Dorothy Riester: Artist, preservationist, mentor

Dorothy Riester was born in the rolling Pennsylvania hills just north of Pittsburgh. Her house sat up high, surrounded by trees. As a young girl, she played in that forest, building tree houses, running among the underbrush. She took the trolley into the city for school every day, and says everyone knew her and her name.

Almost 80 years have passed, and Dorothy still lives on a hilltop. She still designs houses, but they've evolved from children's playhouses to her home. She's moved three times, but everyone in her town still knows her name.

Dorothy has been a fixture in the town of Cazenovia since Sept. 11, 1958, when she and her husband Bob responded to an advertisement in the Sunday paper. They already had a house in the city of Syracuse, and were looking to find a spot for a summer home. The ad read "23 acres -- scenic -- Cazenovia." Those 23 acres would eventually grow to 85 by the mid-1980s and now to the 100-plus acres upon which the Stone Quarry Hill Art Park sits. The park, established in 1991, was one of the first of its kind: An outdoor sculpture park.

"Stone Quarry is one of our town treasures," said Liz Moran, Cazenovia Town Supervisor.

Well known

The founder of the park is just as admired and well known as the park itself.

"Dorothy is one of the loveliest people I've ever met," said June Hadley, who volunteers at the park. "Not just because of the things she's done, but because she's a delightful person. She's amazing. The whole village knows Dorothy."

Nicki Palmer, manager of the park's gift shop and a volunteer since 2000, tells a typical Dorothy story. On her first trip to the park, Nicki wanted to explore the trails.

"It was mid-winter, and it was snowing," Palmer said. "The park manager and I put on snowshoes to walk around. Dorothy, who was about 85 then, said 'Well, I'll come with you' and strapped on her own old set of snowshoes. I couldn't believe her. She's been my mentor -- both as an artist and as an older woman. She never complains, and she always looks for the brightest possible side."

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