In late February, the Friends of the Fells office received a surprising letter in the mail. Celia L. Schulhoff, who died on February 1, 2019 at the age of 88, had left a substantial, unrestricted bequest to the Friends of the Fells. Though a resident of Stoneham for over forty years, Celia was previously known to the Friends only as an occasional past contributor. We are immensely grateful for her legacy, which allows us to strengthen our work in protecting the forest at a time when caring for the Fells is more needed than ever before.
While Celia was not well known to the group, she understood the value of living near the Middlesex Fells Reservation. According to her obituary, she moved to Boston to pursue a master’s and doctorate in clinical psychology at Boston University, following an undergraduate degree at Clark University. Once here she joined Community Boating, attended Red Sox games, and discovered the Fells.
Growing up in Gardner, MA Celia had developed a love for the outdoors through the Girl Scouts, pursuing the activities made possible through a connection to nature. She became a Mariner Scout, and started a children’s day camp on a lake when she was only a high school senior. She later led bicycle trips in Europe and America for youth hostelers, showing an intrepid passion for leadership before such trips were common.
“Although I never personally had the privilege of meeting Celia, I can’t help feeling that if we had known one another, we would certainly recognize each other as ‘kindred spirits’ in our love of the natural world, and our appreciation for the Middlesex Fells in particular,” said Chris Redfern, executive director of the Friends.
Long-time friend Renee Sack of Woburn, who was a trustee of Celia’s estate, recalls canoeing with Celia on Spot Pond after the boating program began, before a stroke limited Celia’s activities. While their friendship developed after Celia’s hiking days had waned, they shared a dedication to the Girl Scouts. Sack herself recalls leading a Girl Scout troop on overnights at a cabin near Long Pond in the Fells sometime in the 1970’s. Not many people can say they have camped in the Fells!
Celia was an independent minded person, according to Sack, “who could be stubborn” and loved to be active. They met in the Lexington Public School system where Celia was a psychologist and counselor for many years. Sack is sure that Celia would be glad to know her substantial bequest comes at a pivotal time for the Friends of the Fells. While we have adjusted as a non-profit group to operate within the restrictions of COVID-19, we are also planning new programs, strengthened by her bequest, that will help this extraordinary wild forest to remain a healthy sanctuary for both nature and humans.