by Elaine Marranzano –
The Tarrytown School District Peabody Preserve Outdoor Classroom (PPOC) just keeps getting better. A donated garden shed is the most recent enhancement to the 40-acre learning center, located along Route 9 opposite the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.
Sitting next to the preserve’s Butterfly Garden where migrating monarch butterflies take a break, the shed was donated by Sonia Cawley, a PPOC co-founder, and her family. The modest 8 x 12-foot structure with clapboard siding and casement windows looks like a little house, but its simplicity belies its significance.
Built by Cawley’s uncle, Samuel Reichelt who was a well-known builder in Dutchess County, the shed is where he potted the first tomato plant each season and ceremoniously presented it as a gift to his wife, Sandra. It’s where he had coffee on some mornings and most importantly, it was where he passed on a love of nature to his niece Sonia.
“He was respectful of the outdoors and always taught us about nature; that’s how I got it in me,” she said. Thanks in part to his influence, Cawley said her strongest personal commitment outside of work and family is to the Peabody Preserve.
When her Uncle Sam died, the shed was towed to Cawley’s backyard in Sleepy Hollow Manor, but now that she and her family are relocating to Tarrytown, the beloved shed needed a new home.
“There was no way I was leaving it behind,” said Cawley. “It made sense to give it to a place where kids are taught to respect nature.”
John Stevenson of Westchester Transporter donated his services to relocate the shed with logistical help from Anthony DeMan of the Tarrytown School District. The little building will be called the Ovid House, in honor of Sam’s son, not the alliterative Uncle Sam’s Shed as might be expected. It will house garden tools or be used for small group learning and, regardless of the shed’s name, Uncle Sam’s legacy of inspiring children to appreciate nature will endure.