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Honoring Mollie J. Messimer

written by Hunter Mohring, BEA's Founding Director

On Thursday, Jan. 25, Mollie Messimer died unexpectedly. She had been active and amazingly productive to the very end. She will be missed and remembered by an amazing number of people whose lives she touched, informed, enriched and in many cases changed. Mollie made huge contributions of her talents, skills, and energy creating organizations and community events that would inspire others far into the future. She was a force of and for nature.

She was one of the 3 of us who escorted Boxerwood Gardens from a simply glorious privately owned collection of trees and shrubs (and art) to become an award winning environmental educational Nature Center. In the very first NewsLeaf in Fall 2000, Mollie introduced herself and reported:

Until a snowy evening in Feb. 1999, Boxerwood Gardens was a Rockbridge County Brigadoon. In my search for the right place for Central students to study nature, my path led me down the winding driveway of “the Munger place” for a soup supper with Hunter and KB. At dinner we discussed a spring program, but we couldn’t contain ourselves.

By the time dessert was served, we were pondering the creation of Boxerwood Education Association. Now – after 18 months – the snowballs we formed have rolled around the garden and become VERY BIG. I have a great concern about the health of the planet and am increasingly aware of my own impacts – both negative and positive. I am very pleased and proud to be a part of Boxerwood Education Association, an organization so full of promise for people and for the Earth.

Five years later in NewsLeaf (Fall 2005) as Mollie was moving on – referring to our having received official nonprofit status from the IRS, I wrote:

From that point on, we grew. Each opportunity to teach children about nature and all the web strings she has woven, Mollie has found a way to make it happen. She designed the courses and found the children, teachers, parents, and money to make it happen. With rare exception the first offerings toward meeting a goal resulted in a demand for more. Today almost every elementary and middle school in the county uses Boxerwood for some part of its curriculum.

The community knows Boxerwood through our Fall Family Festival, Mother’s Day, Lexington and Boxerwood’s Woods Creek Restoration Day, the middle school trips to the

Chesapeake Bay, and a trip to Costa Rica, all of which grew out of the fertile heart and

mind of Mollie.

This past year Boxerwood touched over 7,300 individuals with 15,300 educational

contacts. Mollie isn’t solely responsible for each and every one of them, but it’s obvious

had she not walked into our lives, we would never have come to where we are today.

And where we are is an awesome place.

In that same 2005 NewsLeaf, Mollie wrote:

It was my life’s dream to invent a school that let nature be the teacher, the outdoors be its classrooms. That dream is now fulfilled in abundance. I have felt amazing synergy with KB and Hunter and the countless volunteers we rallied to transform Boxerwood into a Nature Center for the benefit of children and the environment. Thank you.

And now – in the February 2024 NewsLeaf, – KB and I want to recognize Mollie as the booster rocket that thrusted the BEA off the ground and toward the heavens. We feel lucky and blessed she dropped by in 1999 and again just a few days before her death. We are grateful for all she was and did for Boxerwood and beyond. Today, as I walked around the gardens, I thought of our staff, our programs, our volunteers, our supporters and saw us all as Mollie’s legacy. We should be proud. She should be proud.

Thank you, Mollie. Farewell.



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