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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