Shirley Schue, November 05, 2015

Title

Shirley Schue, November 05, 2015

Subject

Environmental Activism
Cherry Valley, NY
Sustainability
Conservation
Fracking
Natural Gas Pipeline
Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital
Rural Healthcare
Environment and Health
Rural Community
Local Farming

Description

Shirley Schue is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner at Bassett Medical Center and an active environmentalist. She was born in a small town in Virginia to two parents who were educators. After graduating from Virginia Tech, Shirley moved with her husband, Keith, to Orlando, Florida, where they lived for the next twenty years. Shirley and Keith relocated to Cherry Valley, New York in 2010 after visiting the area on vacation. Both Keith and Shirley are highly conscious of environmental concerns such as fracking (high-volume hydraulic fracturing) and natural gas pipelines and both actively work to preserve the environment.

Although at the time of this interview, Governor Cuomo had recently banned fracking in New York State, it is still a major concern of Shirley and many other environmentalists. Fracking involves releasing natural gas from the earth by shooting high-pressure water and chemicals into the ground. Concerns regarding contamination and wastefulness have arisen surrounding the issue of fracking. In addition, Shirley discusses natural gas pipelines and their corresponding compressor stations, which are set to expand their operations in upstate New York. These pipelines are run by large natural gas companies, such as Dominion Transmission Inc., and are used to move natural gas supplies across the East Coast.

Many of Shirley’s environmental actions stem from her concerns for people and their well-being. Her approach to environmentalism is personal and community-centered. She emphasizes the importance of one-on-one connections and leading by example in bringing about change. In addition, as both an environmentalist and a health care professional, Shirley has an invaluable perspective on the effects of the environment on people’s health. Her insights on how issues such as fracking, natural gas pipelines, and pollution have affected the people of this area are particularly interesting.

I interviewed Shirley in her home in Cherry Valley. As it is an older home, some creaking and footsteps can be heard in the recording. In order to increase readability in the transcript, I have deleted false starts and fillers. In some cases, I have added words in brackets for clarity.

Creator

Christine Scales

Publisher

Cooperstown Graduate Program, State University of New York-College at Oneonta

Date

2015-11-05

Rights

Cooperstown Graduate Association, Cooperstown, NY

Format

audio/mpeg
27.5mB
audio/mpeg
24.7mB
image/jpeg
6.1mB

Language

en-US

Type

Sound
Image
Text

Identifier

15-016

Coverage

Upstate New York
1965-2015
Dansville, VA
Orlando, FL
Cherry Valley, NY

Interviewer

Christine Scales

Interviewee

Shirley Schue

Location

9 Maple Avenue
Cherry Valley, NY

Transcription

Cooperstown Graduate Program
Oral History Project Fall 2015

SS = Shirley Schue
CS = Christine Scales

[START OF TRACK 1, 0:00]

CS:
This is the November 5th 2015 interview of Shirley Schue by Christine Scales for the Cooperstown Graduate Program’s CGP Community Stories recorded at Shirley’s home in Cherry Valley, New York. So Shirley, can you tell me a little bit about the place where you grew up?
SS:
I grew up in Danville, Virginia. It’s a small town right on the border of Virginia and North Carolina. I have a twin sister and a brother who’s two years older and my mom and dad, so it was five of us. It was a small, suburban area, but it was a nice family place. I enjoyed growing up, it was a nice childhood. We didn’t have any big yard or anything, but we knew everyone in the neighborhood, so it was nice.

CS:

So you had a very close community?

SS:

Yes, we knew everyone on the block and you could go anywhere and you knew people, so you didn’t feel unsafe.


