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loyalty to a legacy.

June 18, 2021

Marlene Campbell had never heard of Natural Lands, but she certainly knew about Stoneleigh, the former home of John and Chara Haas in Villanova. In May, 2018, when she learned the Lower Merion School Board planned to seize the estate that the Haas family had gifted to Natural Lands, she felt she had to do something.

photo: Mae Axelrod

Marlene had spent most of her career—26 years—working in the finance department of Rohm and Haas, the chemical company founded by John Haas’ father in 1907. “I’d often see Mr. Haas walking down Market Street to catch the train home to Stoneleigh,” Marlene recalled. “It was a wonderful place to work… the company really cared about its employees. There’s a big group of loyal former staff out there. We call ourselves the ‘Haas-beens’.”

News of Natural Lands’ effort to save Stoneleigh “went viral” among the Haas-beens, and Marlene immediately became a member of Natural Lands. She signed the petition in support of Stoneleigh remaining a public garden, she wrote emails to the district superintendent, and she squeezed into the packed School Board meetings to show her support.

The more Marlene learned about Natural Lands, the more she wanted to get involved. “I was a Nature Conservancy donor, but I like that Natural Lands is doing work in my back yard.” She wanted to volunteer, but the Force of Nature® program didn’t feel like the right fit. “I’m not a gardener,” she confessed. “My idea of gardening is buying a hanging basket, hanging it on a hook, and trying to remember to water it. But then I saw the Stoneleigh Ambassador program and I thought, ‘I can do that!’”

After attending the five training classes, Marlene graduated from the Stoneleigh Ambassador program in 2019 and immediately began volunteering as a garden greeter. She likes to engage with people, saying hello to “the regulars” and sharing what she loves about Stoneleigh to first-time guests.

“Marlene is so willing to learn,” said Samantha Nestory, horticulturist and volunteer coordinator at Stoneleigh. “She has helped us with events, has co-led private tours of the property, and even came out for a seed cleaning day. She’s one of our most dedicated volunteers.”

In the winter of 2019, Marlene pitched in to make garlands, wreaths, and other natural decorations for Stoneleigh’s holiday open house. “I was kind of surprised but I found there was a tiny bit of creativity in me that has been buried under the financial acumen,” she joked.

She especially loves learning about and passing on the history of the property with garden visitors. After all, she has been connected to the Haas family long before Stoneleigh was gifted to Natural Lands. These days, Marlene’s sense of pride in being part of Rohm and Haas is coupled with admiration for Natural Lands and its work.

“I’ve made friends here. I’m learning all the time. And I think Mr. Haas would be pleased with what Stoneleigh has become,” Marlene shared. “I intend to stay the course with Natural Lands.”

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