Susan Olcott

Obituary of Susan Peck Olcott

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A child and student of the Nature, Susan Peck Olcott, 65, passed away, with her husband by her side, on May 2, 2024, at Mon Health Medical Center. The daughter of the late Robert Shoemaker and Jessie MacFadyen Olcott, Susan lived in West Sand Lake, New York, the youngest of four children. Growing up in a rural area of upstate New York in a family that grew much of its own food, Sue developed a self-sufficient attitude and strong interests in art and nature. With her siblings she roamed the surrounding woods and fields exploring the natural world and its inhabitants. Her room was a trove of art supplies, drawings, bird nests, snake skins, egg shells, animal bones, interesting rocks and any live critters she could sneak in. After graduating from Columbia High School in East Greenbush, NY, where she was active on the track team, Susan completed a B.S. in Wildlife Management with High Distinction at the University of Maine in 1981 and an M.S. in Wildlife Management from Frostburg State University, Frostburg MD in 1992. In 1995 Sue moved to West Virginia and accepted a pioneering position with the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in the Division of Wildlife Resources as West Virginia's first District Wildlife Diversity Biologist. She spent 28 years with the DNR and retired as a senior wildlife biologist in 2022. Responsible for a twenty-two-county region in north-central WV, Sue performed and coordinated numerous surveys and assessments of various species and habitats that were instrumental in setting state policy and priorities. Her work grew to include the oversight and coordination with staff of multiple federal, state, and local agencies, conservation and private groups with a wide variety of perspectives on conservation and management of wildlife. She gradually became the DNR go-to "bug person" with a special interest in dragonflies and damselflies (Odonata), bats, songbirds, and butterflies, especially the Monarch. Sue was passionate about her work and enjoyed educating all ages on the importance of conservation and wildlife habitat enhancement; she turned several acres of her own property into a pollinator garden that she used for education and inspiration. Employing citizen volunteers, Sue was the primary investigator and coordinator for of the WV Odonata Atlas completed in 2015. The statewide atlas documents the occurrence and distribution, biodiversity and detailed natural history of this species that serve as a primary indicator of water quality. Her work informed important changes in state policy and priorities. Sue annually taught many classes to Master Naturalists, civic groups, school groups, and the general public on Lepidoptera, Odonata, pollinators and many other topics and produced or oversaw the production of booklets, brochures, and web content about butterflies, pollinators, and best practices, including brochures on butterfly gardening, butterflies of West Virginia, and Forest Management Guidelines for Songbirds. In addition to the Odonata Atlas, her professional publications included pollinator planting guidelines and seed mixes for landowners and managers. Sue also served on numerous state, regional and national committees and was the primary expert and press contact for DNR in her specialty. Most recently, she was heavily involved with the state, regional and national Monarch Conservation Strategy project. In 2018 Sue was named a "Wonder Woman" by WV Living Magazine and was recognized for her extensive research projects and service to West Virginia wildlife. At the time of her death, Sue was the passionate co-author of a soon to be published West Virginia Butterfly Atlas. Underway since 2005, Sue was responsible for planning and implementing a state-wide survey, setting project priorities, recruiting, training and coordinating over 80 citizen naturalists, data collection, analysis and management, and coordination with national lepidoptera (butterfly) experts. The finished book, to be published by Cornell University Press, will be a significant resource and include numerous photos (many taken by Sue), maps, and charts detailing where species can be found, feeding habits and recommendations for helping butterflies thrive in West Virginia. In a match promoted by friends and students who knew them both, Sue married Dr. William (Bill) Peterjohn, Professor of Biology at WVU, on July 29, 2000. His complimentary specialties in ecology, passion for conservation, appreciation of art and design, talent for fun (and pun), and wry sense of humor made them soul mates and partners from the beginning. He proposed on New Year's Eve, 2000 with the question written with a sparkler. They were married the following summer in Spruce Street United Methodist church decorated with Sue's flower arrangements, and Bill arranged for a surprise firework display at the reception just so Sue could always say that she experienced fireworks on her wedding night. In addition to Sue's wildlife management expertise and love of nature, she was a talented artist, author, educator, and photographer. Throughout her life she created needlework projects, drawings, prints and paintings that frequently illustrated birds and now grace the walls in family homes. She took on the role of architect in designing their home in the woods on land near Morgantown, giving it a distinct arts and crafts flavor enhanced by the stained-glass windows she designed and executed. Their home, filled with nature themed art collections, hosted neighborhood gatherings, visitors and family holidays, accompanied by good food, home baked bread and jigsaw puzzles. Although Sue had no children of her own, she was a devoted and beloved aunt for her niece and nephews. Susan is survived by her husband of 23 years, William Peterjohn, siblings Lois Olcott Price of Santa Fe, NM, Jessie Olcott Siegfried of Downers Grove, IL, R. Alexander Olcott of Wynantskill, NY, four beloved niece and nephews and their children, as well as their springer spaniel Terra and cats Baily and Becca. A Celebration of Life for Sue will be held on Friday, August 2nd starting at 1:30, at the Education Center of the West Virginia Botanic Garden located at 1061 Tyrone Rd, Morgantown, WV 26508. There will be opportunities to learn more about Sue's life and to share personal stories and tributes. Written stories and memories will also be complied in a book of remembrance and can be submitted during the event or sent to William Peterjohn at: wpeterjo@gmail.com. Dress is casual, comfortable attire. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in memory of Sue to The Nature Conservancy (on the web at: preserve.nature.org/page/81523/donate/ or by phone at: 800-628-6860). Cremation arrangements were entrusted to Hastings Funeral Home, and condolences can be sent online at hastingsfuneralhome.com.
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Friday
2
August

Celebration of Life

1:30 pm
Friday, August 2, 2024
West Virginia Botanic Garden
1061 Tyrone Rd.
Morgantown, West Virginia, United States
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Susan Olcott

In Loving Memory

Susan Olcott

1959 - 2024

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