CS:
And what was that like? How do you think it shaped you as you grew up into the person you are now?
SS:
Well, I think my parents and my family, especially my father. My father was a principal and my mother was a teacher, so community was important to them. They knew everyone, and they taught a lot of the families. My dad was such a good role model and so was my mom, but especially my father. He made family really, really important. He was our Sunday school teacher, he was the person that we knew when he came home we all had dinner together as a family and then we would all either play games or go outside and dad would throw a ball or we would go for a walk or ride our bikes and my dad would be there. My mom some too, but my mom worked and came home and she was tired. She did the cooking, but my dad did the cleaning. My dad did a lot of things maybe not so many other husbands did. They both worked though so that we could have vacations and do things. Most moms when I was growing up did not work, so it was a little unusual to have my mom work, but I guess that probably influenced me too, having both parents work. My parents instilled a very strong work ethic, and education was really important, especially since they were both teachers. Both of my parents were the first to go to college in their families. My dad was one of two children, my mom was one of eleven, but my dad’s parents were immigrants from Greece. My grandmother never got an education, not even elementary school, so education was really important. So I guess all three of us knew when we were little that we were going to grow up and go to college.
CS:
What was it like having a mom that worked when a lot of other moms you knew didn’t work at the time?
SS:
Well, I think it made a little more stress sometimes. I knew other kids’ moms, and they didn’t really know my mom, they knew my father. The other thing was that my mother didn’t drive, so my father did the driving. So when we went to Girl Scouts or somewhere, my dad was the one [taking us], where most of my friends it was their mother driving them or their mother taking them. So I knew most of the other kids’ mothers and they did not know mine very well, and they all knew my dad. I guess it just made it a little different, but I appreciated her working. My dad would say things like “This is why we can go on a family vacation this summer, because your mom works.” And my mother always wanted to be a teacher as a small child. Like I said, she was one of eleven and the first one to go to college, so being a teacher was important to her, and she loved it. She taught 32 years.
CS:
What was it like having two parents who were both educators?
SS:
As far as putting pressure on us, they didn’t really. We were all pretty independent, they didn’t study with us or anything. I mean, they expected us to do well and expected us to turn our homework in and they expected us to be good students, but we turned out well. My brother was valedictorian, my mother was valedictorian, I was valedictorian, and my sister was salutatorian, so I think we all did pretty well. [laughs] It was a small school, so it’s not like a huge school, but I guess we thought it was pretty cool in a small family to have that. And my father did not do very well in high school at all, but my dad was interested in sports, not school. And he’d be the first one to tell you that education was not important to his parents. He lived for sports. So it wasn’t at all important to him. He went to college because he wanted to play sports. Then he got sports injuries and had to drop out of college so my dad joined the Air Force. And it was really in the Air Force that my dad learned the importance of education, so he took some college courses. Then when he did go back, he did graduate with honors. But he did that after he got married. And he became a teacher and he taught drivers ed and phys ed, and he was a coach also, because sports really was my dad’s love. So he got to do both, he got to teach and be a coach. It’s kind of cool, it comes full circle, my nephew goes to the school where my dad was a coach and assistant principal, and my brother is the football coach there now, so it’s kind of neat. It’s very small, it’s Chatham High School in Virginia, but it’s pretty cool. I’ve been to a couple games where my brother’s the coach and remembered being a little kid watching my dad coach that same school, same field.
CS:
Tell me a little more about your dad. He was the son of immigrants?
SS:
Yeah, they were from Greece. My grandfather was from Athens. My grandmother came from the Peloponnesian Mountains, and her family was big and they could not afford to bring all their children at one time, so they brought my grandmother when she was seven. Her brother who was twelve went from New York City to Athens, picked up his two sisters who were nine and seven. My husband found the records on Ellis Island, so you can see a twelve year old, nine year old, and seven year old on a boat by themselves crossing the Atlantic. So my grandmother came to Manchester, New Hampshire and met my grandfather and both were working. My grandfather was self-educated, he taught himself English. He was very smart. He would go to silent movies and write down the words and go home and look them up in a Greek-English dictionary. He also did the same with the newspaper. So he could read and write. My grandmother could not read or write, but she could speak English and Greek. So my dad was born in that family. They were both very hard workers. They ran a restaurant, so they had very, very long hours, like five in the morning until midnight. That’s why they didn’t really have time to pay attention to what my dad was doing and whether he was going to school and paying attention, because they were too busy trying to provide. So it wasn’t stressed or important in their house. The sad thing was they never got to see my dad play in any of his games, and given that he was good enough to get college scholarships, it was always kind of a sad thing for him that they never made any of his games. So he never missed a game of my brother’s, or even a practice for that matter. My brother played high school football and did very well, they were state champions his senior year. But my dad would be up in the bleachers, even when they were practicing, watching.
CS:
So your father played football?
SS:
He did, football and baseball. He played baseball in the Air Force, actually. He struck out a few major league baseball players. He loved it. He loved being in the Air Force, he loved playing baseball, and he got to do both. [laughs] He got to fly to Germany and play baseball, and he was stationed in England. Then he came back to the states and got married and left the Air Force, and that’s when he went back to college and married my mom. So my dad was, in case you can’t tell, a very important influence in my life.
