LANDIS PORTRAITS: Anne and Pat Donnelly

By Nolan Marciniec

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.


Summer 2020

Volume 38 , Number 2

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