“I’m learning all the time,” Jeanne Post-Sourmail said. “That’s the glory of the Arboretum.”
Learning has always been central to Jeanne’s life. In 2013, she retired from a 25-year career in the New York State Education Department, where her responsibility was primarily professional development for teachers in Central New York. Before that, Jean spent several years in the elementary and middle school classroom as a reading specialist. After retirement, she agreed to maintain the Landis membership database and eventually agreed to chair the Membership Committee. This year she begins her first term on the Arboretum’s Board of Trustees.
Jeanne first visited the Arboretum some 20 years ago, before she moved to her current home in rural Montgomery County. As the mother of two boys, she was always on the lookout for outdoor activities and discovered the Arboretum’s trails. Over the years she became more involved in the plant sales. First she just attended, then volunteered as a cashier, which expanded to bringing seedlings of heirloom vegetables to the sales and working in the propagation room and greenhouse.
Jeanne’s been an organic gardener since the 60s and now tends nearly a dozen raised beds of vegetables, wholeheartedly believing in the value of good healthy food. She also has a philosophy of leaving the world a better place by treading lightly on the earth. Her current interest is incorporating bird- and pollinator-friendly native plants into her landscape, like planting perennials to line the family pond and stream. Discounting the work, she said that gardening is good exercise. She added, “I really enjoy being outside in the ‘real world,’ watching things grow.”
The prospect of learning kept bringing Jeanne back to the Arboretum. “There are so many people who know so much,” she said. She instanced one plant sale at which she expressed an interest in blueberries. Fred Breglia and Scott Trees told her “everything I needed to know about blueberries,” including the intricacies of monitoring soil pH level. Jeanne now cultivates a dozen bushes. She is convinced that “people are [the Arboretum’s] best advertisement .… They are so willing to share their expertise.”
Jeanne encourages people to visit the Arboretum. She is sure that once acquainted with all its wonders, they will want to become a member to help sustain it. She called attention to that aspect of life that we “miss sitting in houses.” Children could learn so much from just being outdoors in nature. Adults might “learn to enjoy life at a different level.”
Someone once said that teaching and learning are one and the same. For Jeanne and for many other life-long learners, the Arboretum is their classroom.