[TRACK 1, 8:35]
CS:
Tell me a little bit about how you ended up in Cherry Valley.
SS:
Well, I met my husband at the University of Virginia, so he and I got married. My husband’s an engineer so he got a job in Florida, so I moved to Florida to be with him. And then we lived there almost 20 years, and I was getting tired of Florida and the heat and the traffic. I did a long commute, and after a while that gets really old and tiring. So we came up to upstate New York on vacation and I just really fell in love with it. My dad had been to Cooperstown and played baseball for the Baseball Hall of Fame, because he was a baseball player. And he loved it, so he talked to me about it. I never came with my father, but he told me about Cooperstown over many conversations. So when my dad was talking about it once, I saw it on the map when Keith and I came on vacation and it was an hour south of the southern Adirondacks and I said, “Keith, we need to go to Cooperstown.” And my husband’s like “What? Cooperstown? What is Cooperstown?” And I said, “Well, it’s a special place to my dad.” So he said, “Okay, we’ll go.” So we spent an entire day there. This was September 17th weekend in 2009. And I had a feeling inside that this just feels right. So I contacted [Mary Imogene] Bassett [Hospital], and within a week they contacted me and said, “We have a full time Pediatric Nurse Practitioner position if you’re available, would you like to interview?” And I was like “Wow.” [laughs] So a couple months later, I interviewed and decided to accept the position and I’ve been here five and a half years. We found Cherry Valley because it’s near Cooperstown and my husband was into renovating and we wanted to buy something to renovate that could be his project. So that’s why we picked Cherry Valley, we found the house that was just right for us and not far from Cooperstown. I didn’t want a long commute anymore, and 20 minutes is not bad. And we like it.
CS:
So what was that like for you, sort of a whirlwind of feeling you need to be in this place then all of a sudden you’re here?
SS:
Well, actually I kind of took it as an opportunity to start again. For us, it was our 20th year of marriage, so it was kind of funny being in boxes again and renting again, and we just sort of took it like that, sort of reminiscent, here we are starting again, and it was a fun thing instead of a stressful thing. And my husband looked around and he was the one trying to find us a place, but everything really did just sort of work out. So yes, it was the most spontaneous thing I’ve ever done, it was the most different thing I’ve ever done, but I’m very glad. My husband, I really give him a lot of credit because he’s the reason we went to Florida, and so he told me, “Well you lived in Florida those 20 years for me, I can move to New York for you.” So I thought that was pretty cool, and we’re both happy. I asked him not too long ago actually, “Are you glad we moved?” And he said, “Yes, I am.”
CS:
What are some of the main differences of living here versus living in Orlando?
SS:
I think there are a lot of differences, and I think it also depends on where you are in your life. For example, someone who’s younger might want more social life, and at this point in my life, I’m 50. I decided that I didn’t need Walmarts and shopping centers and big stores. I like this, it’s peaceful, it’s quiet, we have nice neighbors, it’s rural. I have a CSA [Community Supported Agriculture] that brings vegetables to my door in the summertime, I have an apple orchard five minutes away, we have a maple syrup farm five miles away, we have an organic blueberry farm right outside of Cooperstown, there’s an amazing farmer’s market in Cooperstown. I like that I can buy local produce, I can buy local things and have just a more simple life and not so complicated and I’m not spending so much time in a car, and I have time to know people. When I go to the grocery store, I actually know someone, when I go to Orlando, I didn’t. All of your friends live far away, so even though we worked together, they lived 45 minutes to an hour away from me, so it’s not the same sense of community and I like that here. If someone needs something, people jump in and they have a fundraiser and everybody comes together and helps, so I like that very much. One of the first fundraisers I came to was for the Cherry Valley Clinic, and they have two Nurse Practitioners there so they were like two of the first people I met. I thought one, it was very cool they had Nurse Practitioners running it, two, it was neat to have a community-based health clinic. Bassett has many health centers, but Cherry Valley is the only [one that’s] community run. Bassett pays the employees, but the village actually owns the health center, so I thought that was pretty cool.
CS:
You mentioned you like to buy local produce and that sort of thing. Can you talk a little more about that?
SS:
Well, there are a lot of local farms here that I didn’t realize until I moved here. But you can buy local—my husband’s vegetarian—so vegetables. It’s less harsh on the environment, you’re not taking things from California and the gas and the expense, so I feel better buying local. I know where it came from, I know the farmers sometimes where it came from, I know I’m helping them. For the longest time—for four years—we had our milk dropped off at our door from the local dairy in glass bottles. They just stopped doing that a few months ago. But he had a milk truck. For me, it’s come back to helping community and local people. Our neighbor does a garden, that’s where we do our CSA, but I get fresh vegetables—a whole variety—very inexpensive compared to Orlando where everything is very expensive and most things were not from local farms and you didn’t know where things came from, and you had big grocery stores. I don’t know, there’s just something about knowing the lady at Painted Goat who sells the cheese, I know where I get my vegetables from. For me, it meant a lot, and it still means a lot. I think sometimes people here take that for granted, and don’t necessarily realize what an asset that is. I like that we still have small rural farms, and I know that they work really hard to keep their farms going. So I like buying, as much as I can I do. Honey, eggs, milk, and my produce. I feel pretty fortunate to live here.
[TRACK 1, 15:48]
CS:
So transitioning into more environmental things, I was wondering if you could talk a bit more on your feelings of the land of this area, specifically.
SS:
