Landis Portraits: A Series About the People Behind the Plants at the Arboretum - Chuck Mueller

By Nolan Marciniec

Chuck Mueller
Chuck Mueller

Vol­un­teer­ing, Chuck Mueller said, is some­thing you have to believe in .… [it’s] a way to fol­low your pas­sions and make an impact .… “ It is this belief that led Chuck to fol­low his pas­sions to Landis.

Scout­ing ini­tial­ly brought Chuck to the Arbore­tum. He grew up as a scout, work­ing his way from camp coun­sel­lor in train­ing to pro­gram direc­tor. His sons, Chas and Cory, were mem­bers of Lan­dis’ Scout Troop #501, where he served as assis­tant scout­mas­ter. And since his wife Corinne was also active­ly involved, scout­ing was very much a fam­i­ly affair. Scout­ing and the Arbore­tum go hand in hand,” he said, point­ing out the oppor­tu­ni­ties to learn from nature that abound there. Scout­ing, he firm­ly believes, gives young men – and young women – a code to live by” and teach­es them to be lead­ers. At Lan­dis, he said, these young peo­ple can sat­is­fy an intu­itive thirst” for learn­ing from nature. These scouts have, in turn, giv­en back to Lan­dis: they help shop­pers trans­port their pur­chas­es at the plant sales and have worked to main­tain some of the trails and out­build­ings. Some scouts have earned their Eagle Scout rank through their projects at the Arboretum.

Over the years, Chuck and his fam­i­ly have wel­comed 31 for­eign exchange stu­dents to the US. Four of these stu­dents became active in scout­ing dur­ing their stay.

Chuck has also been pro­vid­ing food ser­vice for many of the Arboretum’s events for almost a decade. Lan­dis has ben­e­fit­ed from his over 40 years of expe­ri­ence in the food indus­try. Anoth­er instance of fol­low­ing a pas­sion – I real­ly enjoy see­ing peo­ple enjoy food,” he said – feed­ing and giv­ing to oth­ers. For the past 20 years, he has man­aged shops for Sub­way and oper­ates his own cater­ing busi­ness, Cre­ative Connoisseur.

For a time in 1990, these two pas­sions came togeth­er in a spe­cial ven­ture: he stepped up to cook at the Inter­na­tion­al Scout Jam­boree in Eng­land, which includ­ed pro­vid­ing a meal for some dis­tant mem­bers of Britain’s Roy­al Family.

Chuck has often encour­aged peo­ple to vis­it the Arbore­tum. He rec­om­mends the peace­ful” hik­ing, the great views of the Schoharie Val­ley, and a place to unwind apart from the often fre­net­ic and plugged-in pace of life. At the events, Chuck has been impressed by the cama­raderie he’s observed: peo­ple of var­i­ous back­grounds work­ing togeth­er for a com­mon pur­pose – very much like scout­ing, he said.

There are lessons for all of us to be learned at Lan­dis. Chuck admit­ted to being haunt­ed by the image of the Great Oak, the Arboretum’s leg­endary 500-year-old white oak, final­ly felled by age and an ice storm. Per­haps we take nature for grant­ed, he sug­gest­ed, and blind our­selves to its some­times destruc­tive strength. 

Fol­low­ing one’s pas­sions. Believ­ing in some­thing, believ­ing in oth­ers. Learn­ing from nature, learn­ing from one anoth­er. This is what Lan­dis is all about.

Fall 2023

Volume 41 , Number 3

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