Claire Schmitt (Kunz)
Claire K. Schmitt, long time resident of the capital district, local author, and naturalist, passed away on July 11, 2017 in Salem, Oregon, on her 89th birthday.
Claire was born in 1928 in Flushing, NY, but lived most of her childhood in Saint Louis, Missouri, with her parents Louis and Elisabeth Kunz. Always interested in her world, Claire wanted to major in Astronomy, but was talked out of it by her father, because in the late 1940s he felt there would not be jobs available. So, Claire received her bachelor’s degree in English from Washington University in Saint Louis.
Upon receiving her degree, Claire moved to New York City where she worked as a secretary for Doubleday Publishing. After several years with Doubleday, she accepted a position at the General Electric Research and Development Center, in Schenectady, where she met widower Roland Schmitt. Claire married Roland in the fall of 1957, and adopted his two sons, Larry and Brian, and as she told it, stopped between the wedding ceremony and the reception to sign their adoption papers. Daughter Alice was born one year later in 1958, and son Henry in 1961.
Having spent their honeymoon on Lake George, Claire and Roland developed a love of the lake and the Adirondack region leading them to purchase a cottage on Tongue Mountain, on Lake George. This resulted in Claire’s nearly 60 year association with environmental activities regarding the lake and the Adirondack region that included Claire serving on the board of the Lake George Land Conservancy.
Claire’s love of nature and the world around her lead her to be instrumental in the formation of two local organizations. The Thursday Naturalists, is a group that has met every Thursday morning since the early 1960s and is still active today. She was also an early member, board member and executive director of the Environmental Clearinghouse of Schenectady (ECOS). The intersection of these two groups lead her to write four books about places to walk and hike in the Capital Region of New York. Each guide contains directions, trail maps, plant and geological information on the county’s natural areas.
Claire was a self taught lichenologist and became curator of lichens at the New York State Museum and was the first director for the American Bryological and Lichenological Society Lichen Exchange. She co-published several research papers on lichens and bryophytes.
Claire’s keen interest in nature, science, and history were infectious to everyone who knew her. Her children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and friends will recall times spent with Claire on nature walks examining the flora and fauna; gazing through a telescope at the moon, planets, stars and nebulae; and peering at paramecium, amoebas, and hydra under her microscope.
Her passion for the natural world included her involvement as Board member of the Eastern New York Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, Chairman and member of the Schenectady County Environmental Advisory Council and Memberships in The Adirondack Mountain Club, Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, Lake George Land Conservancy, American Bryological and Lichenological Society, New York State Museum Institute Board, Schenectady Museum Board, WMHT Board of Trustees, Lake George Association, and The First Unitarian Society of Schenectady. “The Claire K. Schmitt Trail” at the Indian Kill Nature Preserve in Glenville, NY was named in her honor.
Claire and her husband Roland funded scholarships at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY, and Union College in Schenectady, NY.
Claire was predeceased by her husband Roland on March 31 of this year. She is survived by her four children Larry (Becky), Brian (Alice), Alice (Clark), and Henry (Katherine) as well as her 14 grandchildren, five great grandchildren and family members Kelley Brockmann and Charlotte Calhoun.
Claire would wish donations in lieu of flowers to be made to
Lake George Land Conservancy
ECOS (Environmental Clearinghouse of Schenectady)