I like the fact that we’re near the Catskills and the Adirondacks. Some of those lands are protected, which is important to me. When my husband [and I] lived in Florida, we really started to learn more about the environment and how precious it is, and what our natural resources are and how important it is to protect them. Sometimes, unfortunately, I think many people in society, we’re so busy living our lives that we don’t stop and think about some important things. We’re going to school, we’re going to soccer practice, but we’re not really caring about the environment. I really got an appreciation for all things and creatures and animals and plants and realized that I didn’t even know plants could be endangered. So knowing wildlife can be endangered, and that really it’s direct of humans, it’s the actions we choose. I’m not as big of an environmental activist as my husband, but it’s super important to me, and I really do try to make choices in my life based on that. It’s hard to do everything, but I really do feel that whatever we can do [we should]. And I feel a lot of people here feel the same way, where I don’t feel that way in Florida. So it’s another part of me that makes it more accepting to live here among people who feel the same way. I know more people who have solar panels on their house here in New York than I did in Florida, and I find that pretty sad. I have a friend who’s lived off the grid for 30 years here and those kinds of things impress me. I mean, it’s not easy and she hasn’t had an easy life. We take a washer and dryer for granted. She just got the first dryer she’s ever had. She cooks on a wood stove. I have a lot of admiration for that. Now, I’m not quite like that but I do everything I can do when I have a choice. If I can pick something local, I’m going to pick something local. If I can ride the bus, I often ride the bus to work and do local public transportation. When I can buy something that’s recycled paper, I buy recycled paper. I recycle everything I can. I try not to buy the plastic in the first place. It’s just an awareness. I think it becomes part of who you are once you become that. So if you find a place where people are like that and trying really hard to be solar, to recycle, to reduce the harmful things we’re doing to the planet, then it’s still sort of depressing in the big picture, but in the smaller picture you know people are trying, and it energizes you to keep going because they’re doing it too. Instead of getting depressed and saying, “How much difference can one person make?” when each one of us do it and we add it up together, I think it can make an impact. I’m very proud of the community here and their efforts to really try to be more sustainable and push that message of environmentalism and protecting what you have and your natural resources. We have some beautiful woods here. New York has more agriculture than people realize, it’s not just New York City. So I travel upstate whenever we can to see different places. We’ve been to the Catskills, we’ve been to the Adirondacks, we’ve been to the Finger Lakes. None of them are very far away, but they all have amazing natural resources, and I think people are starting to realize that and realize that upstate New York has a lot to offer. So I’m proud to live here. It was a really, really good decision. I hope that answers your question.
CS:
Yeah, absolutely. What are some of the challenges, you think, of sustainable living and being environmentally conscious?
SS:
There are many challenges. One of the problems up here that I never even thought about was natural gas. In Florida, natural gas wasn’t a big issue, but up here, when we first moved here, fracking [was an issue]. I didn’t even know what it was, then I started learning about fracking. Fracking is taking high-volume, high-pressure toxic chemicals and putting it in the ground. So you contaminate the ground water maybe for hundreds of years, who knows. Most of them are odorless and tasteless. I saw some documentaries that were made in Pennsylvania, which is really close, and how it affected people. They couldn’t even drink their own water or take a shower without getting sick. They had to have barrels—and they still to this day have barrels—where they have water delivered every day. That made a real impact. You can’t take what we have for granted when we see that, and it was a big threat here, and it still may be a future threat. Temporarily Governor Cuomo has banned hydraulic fracking, but a lot of places are still doing it and it’s how we get natural gas. And then they’re shipping natural gas all over the world now and using upstate New York to put compression stations and pipelines because they have to move the gas. It is threatening what we have here. There’s a compression station my husband’s trying desperately to get the emissions reduced. It’s only five or six miles from here. That can have a huge impact for the local farmers here. Some of them have worked so hard to become organic farmers, then they may have toxins get in their water, their air and make their families sick, their cows sick. So it’s having more of a local impact, it’s not just something far away. I think everyone would be better if we all knew and we were all more educated on the subject. I think that people are starting to become more educated up here, especially as it becomes closer to them. But that’s something that’s of a big concern. That’s why I’m so excited by the people who use solar and wind, because it doesn’t have a negative impact on climate change or global warming and it’s more sustainable for the future. I think our children deserve that.
CS:
How did you start getting involved with environmental activism?
SS:
Well, it started in Florida when my husband and I got married. He has a big heart for animals, and he’s an engineer. He came home and he said, “I feel like you make a difference in health care, but I design telephones.” And I said, “Well then why don’t you do some volunteer work?” and he’s like “Okay.” So I said, “There’s a zoo down the road, why don’t you try there. Start there. You like animals, and I’m sure they could use some help.” So he became a docent, which is a teaching volunteer, and as he started to learn about the animals, that’s when he started to learn about species of special concern and endangered species and threatened species. They were all around us, and as development encroached upon them we were losing them. And Keith was like, “I can’t be a docent anymore and just teach future generations. I have to start trying to save these things now or they won’t be here when these kids grow up.” And even though we don’t have children of our own, it was important to us to try to make a difference. So we both, especially him, he left engineering and dedicated his time completely to some local environmental groups—the friends of the Wekiva River and the Sierra Club—and really became instrumental in saving some lands. Because we