Hello friends. What follows are my remarks at the celebration of life of a dear friend and generous benefactor of natural resource conservation in central Pennsylvania. Donald W. Hamer passed away on July 12, 2016.
I am Jennifer Shuey, a former Executive Director of ClearWater Conservancy, a local conservation organization that was especially close to Don’s heart. I have been invited by the family to say a few words today on behalf of the many charitable causes that Don chose to support, which is a true honor and also huge responsibility.
As we all know, Don was very generous to the causes that mattered to him, both here in central Pennsylvania and beyond.
For me, Don was not only a colleague at ClearWater Conservancy and a philanthropic role model in the community, but also a dear friend. I will miss him and his personal encouragement of me. But I brighten when I think of all of the signs of his generosity around town.
In fact, right now, you can look out this window, and up and down Tussey Ridge and this stretch of the Nittany Valley, and see probably half a dozen projects that he took a leadership role in funding…
But it’s not just the projects that bear Don’s mark. Decades ago, in the 80s and 90s, it was Don’s passion, his leadership, and his investment that focused ClearWater’s attention on first the Spring Creek Corridor and then the Spring Creek Watershed through two studies that became the foundation of the community’s work to teach the importance, to protect, and ultimately to connect people with that natural resource that binds us together and defines this special place in all our lives.
There are two places in particular that I will always remember as a tribute to Don’s foresight and tenacity over the years. Both Millbrook Marsh and the Spring Creek Canyon were documented in that early Spring Creek Corridor Study as two of our top five ecological jewels deserving of community attention and protection. Each would require many years, many conversations, lots of partnerships, the leveraging of many grants and other funding sources, and personal relationships that continue to live on. But both are amazing community resources today because of Don’s care.
Millbrook Marsh is my personal favorite, always closest to my heart. When I arrived at ClearWater near the end of 2000, the Millbrook Marsh conservation easement was in its final draft stages. The 50 acre wetland that had been owned by the Clover Highlands Development Group had been donated to Penn State University. Penn State was leasing that land and the adjacent 12-acre Farm 12 to the Centre Region Recreation Authority for $1 a year. And as the story goes, Don Hamer was smack dab in the middle of making all of that possible.
He had the connections and reached out to CEOs and the University President, scientists and land trust specialists. And he made them partners. He showed the stakeholders the possibilities, always stressing that conservation and business can not only co-exist, but thrive together.
The dream of the Millbrook Marsh Nature Center was just in its infancy then, but over the years, the Nature Center has grown and evolved.
Now it teaches the County’s elementary students about wetlands and watersheds, gets some kids their first taste of nature in a hand-on way, and makes an important greenway connection for all of the outdoor enthusiasts who pass through each day.
The Marsh soaks up stormwater and hosts a rare fen ecosystem.
There are pre-school nature play groups and summer camps, weddings and conferences, university research and classes to capture the beauty of nature through art. There is a dedicated community-based advisory committee and elected leaders who believe, a talented professional staff, and tons of volunteers.
There are thousands of kids who still remember back to their field trip to Millbrook Marsh Nature Center and their first whiff of skunk weed, the critters they netted out of Bathgate Run, and the trout they spotted under the Thompson Run bridge.
And there was Don Hamer in the beginning, planting the seeds of possibility, and Don Hamer all along, encouraging the next steps with his strategic investments.
Don is no longer here to see his seeds bear fruit. But Don’s legacy lives on in the countless lives that he continues to touch because of the many places and the people he supported.
So on behalf of ClearWater Conservancy, the Centre County Farmland Trust, Millbrook Marsh Nature Center, the Bellefonte Art Museum, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, Mount Nittany Medical Center, Mount Nittany Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy of Pennsylvania, Penn State University, the Hamer Center for Community Design—truly just to name a few—and so many more organizations that care for people and places in central Pennsylvania and beyond, thank you Don.
We all promise to do our best to continue to carry out your legacy and live out your dreams. Rest now, in peace, knowing that you have passed on to the next generations of community leaders the will to continue your work by bringing people together and finding the common good.
On one last personal note, a few days after Don passed away, I painted one of my favorite views of Millbrook Marsh. I consider it a tribute to a man that has meant so much to me and given so much of himself. I hope that it will draw him close, so that he can feel how much he meant to me. Thank you friend.
Memorial contributions may be made to the ClearWater Conservancy, 2555 N. Atherton Street, State College, PA 16803 or to the charity of your choice, in memory of Donald W. Hamer.
I am a loving, joyful, passionate woman | pastel painter | conservationist | fundraiser | Penn State alum | Bellefotian - class of '89 | loving wife of Chris | "mommy" to cats Hammie and Moe | with a wonderfully supportive Mom and Dad | a talented brother and sister-in-law | two amazing nieces | and an ever-expanding circle of beautiful family and friends.