Landis Portraits: A Series About the People Behind the Plants at the Arboretum: Susan Strangia

By Nolan Marciniec

Susan Stran­gia led a Sec­ond Sun­day Snow­shoe at Lan­dis last Feb­ru­ary, her first. Some of the par­tic­i­pants had nev­er been on snow­shoes – and most had nev­er been to the Arbore­tum. She said it was won­der­ful to hear many of the par­tic­i­pants tell her, I’ll be back.”

Susan Strangia

About a dozen years ago, Susan attend­ed a plant sale and remem­bered how she felt over­whelmed by the selec­tions, the pos­si­bil­i­ties, and the quandary of hav­ing to make a choice. Since her first vis­it to the Arbore­tum, she her­self has come back, first as a mem­ber, then as a volunteer.

As a mem­ber, she found that Lan­dis became an oasis” in the midst of dai­ly stress­es. Hik­ing the trails gave her peace­ful time, time away from screens, qui­et time away from mod­ern nois­es.” What made Lan­dis spe­cial, she said, was that each trail had its own unique char­ac­ter. You could walk the Ed Miller Native Plant Trail or the Nan Williams Fern Glen and learn about our indige­nous plants. Stop at the Shan­ti Vun Med­i­ta­tion Gar­den and sim­ply unwind. Walk though forests and fields, or the Lape col­lec­tions, or the Old Growth Forest.

After her retire­ment in 2021, Susan deter­mined to ded­i­cate more of her time to vol­un­teer activ­i­ties, prefer­ably those that involved both the com­mu­ni­ty and the out­doors. At Lan­dis, she’s been weed­ing the gar­dens. She’s vol­un­teered at sev­er­al plant sales. She’s been updat­ing the Schoharie Cal­en­dar to include Arbore­tum events. And yes, she led that snow­shoe hike.

At a lun­cheon meet­ing with Anne Don­nel­ly fol­low­ing the 2021 Spring Plant Sale, she agreed to even­tu­al­ly take over as Vol­un­teer Coor­di­na­tor. Susan admit­ted that she is mak­ing progress grad­u­al­ly climb­ing the learn­ing curve. Big shoes to fill,” she noted.

Nature and peo­ple are two of her lodestar values.

Susan enjoys hik­ing and pad­dling. She’s com­plet­ed the 3‑day, 90-mile long dis­tance canoe race in the Adiron­dacks – twen­ty times! She is an avid Nordic ski­er. The beau­ty and the chal­lenge” of both activ­i­ties are reward enough, she said. In 2021 she and her hus­band Michael vol­un­teered to be stew­ards on the New York State Canal Way Trail, adopt­ing” and main­tain­ing the sec­tion of the Mohawk Riv­er from Lock 10 in Ams­ter­dam to Lock 9 in Rot­ter­dam Junc­tion. This year they are again riv­er stew­ards, join­ing oth­er mem­bers of the North­ern New York Pad­dlers cov­er­ing the sec­tion from Lock 9 down­stream to Freeman’s Bridge.

Born and raised in Schoharie, Susan earned a degree in Ear­ly Child­hood Edu­ca­tion from SUNY Cobleskill, fol­lowed by a degree in Spe­cial Edu­ca­tion from SUNY Platts­burgh. She holds a grad­u­ate degree in Man­age­ment from Anti­och New Eng­land University.

For over 30 years, Susan worked with youth and adults with devel­op­men­tal dis­abil­i­ties and men­tal health chal­lenges with both the New York State Office of Men­tal Health and the New York State Office for Peo­ple with Devel­op­men­tal Disabilities. 

When she was 40, Susan received an associate’s degree in Culi­nary Arts from Sch­enec­tady Coun­ty Com­mu­ni­ty Col­lege. You can sam­ple her cre­ations at the bake sale that accom­pa­nies the spring and fall plant sales, notably a Scot­tish Mil­lion­aire Short­bread – short­bread topped with creamy caramel and rich chocolate.

She recalled that four years ago, she and her hus­band were snow­shoe­ing at Lan­dis and found them­selves off trail.” Thanks to smart phones and GPS, the found their way back to the Arbore­tum, home base. 

Plants … peo­ple … baked goods. Lan­dis sounds like home for Susan. Susan and many peo­ple like her do find their way to Lan­dis –- and back again.

Fall 2022

Volume 40 , Number 3

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