Jim and Kathleen Ritchie
RSABG Volunteer Library
We never thought we would be doing book reports for the Oak Notes and keeping up a not-so-small library in retirement, but we are and loving it.
Jim worked 30 years at Cal Poly Pomona as a custodian in the student dorms and always wished that he could be working with the landscape crews. Volunteering at RSABG gives him the opportunity now to work with the grounds crew on Friday mornings.
I taught elementary students for 20 years in Bonita Unified School District, and volunteering at the Garden has given me the opportunity to assist Irene Holiman in the Library on many exciting projects without 20 little ones underfoot. Even though Jim has his Friday morning work with the grounds crew, he agreed to help Irene and me create the upstairs art exhibit. What a guy!
While looking for the art work that we wanted to display, we looked at the database of plants and their locations and we got a little overwhelmed (we are not botanists). I ran across a little book by Raymond Alf. Since we wanted to pick as many plants as possible that can be seen in the Garden, his book was the ticket to narrowing our choices. I know that you will enjoy seeing Ruth Brunstetter’s painting proofs for signs in the Cultivar Garden. In researching for more pictures to put with the artists’ biographies, I met Ruth’s daughter, Rachel, who is also an artist. In searching for pictures of Mary Vaux Walcott, I met an author who is writing a book about Mary. Lustin Martindale’s unique photographs of wildflowers led Irene to a book that used some of his photographs. Irene is really teaching me to be a thorough researcher.
We hope that you will take the time to come upstairs to see “Wild in Print” (Monday-Friday 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.). It was a pleasure for us to display artists with such talent. Volunteering for Irene Holiman is such fun and Terry Givens and Ernie Pianalto lent their help when we most needed it.
When we are not volunteering for RSABG, we are on the road with our teardrop trailer seeing the sights of California or on Amtrak visiting other states.
RSABG Volunteer Board Treasurer
After growing up in a rural farming community in Connecticut and living in Boston and the coastal regions south of Boston, one is surprised at how much the natural outdoors becomes a part of one’s soul. Nevertheless, the last place I expected to find the beauty of nature was in Southern California. After a career as an industrial research scientist and engineer, we moved to Claremont in 1991 when I took a job at Cal Poly Pomona as an engineering professor, department chair and dean. Certainly Claremont reminds one of a small New England town, but the surprise was finding Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden and the Southern California bio-diversity two blocks away. Although we enjoyed walking through the Garden and its seasonal beauty, it was not until I retired in 2004 and formally became a volunteer that I fully appreciated all that the Garden has to offer in terms of not only the beauty, solitude, science and learning—but the people, both staff and fellow volunteers, and their dedication.
Over the years I have been involved in several projects as a volunteer: database entry in the Herbarium, the Library, the Robert F. Thorne slide collection and the design, modification and maintenance of the volunteer hour’s database—but these tend to be lonely isolated tasks. I also worked to establish the early experiment in vernal pools and painted/stained the entire fence around the California Cultivar Garden. However the best experiences have been the group work parties like the grapevine trimming, plant sale preparation, clearing in the Communities and more recently bagging for the luminarias -- always with a fun, interesting and outgoing group of people with such a wide range of life experiences. From what we learned here, we have been able to explore the regions represented in the Garden—Channel Islands, Anza-Borrego Desert, Lake Tahoe, Mojave Desert, Eastern Sierra, Carrizo Plain, Elkhorn Slough and Death Valley with a deeper awareness.
Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden plays an important part on many levels in the study, conservation, preservation and appreciation of the richness of California, and I feel eternally in debt to its history, mission and future.
RSABG Volunteer Board Secretary and Oak Notes Editor
Volunteering in a garden of California native plants seems like a good fit for a California native who has always lived within 40 miles of where I grew up in South Gate. My mother was a skilled gardener who could beautify any surroundings with plants. My earliest memories were of a small victory garden, then of camellias and azaleas, then of a rose garden.