found out that if you have a beautiful river system, which Florida does, and it’s spring fed, if you don’t save the surrounding area then the aquifer doesn’t get recharged and the springs will die. So he started really getting some legislation passed and it wasn’t just Keith, but Keith was very passionate and very involved. And we got thousands of acres protected along the Wekiva River corridor between the Ocala National Forest and the Wekiva River. He also helped stop a marina that was going to be a mass of a marina near a manatee sanctuary, which would have been horrible to have manatees there where boats and propellers can hurt them or kill manatees. We did have some success. It’s challenging, though, because you win something today and you might lose it tomorrow, so you have to keep each other going and refresh and remind yourselves why it’s important and keep doing it. But that’s really where my environmental awareness came from. So many people come to Florida like we did for the sunshine, but if you don’t live in Florida, you may not realize how important it is to save Florida, especially natural Florida, and there is a disconnect that people have. So educating kids is important, but educating adults too, and letting them see nature and learn about nature, because if you don’t love it and you’re not knowledgeable about it then you don’t care about it and you won’t do anything to protect it. We were the same way, and then we sort of changed who we are and how we live.
CS:
So what’s it like being married to a full-time activist?
SS:
It can be challenging. He works nonstop. I mean, my husband works 60-80 hours a week, sometimes until 3 or 4 in the morning. And you think, “What could he be doing?” Well, he’s reviewing documents. He’s a technical advisor for a lot of people because it’s very hard to read through these 500 page reports or deal with FERC [Federal Energy Regulatory Commission]. He meets with local politicians, he meets with local residents. Today he spent time putting up solar panels on an Amish farm where they are doing some air quality monitoring near the compression station that’s going to be expanded that I was telling you about earlier, so that we can try to monitor the emissions and know when they’re getting bad and hopefully help people keep from getting sick. So anyway, he spends a lot of his time doing that. But there are other people, so he’s not alone here. There are other people working hard with him. And that also helps keep him going. In Florida it felt more alone. It’s tough when you have someone who’s gone a lot, someone who is on the phone a lot. And so I make him take breaks, so that we can have some time together. I think in any relationship you need to do that because otherwise you would drift apart or he would spend so much time away that we wouldn’t be close, so I don’t let that happen. And if I see that he’s getting tired or exhausted, I’ll tell him to back off a little bit and just sort of try to protect one another. But no, it’s not always easy, but I’m very proud of him. So there’s a part of you that’s like yes, I’m giving up some stuff, but I’m really proud of what he’s doing, and I want to encourage him and help him because he needs support too. It’s not easy, what he does. I think it’s a lot easier when someone is doing something that’s not so hard and not so stressful. And your family doesn’t always understand either. It’s a different generation, and his parents don’t completely understand. If they call and I say, “He’s in a meeting,” they’re like “Another meeting?” and well, that’s a lot of what he does. But I love him, I’m proud of him, I think we have a good life and it’s worth protecting. And he does things that I feel uncomfortable doing and wouldn’t want to do. I’ve gone to some rallies, I do write letters, I make phone calls. But he’s really in there. I mean, he goes and meets with the local officials and really tries to do what he can to make change, to make good change. Which is tough, because you literally have to fight it on every level. Right now we have an administration that is pro-natural gas, on every level, local, state, and federal, so it’s pretty tough. But you take one project at a time and you do the best that you can to try and help the people that you can and at least when you go to bed at night you can feel that you did everything you could and you can live with yourself.
CS:
So what do you see as your role in his work?
SS:
Supporting him. Going to meetings when I can, making phone calls, writing letters, making sure he has dinner, keeping track of his meetings, and also making sure that he has a little time for himself and to enjoy the things he tries to protect. I think it’s important, it also renews you and then you have more energy to do it. But I think as a wife my job’s to do that too. And it’s important because otherwise you get very burned out. And if you get burnt out, then you don’t help the cause that you’re fighting for. So it’s tough, and I wouldn’t say that it’s easy, but it’s worth it.
[START OF TRACK 2, 0:00]
CS:
So you mentioned a compression station? I’m wondering if you can talk a little bit more about that.
SS:
There’s a natural gas compression station, as I mentioned. When you have a pipeline, you have to have compression stations that push the gas. Dominion, a Virginia company, has a power line and they’re proposing two new compression stations and expansion of one that’s near us in one of these massive projects to move gas from Pennsylvania to Canada. So at Brookman’s Corners, which is five or six miles from us, which is a very rural area and very, very beautiful—it’s in the Mohawk Valley surrounded by Amish farms and organic dairy farms—this compression station is small right now and people don’t even notice because it doesn’t really produce much pollution. But the expansion is massive. It will go from 7,000 horsepower to 18,000 horsepower and produce about—Keith would be better with the numbers—but about 200,000 tons of CO2 and methane. And also Benzynes and VOCs [volatile organic compounds], which are really toxic. Benzyne causes cancer. So these are some pretty awful chemicals and byproducts of a compression station. And they leak and they have to do what’s called “blowdowns” where they really blow out the pipe. Anyway, people who live close by can certainly get negative health impacts. So what he’s trying to do is make the emissions not so bad. And there’s simple things that Dominion can do to reduce those emissions. They can put a trapping system and they can trap some of the methane so more doesn’t get released into the atmosphere. They can do sort of like a catalyst in your car that converts. And they can make better technology that wouldn’t cost them any more money. So my husband is really pushing for those changes along with other people who live in that community and people he’s now come to know and he wants to make sure he’s done everything he can to help them not get sick. One of the people who has property right beside it has spent 10 years renovating a house like ours that they wanted to turn into their retirement home, and they don’t know if they can. So it matters to us. It’s hard to sleep at night if you worry are they going to get sick, are they going to be able to retire here? They’ve spent so much money and time and energy and they have a right to that. So it’s tough, and you never know if you’re going to win or lose, but I’m very proud of him for trying and all of the work he’s doing.
