Jan Ketelle believes in keeping tradition alive. A folk dancer and singer of long-standing religious a cappella music, Jan follows in her father’s footsteps by caring for nature. While growing up in Tennessee, Jan accompanied her dad on service trips to the Smoky Mountains where they cleared portions of the Appalachian trail of trees and brush.
“That was the start of a lifetime of volunteering outdoors,” Jan says.
Now Jan is one of The Nature Conservancy’s most active volunteers in Wisconsin. For almost two decades, she has pulled garlic mustard in the Baraboo Hills, cut cedar trees at Spring Green Prairie and collected prairie seed in the Military Ridge Prairie Heritage Area (MRPHA). She is a member of the Baraboo Hills Stewardship Committee and conducts essential surveys of rare plant and animal species every summer at MRPHA.
Jan first joined the Conservancy after she received prescribed burn training from a Conservancy leader while volunteering to preserve Wisconsin’s Ice Age National Scenic Trail. She continues to perform prescribed burns on various Conservancy sites as well as with The Prairie Enthusiasts.
Jan has done some of everything with the Conservancy and values the variety of activities it provides for volunteers. But above all, she enjoys working with the organization because of the people.
“The support and camaraderie of my fellow volunteers make the hard work we do fun,” Jan says. “It has been wonderful getting to know so many kind and generous people who are just as passionate about preserving the environment as I am.”
Since retiring from nursing last year, Jan has expanded her involvement with the Conservancy, saying she’s busier in retirement than when she worked. She also donates her time and medical expertise to Hospice and the Dane County District One ambulance service out of Mazomanie/Black Earth.
Steve Richter, the Conservancy’s director of conservation for southwest Wisconsin, praises Jan’s dedication to giving.
“It seems like Jan spends all of her free time on the land with us or helping the community by volunteering with other organizations. The Conservancy is forever grateful for her positive, easy-going attitude and her consistent devotion to conservation.”