the star parties at Landis as a member of AAAA and soon became a volunteer at plant sales, his wife at the bake sales. When Anne Donnelly, then interim director, approached him about joining the Board of Trustees, he agreed, taking office in 2011.
After retirement, Lou focused his attention on non-profit organizations that advocate the preservation of the natural world. He served for two years on the Board of the Dudley Observatory. He currently serves not only on the Arboretum’s Board, but also on the Board of the Mohawk-Hudson Land Conservancy.
There are many “cosmic” moments in the dark skies of Landis that Lou treasures: showing his sister from the NYC region the Milky Way; witnessing last year’s Geminids shower, at which he counted 75 meteorites in a two-hour period; and viewing a Perseids shower – to the accompaniment of a chorus of coyotes!
Lou’s other avocation is photography, often stunning photos of celestial events, but also those celebrating the beauty of nature closer to home, frequently taken at Landis. Shared on social media sites, Lou’s photos have proved very popular, but he believes that they are “no substitute for the real thing.” “A lot of people don’t have access to the outdoors … The Arboretum is a great place to experience nature. Right now, I’m looking at a hummingbird in the roses,” he said during our interview. “I didn’t have to work at that, did I?” More than 500 people have “liked” our new Facebook page, but Lou hopes that they will visit in person. “But not too many people,” he added. “The peacefulness here is nice too!”
Lou encourages people to attend a Star Party. Or to hike the trails. Or to attend a plant sale. A visit might lead to membership, membership to volunteering. “Every time you volunteer, you help people appreciate nature,” he said. And nature, both far away or close at hand, is here for all of us at Landis, to be protected and cherished.