Both Anne and Pat Donnelly remembered taking their children to the Arboretum for a performance by the Mettawee Theater. Although it was more than forty years ago, their kids still remember how awed they were by the huge puppets – and Anne and Pat have been fans of the Arboretum ever since.
When Anne retired from her position teaching biology at SUNY Cobleskill in 2006, she vowed that she would not attend another meeting for at least a year. But that September, her friend and colleague Barbara Brabetz asked her to join the Landis Board in January. In March, Anne became chair of the Education Committee; in May, chair of the Communications Committee. Two years later, she was elected president of the Board of Trustees – and then, as circumstances would have it, acting director. Although Anne admitted that these years of many meetings were some of the most stressful in her life, they were for a cause she really believed in. Anne currently serves as the Arboretum’s volunteer coordinator.
Pat’s “official” introduction to the Arboretum came when he was working for the State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation. The detectives had received a tip that burglars might raid the Lape home for antiques while Lape was wintering in Mexico. Pat and other officers waited upstairs in the unheated farmhouse, heard the thieves break into the downstairs rooms and amass a collection of valuable furniture to load into their trucks – and then arrested them.
Despite those difficult years at the helm of the Arboretum, retirement has given Anne the opportunity to botanize with “plant geeks” in Mexico, to raft down the Grand Canyon, and to study flora and fauna in Costa Rica. She and Pat do a lot of traveling in the US. Both boys are in Alaska – their daughter in nearby Glenville – and Anne has seven siblings, each of whom lives in a different state.
Although Pat was brought up in the Bronx, he is most at home in the outdoors. He takes pride in managing the 16 acres of woodland on their property – “culling, nurturing, and designing,” he said. He pointed out that their woodlot includes a “champion” white birch, perhaps the largest specimen in New York State. Pat also works on the Arboretum’s Building and Grounds Committee.
Both are anticipating celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. Anne was an undergraduate at SUNY Oneonta and working in a bar, where she met Pat, a “dashing young” state trooper. They bought a “ramshackle” old farmhouse on 100 acres in Lawyersville in 1968 and have spent thirty years restoring it.
Even after spending most of her life in education, Anne said that she is still learning from the people she’s met at the Arboretum. The Arboretum’s bog garden continues to fascinate her: it affords an opportunity for an eye-level view of such specimens as the pitcher plant, tiny orchids, and mosses.
Both Anne and Pat encourage people to volunteer at the Arboretum. “No matter what mood you come in, you’ll be in a better mood when you leave,” Anne said. Pat added, “No matter what you do, you know it’ll be appreciated.” Both are optimistic about the future of the Arboretum and expressed confidence in Fred Breglia, the Arboretum’s recently appointed executive director. Both trust that another, younger generation will follow Fred’s lead and recognize the Arboretum for the treasure it is.
The Mettawee Theater returns to the Arboretum this summer! It once brought Pat and Anne Donnelly to the Arboretum. And they stayed.*
*Unfortunately, the Mettawee River Theatre Company made the decision to cease touring in 2020.