CS:
It seems like a lot of your environmentalism stems from very personal connections with people. Can you talk a little more about that?
SS:
Yeah, absolutely. When you get to know, especially my husband, he knows many of the local residents, and knows the Amish farms and knows the organic dairy farmer, and knows his friend right there beside it—who is now our friend. I mean, they’re desperately trying to reduce the emissions, so they won’t get sick and they and their children and family won’t get cancer. The Amish family, I mean they live off the land. They couldn’t be more impacted by something like that. And many of them don’t come to community meetings and don’t give their voice, so they need someone to have a voice for them. They’ve turned some farms that were destitute into working farms again. It’s not easy having a farmer’s life. So those personal connections, yeah. I mean, Keith goes down, and as I said today, was helping some Amish farmers put up solar panels on their farm, because they don’t have electricity. So you can’t exactly monitor the pollution with a device that needs electricity. Anyway, I think it’s building relationships and a sense of community, and I think the people realize how hard he’s trying and really respond to him better. He can’t do it alone; it’s their community so they have to help him. But it’s hard for people like that to understand some of the tactical things, and Keith can understand the turbines and the different technology, which I can’t even describe. And he understands it very well and can be an advocate for them, so they depend on him. When you go meet with someone—your local politician for example or your local town board or your local planning board—you have to know what you’re talking about, and many of them don’t. But Keith does, so Keith goes with them and he helps talk about the different choices they make, it can be this is less polluting, it’s not any more expensive, this technology’s what should be used. So that’s not pleasant, going and spending every Thursday night at a planning board or every Monday night at a town board, and he’s been to all the different town boards. Because it affects more than just the little community. And that pipeline runs a long ways. The other two compression stations are in the same county, Montgomery County, so those residents are concerned too. So yeah, it is personal and I care for those children as patients. So I care too. I know what it’s like, I had a friend who had a son with cancer here and he was diagnosed with Leukemia. For two years, he had to go to New York City every single weekend for two years for chemotherapy. It was expensive, it was a lot of travel, it was painful, and I don’t want to see anyone go through that, especially when I know we can try to make it better. I don’t think a kid should ever have to have Leukemia if we could help it. So that’s what keeps me involved in it. Again, your health professionals and your local town officials don’t know what that’s like. But when you live in a rural community, you don’t have Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital down the block like I did in Orlando, and these people have to go a long ways. And for someone who’s Amish, who doesn’t even have a car or health insurance, I can’t even imagine what something like that would do to a family like that. So I hope it doesn’t come to that. It’s real consequences. And the thing is, it may not happen right now, but over time those emissions, if people are exposed to those over long periods of time, that’s when you really have to be—so if we can make it better and make it less polluting, it’s not just the environmental impact, it’s the human impact that matters.
CS:
So besides the natural gas and the compression station, which we talked about, what are some of the other causes you’ve been involved with?
SS:
Causes I’ve been involved in or causes I care about?
CS:
Both, yeah.
SS:
It’s hard when you’re a full-time Nurse Practitioner too, and I spend my whole time working, so I don’t have the time to necessarily do a lot of environmental charity things or gift as much as I’d like with my time. But I do try to support them monetarily if I can. Charities that are important to me particularly are ones that affect wildlife and our oceans. I’m really concerned about our oceans and their health. Because of Otsego 2000, a local organization here, they showed a movie of plastics in the ocean. It really, really affected me to see how much plastic’s in the ocean, larger than two times the state of Texas. And it’s killing birds, it’s killing fish. I mean, we’re really destroying our planet at an alarming rate. And then the extinctions, there’s more so now than since dinosaurs. Those are scary things. And then climate change and the effects that I see through more earthquakes, more natural disasters, or worse, more human lives, and we’re going to have more starvation. It seems pretty dire. I mean, I feel like I can’t give enough to those. So I do the action alerts when they come across my computer, I make phone calls whenever I can, I write letters when I can, when I try to give a gift, I try to make it come from the environment or have another environmental side. So I buy an adoption animal from the World Wildlife Fund for my great niece, or I give Body Shop products to my teenage nieces who are using products, because I don’t want them to harm the environment with their makeup and things. I’m trying to teach them to support companies that also do good. I realize as a single individual, there’s only so much you can do. So when I know about corporations, I try to make my Visa—it’s a Visa that helps nonprofits—so I choose to give my money that way. I wish I had more time to give, but I do try to do whatever phone calls or whatever action alerts or whatever money I can do to try to help them. I wish I had more, I think as far as that goes, my husband does more of that, but he does it for both of us because I can’t physically. He helps a lot of charities, even some still in Florida because we lived there 20 years. You don’t stop loving somewhere just because you moved away. I think you do the best you can then you try to influence others because if you make an impact on them and they start, then you have made a positive difference there too. And by living it and modeling it, something as simple as getting a coffee cup that you can use everyday, we can all make a simple difference. So I try to show that to my coworkers, to my family, to my church and try to pass it along.
