“Salt of the earth.” “Grounded.” “Down-to-earth.” “Rooted in all living things.”
Ask her family, her friends, her colleagues. Everyone who knew Jeannette “Jan” MacDougal describes her with words and phrases that tie her directly to the land she loved.
Jan was one of Lowcountry Land Trust’s earliest and longest-standing supporters, a steadfast volunteer, and a devoted board member. She passed away on August 2nd at the age of 86.
Jan and her husband John moved to Charleston from upstate New York in 1968 and raised three sons—John, Paul, and Kent—in their home in the Crescent. A lifelong gardener whose sons remember weekly expeditions into the forest in search of wildflowers, Jan also taught workshops on flower arranging and served as a flower show judge for the Garden Club of South Carolina. “She was connected to the ground,” explains Kent. “If she had land she could garden, she would.” It’s no surprise that all three of her sons eventually studied botany in college.
For as much time as Jan spent on the ground, Jan also loved the water. She and her family often went “marina hopping” up and down the intercoastal waterway. After launching at Wappoo Creek, they’d head down the Stono River. “Seeing those broad vistas made her realize it was important to preserve them,” says Paul, “so the Stono didn’t end up like Wappoo Cut.”
Jan also studied ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging. In ikebana, form and balance are essential, and the practice is as much a spiritual expression as it is an artistic one. Jan’s son John sees a tie between her ikebana practice and her passion for Lowcountry landscapes. “She looked at the marsh when she went to bed and when she woke up,” says John. “The peacefulness of large natural spaces balanced her personality—she had to be so detail-oriented for gardening—and made her realize it was more important to preserve large tracts of lands than any one species.”
After joining the Land Trust’s board, Jan dug in, literally, right alongside staff, spending close to 100 hours and logging over 400 miles to inventory an estate gift. “That’s just who she was,” says Margaret Blackmer, who worked for the Land Trust before leading its board. “She was one of the kindest women I’ve ever met. She was up for any challenge. You’d just have to ask her, and she would say, ‘yes.’”
Elizabeth Hagood, Executive Director of the Land Trust during Jan’s years on the board, echoes Margaret’s sentiments. “When she believed in something, she poured all her resources into it.” Jan’s commitment continued even after her official service on the board ended. “She was a constant, reliable force,” explains Ashley Demosthenes, LLT’s President and CEO. “Every year she’d remind me, ‘if you have a gap in a campaign or a hole to fill, call me.’ She was understated, but full of passion and conviction.”
Jan wanted conservation to be part of her legacy and included LLT in her estate plans. “The Land Trust was so fortunate to be able to benefit from Jan’s abiding commitment to conservation in the Lowcountry,” says Elizabeth. By freely giving her time, talents, and financial support to LLT for decades, she made it possible for the Land Trust to protect some of the Lowcountry’s most beloved places.
For that, we will be forever grateful.