It is never easy to lose a friend. When that friend has been a mentor, teacher AND a Master Gardener volunteer, the losses come in many forms. That has been the case with the untimely passing of Joy Ackerman of Keene.
Joy was one of my professors at Antioch University New England in Keene when I was studying for my master’s degree. Much of what I learned from her over 15 years ago still motivates me to work harder for the protection of our natural resources. She made the complicated aspects of climate change understandable. For a class project, she encouraged me to do an ecological inventory of the newly acquired land where we were building our home. That not only helped me bond with the land, but also guided us on how to enhance the native plants, utilize the solar orientation and appreciate the soil.
As an avid gardener, after she retired, she applied to become a UNH Extension Master Gardener. I knew instantly that I would accept her, and told her I still needed to interview her, because that’s what we do. She was thrilled to be treated like every other participant and we chuckled over the role reversal as she became my student.
Joy persevered through the spring 2020 class which was forced to go on-line due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Undaunted by the lockdown, she tapped into her Antioch connections and helped students with a community garden. Later she worked with the Keene Public Library to launch a seed exchange. Joy assisted with a Master Gardener book group, did outreach at public events, served on the Continuing Education Committee, and was a member of the Speakers Bureau. She had no trouble meeting the requirements for hours or continuing education. Service, education and learning were in her DNA.
Prior to her death she had been helping to plan a collaborative workshop on pollinator meadows with Cheshire County Conservation District and the Monadnock View Community Garden. The event will go on and so will Joy’s work, because as all good teachers do, she planted seeds with her students that will continue to grow through our work.
I am so grateful to have had time with her beyond our Antioch connection, through the Master Gardener program. She contributed a great deal in three short years and will be deeply missed.
Joy’s obituary provides more information about her life.
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