Hester Schwarzer is a finalist at the Green Source DFW Sustainable Leadership Awards to be held Nov. 9 at the Dallas Arboretum. Photo courtesy of Paul Knudsen Photography.

Nov. 8, 2017

A lifetime of volunteering and sharing her knowledge has earned an Arlington retired teacher a place in the finals of the Green Source DFW Sustainable Leadership Awards. Hester Schwarzer, along with other environmental leaders, will be recognized for their service Thursday night at the Dallas Arboretum.

Growing up on an East Texas farm, Schwarzer learned to relish and respect nature in equal measures. Her family planted and raised most of their own food and the children could tell a mushroom that was good to eat from one that could kill you. Farming involved a lot of hard work but outdoors play more than made up for it. Then marriage and motherhood took Hester to Colorado for 30 years, where she enjoyed hiking and backpacking in the Rockies and still had time to earn a college degree with a double major in education and environmental science.

Back in Texas, Hester taught first through eighth grades in both public and private schools; she says middle school students were her favorite. In the 1980s she began volunteering one day per month at the Fort Worth Nature Center, and as president of the Fort Worth Reading Association she was frequently asked to give natural history presentations to various academic entities. Along the way, Hester met Dotty Woodson, who was then Tarrant County Extension Agent, and together they created a local Junior Master Gardener program.

One day at a meeting of the local Audubon Society chapter Hester met a kindred soul, Molly Hollar, who immediately recruited her to help in the Arlington Wildscape that now bears her name. Thus began a lifelong friendship and a catalogue of volunteer activities by Hester that defies belief.

Before and since her retirement from teaching, Hester has been an active volunteer, board member or officer in a long list of environmental organizations: Friends of Fort Worth Nature Center (registrar for the monthly Canoe Fest); River Legacy Science Center (Saturday information desk); North Texas Master Naturalists (former president); North Texas Master Gardeners (teaching classes as propagation specialist, gardening specialist, and first responders/triage); North Central chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas (former president); Native Prairies Association of Texas (former registrar); BRIT (assists with special events); the Molly Hollar Wildscape (greenhouse manager, Walk on the Wildside leader); and Arlington Conservation Council (active member, assists with special events).

Hester claims her favorite activity is to teach propagation of cacti and succulents, but most rewarding is to work with children, from kindergarden to middle school. Somehow this indefatigable polio survivor still finds time and energy to run a children's garden at a Fort Worth community center and to take in rescued dogs; her crutches are never idle.

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