My own interest in plants didn’t happen until I was a student at Pomona College and took a plant classification class for a science requirement. Predecessor Lyman Benson was a wonderful teacher who could inspire anyone to love finding a plant, identifying it and creating a pressed plant collection. Many of our class meetings were in the wash to the east of the college that was still wild and undeveloped at the time. What a refreshing break from sitting in a classroom on a beautiful Southern California day! I remember my first visit to the RSABG Herbarium and being quite surprised at finding a garden at the end of College Avenue. Maybe if I had taken his class my first year, I would have been a botany major instead of a music major. Who knows?
After graduation, teaching elementary school in Ontario and being a musician at the Claremont United Church of Christ took up most of my time and I visited the Garden only occasionally. After retirement I brought my grandson to a special event and ran into a long-time friend, Judy Whale, from school days in South Gate. Her words, “This is the best place in town to volunteer. You should try it!” stuck with me, and now I am a nature interpreter as well as a member of the Board of Volunteers.
My grandchildren help me volunteer when possible, and I’m hoping they develop a love of the Garden and an appreciation of the richness, variety and uniqueness of California native plants.
RSABG Volunteer Vice President 2012-13
Imagine the courage of the nature interpreters! Waiting for them at the gates of RSABG was a whole class of mothers pushing strollers containing their three and four year old children! A couple decades ago, I was one of those mothers, and that tour was my first introduction to the Garden. It obviously made a positive impression on me. Over the years, I visited occasionally, and, when my growing family’s demands lessened and I discovered I had some extra time, I decided to respond to an advertisement in the local paper for new volunteers, and now I’ve just completed 10 years as a volunteer! I work in the Herbarium workroom on Monday mornings, lead school tours on Thursdays and am currently serving as vice president of the Volunteer Board.
I was a valley girl—a San Joaquin Valley girl. I grew up in the small town of Madera, and came south to attend California Lutheran University. After college, I taught for Los Angeles and Glendale School Districts for seven years before leaving the West Coast and accompanying my husband to Connecticut. After five years, employment opportunities returned us and our new daughter to southern California. The following years were spent raising our two children and managing the household.
When people ask about my activities at the Garden, I tell them that the volunteers are one of the nicest groups of people I have known, and that volunteering here provides so many opportunities to learn, share, and enjoy interacting in a beautiful setting. I am looking forward to an exciting year on the Board!
RSABG Volunteer President 2012-13
Shaunna Gygli…who is that? I know many of you are wondering, and now the wait is over!
I grew up in a very small town of about 1,000 people in southeastern Idaho in the shadow of the Tetons. I hiked, skied and camped in this most beautiful area of Yellowstone National Park. I’ll bet many of you didn’t know that a slice of Yellowstone is in Idaho! It was here that my love of nature was nurtured. Even though I have lived in California for 50 years, I must get back to my mountains often.
After graduating from the University of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in education, I moved to Northern California to begin my teaching career. My first year was as a fourth grade teacher where I learned about California’s diverse regions and how the first Californians used their natural resources so effectively. When I moved to Pomona in 1980, I increased my knowledge of native people and natural history by joining historical societies, becoming a docent at the Southwest Museum, and taking many classes at RSABG.
My teaching philosophy includes a strong belief in hands-on experiences for children. To this end, in 1989, I developed Bonita Unified School District’s Hands-on History Program for fourth graders. Even though I retired from the district eight years ago, (after 42 years) I continue to provide the Hands-on History field trips to over 700 students annually.
After retiring I traveled, read a lot, worked part time and became a docent at the Museum of the American West. And, in 2009, I became a volunteer at RSABG where I am a Nature Interpreter and where I volunteer at most special events. I was a member-at-large on the Volunteer Board. We have all made a conscious decision to volunteer our time and talent for various reasons. As for me, I volunteer at RSABG because I believe in our mission statement, and it is a way to pay back the valuable education my students and I received here over the years.
I was surprised and delighted by the opportunity to serve as your president. I look forward to getting to know each of you and to working together to increase awareness of The Garden’s unique programs and resources.
My life is continually enriched by the people that I have met and worked with here. I hope to meet you at the quarterly luncheon on September 14. I know that we volunteers don’t just work, we make it work!