Warwick has been formed by generations of strong and creative women. Pat McConnell was one of the brightest and passionate of this sisterhood. Pat’s legacy is the very valley we know and love. Her early work with the Warwick Conservation Board defined the importance of environmental awareness and land preservation. The “Open Space Inventory and Index” was the clarion call to Warwick and the need to preserve and protect our lands. This sparked advocacy for appropriate land use that would not destroy our rural character and the eventual land preservation program that has shaped the Warwick landscape. After earning a second degree in Environmental Studies, Pat taught as an adjunct professor at Ramapo College still furthering her impact on a field that on a municipal level, was still at its early stages.
Pat was given praise and recognition for her hard work; the 1977 Jaycee’s Citizen of the Year and the Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Award are just a sample of the accolades she received during her lifetime As Chair of the Warwick Conservation Board and President of the NYS Association of Conservation Commissions, it was clear her effectiveness in a leadership role.
Pat’s love for Warwick was also exemplified in her commitment to the Warwick Historical Society. She was president from 2009 – 2012. Under her tenure, many important things occurred – the move and protection of the former UAME Church, the creation of a new headquarters at the former library, now The Buckbee Center, the development of the Photo and Manuscript Archive as well as the remarkable Costume and Textile Collection, and the beginning of a major restoration of the Shingle House.
Working with Pat on these many initiatives was always an experience that I personally appreciated and relished. She had so much knowledge and grasp of any issue and gave so much to the task at hand. When I see our valley, I see it through her eyes and through her lifetime of good work; it is the views of farmland undisturbed and productive. On a summer day with the entwined fragrance of hay and linden trees and from any high perch to look at this rich mosaic of farms and open space, I will think of this strong but humble woman. She captured the love of place, of Warwick, in a lifetime of positive and meaningful actions. It is with sadness and gratitude we say goodbye. Thank you, Pat, for these remarkable gifts.