CS:
Is it frustrating for you to want to do more and just by constraints of time and all that to not be able to?
SS:
Sure. I mean, I wish I had more time. I wish I was financially more successful and I didn’t have to work and I could donate all of my time to charity. My husband and I have said that since we don’t have children, when we die our things will go to charity and causes we believe in because we won’t be here to do it, we would like to make sure that that continues. So while we’re here we’ll do what we can and we’ll help what we can and try to influence our—since we have no children—our nieces, our nephews, our church, our community, and try to make sure that others care too. I think by modeling it you do the best you can, but yes, I wish I had more time.
CS:
So in your experience, how does change come about? What are some of the things that can make a change?
SS:
One person at a time. One person influencing a person at a time. Just like that movie—I don’t know if you saw it—Pay it Forward. Just one simple act of kindness. So when it’s the environment, it’s one simple thing you do whether it’s buy recycled toilet paper or recycle your recyclables or try not to pick up that plastic bottle. So every one of those impacts, if you influence someone else and you talk to them about it. I go into a grocery store and I have my cloth bags, or I put out my credit card that’s for nonprofits and they say, “Oh I like your credit card,” well, it actually does some good, it goes toward charity. Or I walk in a store like Body Shop and say thank you for doing this, and yes I support you. And when I buy it for my nieces, I hope they like it and then buy it too and realize that, again, you have a choice. Every day when you go out and purchase something, or every day when you go to work, or every day when you pick up that coffee cup, use your mug. Or if you walk by a can, pick it up. I think every one of us, by talking about it and showing it and living it, each one of us. I wish I could do a whole community, but I think just by doing one-on-one, then they do one-on-one, I do think it matters, and I do think it shows, and I do think here is an example of that, when I see more people doing it. I see more people using cloth grocery bags, I see more people recycling. Hopefully in the long run, again, if you educate, then people will care. So then you won’t act on things and you’ll hopefully vote, because that’s really what matters. I’ll give you one example. My nephew is a conservative Republican and he just turned 18. I’m obviously more liberal and more Democratic, and he knows my views. I don’t really talk a lot of politics because I don’t really want to be antagonistic, but at the same time I don’t mind if he knows my feelings or what candidate I support. I can always tell you why, which is what’s important to me, I don’t just because he’s a Democrat or because he’s a Republican, I care what his policies are, particularly environmental policies. It was interesting, I got an email from him not long ago and it said, “Dear Aunt Shirley and Uncle Keith, I was at Liberty University and heard Bernie Sanders speak, and I was really impressed. I was wondering what you thought about him.” And that gave me a sense of hope because here’s my nephew who—I know my brother’s a very strong Republican—who’s looking outside of that, and he actually appreciated what Bernie had to say and heard him. And that definitely gave me hope that day. So of course I sent him an email back and said, “Yes, of course, I support Bernie Sanders, his bumper sticker’s on my car.” [laughs] But it gave me hope that maybe I do make a little bit of a difference. Yeah, I think just in that, so we’ll see, but one person at a time.
[TRACK 2, 16:10]
CS:
So I think you have a really unique view as both a healthcare provider and also an environmentalist. I was wondering how you think people’s health and the environment are connected.
SS:
Oh, extremely connected. If you don’t have clean air, clean water, you’re going to have negative health impacts. Especially when you’re exposed to toxins. More studies come out every day showing, for example, fracking causes endocrine disruptors and causes people to get sick and causes more cancer. Those studies are coming out. So hopefully health officials won’t get gagged. Unfortunately there are some states that have gag laws that keep health professionals like me from bringing up negative environmental impacts. You could get sued just for telling the truth, and I find that pretty sad. That has not come to New York, but that’s pretty sad. That, to me, crosses your oath. I took an oath to make people better and I think integrity and honesty are a part of it. So that’s sad, when politics steps in and tells healthcare professionals what they can and can’t do and what they can’t say. That’s scary. That’s the scary side that I didn’t even know until I moved up here. But I think that we have an obligation as a society to protect especially the people most at risk. And who are your most at risk? Your poor people who are more likely to have negative environmental things happen in their neighborhoods. I had friends in Florida who were black who lived in a neighborhood where they were more likely to put a landfill. And the smell and the odor, and they had no way of stopping that. And that happens everywhere. Even in Brookmans Corners, I’m sure that Dominion thought, “I’ve got this small rural community and no one’s going to say anything, no one’s going to fight me.” So your weakest and poorest people are the most effected. That’s why I was so impressed with—changing the subject but—Pope Francis when he came. Because he made that point, and no one could say it better, as far as the negative impacts of climate change and who they will affect the most. And it’s definitely our poor and our disadvantaged. And to me, that’s just not right. We can do better, and we can make better choices and we need to. They depend on us, and I feel obligated to—I became a healthcare professional because I wanted to make people better and I want to make a positive difference. I want people to be healthy and make healthy choices. It’s pretty hard though if you live in an environment where you’re surrounded by negative. So they do matter, health professionals need to speak up more, they need to pay attention more, they need to pay attention to fracking, it needs to be on their radar. And then people also need to put it on their radar that it can affect their health, and it’s not just about money or their jobs, that we’re talking about our health and their family’s health. Yeah, they’re definitely related.
