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Celebration of late forest ranger is Saturday

From left, Samantha Stytzer, daughter Hazel and Robbi Mecus pose together in the woods. (Provided photo — Samantha Stytzer)

KEENE VALLEY — A celebration of life for Keene resident and state Department of Environmental Conservation forest ranger Robbi Mecus is set for Saturday at 11 a.m. at Marcy Field.

Mecus, 52, died in April after falling approximately 1,000 feet while climbing a steep route known as “the Escalator” to the 8,400-foot peak of Mount Johnson in Alaska’s Denali National Park. She is survived by her former wife, Samantha Stytzer, and their daughter, Hazel, as well as her brother, sister, niece and nephew.

In the wake of Mecus’ sudden death, the Keene community rallied to support her family, raising $59,438 through a GoFundMe campaign to support Stytzer and Hazel, who are members of the Keene community. A memorial to Mecus’ life and service was on display during Keene History Weekend in early May.

Saturday’s celebration of life is meant to allow the community come together and honor Mecus’ memory, according to Keene Councilor Teresa Cheetham-Palen. A slate of speakers will honor the different facets of Mecus’ life, from her work as a forest ranger to her presence in the local LGBTQ-plus community.

Following the speeches, Cheetham-Palen said that community members are welcome to stick around at Marcy Field.

“If folks afterwards want to stay to chat and have some community time together, anyone who wants can bring a picnic lunch and hang out,” she said.

Limited-mobility parking will be available at the new parking lot next to the Holt House.

Cheetham-Palen suggested that those who are OK with walking should instead park at the Marcy Field hiker lot, so there’s plenty of room at the Holt House lot if people need it.

The memorial is open to the public, but Mecus’ family requests that no photos or videos are taken during the celebration of life.

In lieu of celebration offerings, Mecus’ family asks that donations instead be made to causes Mecus supported during her life, including the Ali Forney Center in New York, the Adirondack Queer Ice Festival, the Forest Ranger Foundation and the Forest Ranger Scholarship Foundation.

Mecus, a transgender woman, transitioned at the age of 44 after being raised as a boy and a lifetime of knowing she was a girl.

She started her transition about a year after she moved to Keene Valley.

In 2021, she was one of the lead organizers of Keene’s Pride parade.

“I didn’t see anybody like me. I didn’t see anybody being who I wanted to be,” Mecus told the crowd at Keene’s Pride festival on June 20, 2021. “I thought everyone was going to reject me, that I was going to have to quit my job and move out of town.

“But something amazing happened,” she added. “I was accepted by everybody in town. They were welcoming, with open arms. I think somebody asked me, ‘Well, am I still going to get my burning permit?’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’ And they’re like, ‘OK, so, good.'”

As a forest ranger, Mecus was trained in highly technical rope rescues and participated in countless rescues in treacherous conditions, including a 2021 rescue of a hiker trapped on a ledge in the Mount Colden Trap Dike, a 2021 all-day rescue of an injured hiker on Mount Marcy and a search-and-rescue on Mount March during a snowstorm this past March.

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