The People of Penn Forest: Meet Nancy Chubb

Your Name: Nancy Chubb
Your Pronouns: She
Your Role with Penn Forest Cemetery: Officially I am President of Land Conservation Cemeteries, an LLC that owns Penn Forest Natural Burial Park and, along with Pete McQuillin, a majority owner of the business. Unofficially that means I weigh in on all major decisions and many of the everyday ones.

Describe a typical day for you at Penn Forest. 

My time is spent in planning meetings, cemetery and barn chores, administrative tasks. I’ve been involved with almost every aspect of Penn Forest, including finding the land, creating the business plan, building the farm, and now plans for the Remembrance Garden. In inclement weather I have opened our home to gathering mourners. 

How did you get connected with Penn Forest Cemetery?

It was in a conversation with Pete about our own wishes for a green burial that the idea of creating a green cemetery here in Pittsburgh was first conceived in 2008. We both wanted to be buried in an environmentally-friendly way and there was no option for that locally. So we decided to build one here, having no idea what we were getting into. Fortunately we have had wonderful help every step of the way and made lifelong friendships.

What are some of your responsibilities and duties?

I feel a responsibility for all the things that happen here, even if I’m not directly involved. My main duty is to keep an eye on everything. We moved out to the cemetery a few years ago so that we could do that 24/7. Caring for the cemetery is woven completely into our lives.

Describe one thing about Penn Forest that the average person might not know or find surprising.

Penn Forest is more about life than death. For life to flourish, death must happen. You know, “the cycle of life”. We offer people a chance to personally participate in it through their death but while they are alive, they can enjoy the farm animals, wildlife, and nature. Lot owners are welcome to hang out in the barn, have a picnic in the meadow, get a discount on Yoga with Goats classes. We have lots of ideas about how to continue developing Penn Forest so it is an inviting and educational conservation park.

 Why is green burial important to you?

Green burial is the most efficient way to return my body to nature so that it can support future life. I find it comforting that after my death my organic matter remains organic, just in different forms.

Tell us about your connection to Pittsburgh. Are you a native of this region? A transplant?

I grew up in the DC suburbs but my father grew up on Beaver Grade Road in Robinson. I spent my summers on my grandparents’ 300 acre dairy farm, called Hidden Brook Farm. Those were formative years for me and I found joy being in the woods and with the animals. When I was looking for a college, Chatham College was just far enough from home and a horticultural treasure. Pittsburgh, the city, grew on me over the years and I became a big fan. As an adult I found out my grandfather, Charles Chubb, was an early President of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. I think he would approve of the work we are doing to restore the eco-system at Penn Forest.

Do you have a favorite tree at Penn Forest, either a specific type of tree or an actual tree that resonates with you?

This land was a farm until the 1950s and so it was cleared for fields. There are a few big old trees scattered around. They’re my favorites. I wish I could be around in 100 years to see how the trees we are planting now mature. With our focus on increasing the diversity of the trees, it will be even more beautiful.

How can people connect with you?

Thank you, Nancy. 

This is one in an occasional series profiling the people involved with Penn Forest Cemetery and our multiple projects. 

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Twitter: @PennForest and @JinglesPF

Instagram: @PennForestCemetery 

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Green Burial Equals Forest Restoration at Penn Forest

I have hiked and camped in many of the best forests in the eastern United States, both large and small.  To help sustain and expand them I’ve contributed to many environmental organizations, including the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, the Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club and most recently the Maine Woods Initiative of the Appalachian Mountain Club.

But by doing so, I rarely know how my contribution is actually spent or feel that I can have much of an impact on large-scale problems or projects.  However, lately I’ve found another way to better see and understand how to preserve a forested piece of land.  That is through my local green burial cemetery.

In green burial, bodies are buried in natural settings, without toxic or non-biodegradable materials, so the plants above benefit and the wildlife can flourish.  Think about how many more trees there could be if all of the approximately 4001 cemeteries in Allegheny County were green burial cemeteries with the graves spaced among the trees instead of in place of them.  Think of the benefits from all those trees!

The Benefits of Trees

  • Trees help to settle out, trap and hold particulate pollutants (dust, ash, pollen and smoke).
  • They absorb CO2 and other dangerous gases, and in turn, replenish the atmosphere with oxygen.  By some estimates trees produce enough oxygen on each acre for 18 people every day, depending on the species, climate, temperature and health of the trees.  Enough CO2 is absorbed on each acre of trees over a year’s time to equal the amount produced by driving a car 26,000 miles.2   
  • The trees also protect water quality and provide habitat for wildlife.

See the YouTube video the Importance of Trees for more evidence!

When a green burial cemetery is operated properly, the costs of the gravesite purchases and services provided can be used to contribute to sustaining and restoring the forest within its boundaries.

That is what I like about the Penn Forest Natural Burial Park. It is local; it is predominantly forested; but the land needs some help to restore it to a native-like Pennsylvania forest.  I can even work there on restoration days if I want to.  But most importantly, my purchase of a gravesite is helping to preserve a forest, to make it better, and I can see that, experience it, and enjoy it.


This post was provided by Roger Westman, Restoration Committee Member