Whether she is on a safari in Africa, taking part in an educational tour of Cuba, visiting friends in Europe or closer to home, pedaling with a group of bikers in Minnesota, Eloise Butler volunteer Nita Lussenhop always has an eye out for the beauties of nature. And while she has visited hundreds of formal gardens and natural sites around the world, Nita readily said, “I have seen nothing quite like Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden.”
A regular volunteer at the Martha Crone Shelter for the last 12 years, Nita also has served on the friends’ Board and been its secretary for eight years - in spite of a very busy schedule traveling, taking classes through the University of Minnesota and going on regional biking trips with a group of biking/nature enthusiasts.
“Volunteering at the Garden is a wonderful job for retirees," Nita said. “It’s a learning experience, and it’s fun to talk with visitors who come from all over.”
The mother of five and grandmother of nine, Nita is a retired teacher and for many years had less spare time to visit the Garden, explaining, “We moved to Robbinsdale when the children were little, and I would take them to the Garden. Then I got so busy that I didn’t have much time until I retired.”
Nita said that she began teaching in 1945 and was in and out of the educational field for many years. “First I taught elementary and then become involved with children who had reading problems. Later I worked in vocational education, helping high school girls explore non-traditional careers. It was an interesting career with many changes. And even after I retired from full-time teaching, I was tutoring.”
Now with additional free time, Nita has been able to do more world travel. In just the last five years, she has made visits to Bulgaria, Costa Rica, England, Germany, Guatemala, Iceland, Mexico and five countries in the southern part of Africa, as well as having made a trip through the Panama Canal.
Back in Minnesota, Nita enjoys biking with friends. “On our regional trips we drive to a destination and then bike." she said. “Going through State Parks and on bike trails we see many, many wildflowers, but we also have visited formal gardens. For example, last summer one of our trips was to St. Cloud, where we biked to see the lovely Munsinger and Clemens Gardens.”
Asked about her favorite spring plants and flowers, Nita said, “I love the ferns, watching them unfurl. It is fun going down to the garden several days in a row just to see the changes. In early spring I like the skunk cabbage with its dramatic, big leaves. I am fond of the little blue forget-me-nots and, of course, the showy lady’s-slipper in the summer. I also enjoy watching the birds and trying to identify them.”
Nita said she is not reluctant to reveal her age (78) and she attributes her physical fitness in part to working out at the gym three days a week and swimming one half to a full mile a day five days a week. So, for Nita, volunteering at the shelter not only is pleasant, it’s a restful activity as well!
Photo below: Nita with grandson Patrick, son Paul, granddaughter Catherine - at the 50th Anniversary of the Friends event in the Garden in May 2002.
Note 1: Article by newsletter editor Lisa Locken.
Note 2: This article was published in the Friends newsletter the Fringed Gentian™ Winter 2004 Vol. 52 #1.
Nita was a member of the Friends Board of Directors, being first elected in May 1996 and elected Secretary that same year, continuing in that position until she left the Board in May 2005.