[TRACK 2, 19:57]
CS:
What are some of the things that you like about your work and what you do?
SS:
I like helping families. One of my favorite things is helping a mom breastfeed her newborn and that bond that comes with that. Many moms, they have a baby and they’re out of the hospital in one or two days. They’re tired, they’re medicated or they’re just exhausted from the process. Then they’re too tired and they don’t have the help, so I love when I can come in and show them how to nurse and it doesn’t have to hurt and they can breastfeed their baby and they can do it without crying just with a few tips I can give them. And some of them will say, “I learned more from a visit here than I did the whole time I was in the hospital.” And that makes you feel good, because those are intangible rewards that you get. Or when you have a little kid who comes and hugs you, and you’re the person when their ear hurts, they say “Take me to Shirley!” [laughs] Some of them call me Dr. Shirley, even though I’m not a doctor. But it really melts your heart, those little smiles and hugs. And I’ve been here five and a half years, so I have lots of families that choose to see me and bring their children and their neighbors recommend me to their neighbors and their cousins. That part’s very rewarding.
CS:
How has your experience working here been different from in Orlando?
SS:
Well, in Orlando I was mostly seeing newborns because we had 8,000 deliveries in our hospital, which is the third highest number of deliveries in the nation at the time. I don’t know what the record is now, but that’s a lot of deliveries. So I spent a lot of time with newborns and so I learned a lot about newborns. But when you’re seeing newborns all day long and they’re being born at that rate, I don’t see many of them back too long, so I didn’t have that same opportunity to bond with them like I do now that I’ve been here five and a half years. So when I see a 5-½ year old, I saw you as a newborn and I have literally watched you grow up and know your family. For me, that’s more rewarding. I love that. Even if they don’t remember, their parents do. That’s why I like doing general peds [pediatrics] and why I like being in a rural area. They become dependent on you and you know them by name and they’re not just a face. I think that’s pretty special.
CS:
So, sort of the other side of the coin, what do you think are some of the challenges of rural healthcare?
SS:
Access to specialists, definitely. Especially pediatrics. When I was at Arnold Palmer, I could just call and send your kid across the street. Now, some of them have to go four hours away to see the specialist, and that’s challenging. So you do the best you can to work around it but sometimes you have no choice. So I wish we had more specialists that saw kids. That would make their life easier, and mine. That’s a big challenge that I see and one I face every day.
CS:
I know you’ve only been there for a short amount of time, but how have you seen Bassett change in your time since you’ve working there?
SS:
Well, I’m in a very isolated area of Bassett, so I can’t really comment on the whole institution as much because I’m in a very small section and we have a very small department. One of the things that impressed me about Bassett when I first started is how many Nurse Practitioners they hire. They have about 75 or 80 Nurse Practitioners, which is pretty good, that’s a lot. And we have 20—we just got our 20th—school-based health center, which I had never heard of before I came. We have Nurse Practitioners and Pas [physician’s assistants] in schools that are seeing kids in these rural areas. Some of them can’t come to Cooperstown to see me, so they can go to school and get seen. And if they go to a school-based health center, whether you have insurance or not, you won’t be turned away. So they get some of the poorest and most needy children. I’m proud to be part of that, I’m glad we have that, and I think it says a lot of Bassett that it’s important to Bassett, because I’m not sure that it’s necessarily a money-maker. But it does a lot of good and a lot of goodwill to the community. That part I’m very impressed with.
CS:
I know you mentioned the Cherry Valley Community Health Center too. I was wondering if you could talk a little more about that as well?
SS:
Well, we have two Nurse Practitioners. Maureen Kuhn has been there over 32 years and so she knows everyone. And then Denise Sommers, the new Nurse Practitioner, is actually a student of mine. I do precepting for Nurse Practitioner students in their Pediatric rotation and I had the privilege of having her. Now she’s one of the full-time family Nurse Practitioners here. And I see them personally, and my husband sees them, and I think it’s awesome that we have family Nurse Practitioners in a small little rural place and that this town values healthcare enough to keep that Community Clinic running. It’s unique. As I said, in Bassett, we are the only community-based health center. Maureen sees generations, I mean with 32 years? [laughs] She’s not just seeing siblings like me, she’s seeing grandma and grandpa, and their children and their children, and I think that’s awesome.
CS:
So just to clarify, what does it exactly mean that it is a community-based clinic?
SS:
Well, it’s not completely funded by a hospital. It’s not owned by the hospital, so it is actually owned by Cherry Valley.
CS:
That’s very cool.
SS:
It is, so it’s not Bassett, it’s a Cherry Valley owned clinic. The two Nurse Practitioners, Bassett pays their salaries. But the clinic itself, and the expenses of the clinic, the community through fundraisers and donations runs the clinic.
CS:
Wow, that’s great. Well we’re sort of getting to the end of the interview, so I just wanted to ask if there’s anything else that you wanted to talk about before we kind of wrap up?
SS:
I think we covered a lot. [laughs]
CS:
It’s okay though. Well thank you so much for talking with me, I really appreciate it.
SS:
You’re welcome, it’s been a pleasure.

Duration

30:00 - Track 1
26:59 - Track 2

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbps

Time Summary

Track 1, 8:35 - Moving to Cherry Valley
Track 1, 15:48 - Environmentalism
Track 2, 16:10 - Health and Environment
Track 2, 19:57 - Rural Healthcare

Files

Schue_Scales_Nov52015_photo.JPG

Citation

Christine Scales, “Shirley Schue, November 05, 2015,” CGP Community Stories, accessed January 23, 2020, http://cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/218.