Lovely as a Tree
Along with promoting the love of gardening and floral design, the National
Garden Clubs — the largest volunteer gardening association in
the world — promotes civic and environmental responsibility. Local
clubs plant flowers around buildings, provide college scholarships (the
8,000 clubs in Shuster’s organization donate upwards of $600,000
annually toward scholarships), assist schoolchildren with planting projects
and offer horticulture classes. Their garden therapy programs provide feel-and-smell gardens for the
blind and raised gardens for people in wheelchairs.
Shuster lives in Champion, Penn., where her family owns Seven Springs Mountain Resort. It is only 24 miles from where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed on Sept. 11, 2001. In the days following the tragedy, victims’ families, crisis counselors, the Salvation Army, the news media and airline representatives stayed at the getaway in western Pennsylvania’s Laurel Mountains. The resort served as a safe haven. “It was in the mountains, away from everything, so that people could relax and feel that their privacy was protected,” says Shuster.
At home in Champion, Shuster divides her time between her responsibilities as mayor, a position she’s held since 1965, her family of nine children and 18 grandchildren, and the six-acre garden surrounding her house. As mayor she has officiated at more than 100 weddings, including two of her sons’ weddings, over the last 38 years.
She and her husband, Ray, divide the gardening duties at home. He oversees the vegetable garden, she manages the flowers and together they work on the fruits. In her flower garden Shuster favors daylilies, irises, oriental poppies and peonies. She once had 300 dahlia plants and 200 rose bushes. Each year the Shusters’ fruit and vegetable gardens yield 300 quarts of produce, including red beets, green beans, zucchini, carrots, spinach, asparagus, tomatoes, cabbage, apples, pears, peaches, cherries, blueberries and raspberries. They give most of their harvest away.
— Esther Chou (J03)