WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.— At 99-years-old, Sam Postlethwait has seen much of the world, but his favorite sight is right outside his apartment window at University Place overlooking the Celery Bog Nature Area.
Postlethwait, a retired Purdue University botany professor, is known for guiding tours of the Celery Bog on Tuesdays that were organized by a former employee of University Place about 10 years ago.
On Monday, however, the retired botanist will celebrate a milestone in his life many do not get to see: his 100th birthday.
Postlethwait hasn’t gotten out yet this year to lead his tours due to mobility issues, but he said he still wants people to get out and see the Celery Bog Nature Area for what it is: a local treasure.
“It is incredible that we have this right here in our city, and the only way you can understand this treasure is by a routine walk,” he said. “And then you see life. You see life starting and you see life continuing and you see life ending, and you begin to understand living things interacting in nature.”
Every morning, Postlethwait wakes up and looks out his window at the three different ecosystems before him: the prairie, the woods the celery bog. On his walks, he documents the changes and life forms he sees with the Nikon camera that hangs around his neck, creating booklets filled with photos collected from each years’ time.
The overall message Postlethwait said he has tried to relay in his 10 years of giving the tours was to simply “look at life and see how life really happens.
“A spider’s life is not much different than ours,” he said. “If I live, something has to die. We cannot live without things dying.”
Postlethwait said he and his late wife, Sara, came to live at University Place more than 15 years ago, after he taught freshman botany for 35 years at Purdue. He and his wife were married for 69 years before her death in 2010, he said.
He has had the pleasure of leading an incredible life, Postlethwait said, and continues to do so by surrounding himself with people and local organizations that have uplifted him.
“Everyone is going to have this section of their lives when they get to a certain age,” he said. “To have spent it here at University Place with all of the good people here, and to have had eight years here with my Sara has just been wonderful.”
What continues to drive him forward, Postlethwait said, is his desire to see people out enjoying the Celery Bog in all its glory.
“When you walk the trail, you see life and begin to understand it,” he said. “If you can see the life within other organisms relating to your own life, then you may truly get to know something about life.”
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