Beloved environmental advocate Bertha Chrietzberg of Murfreesboro has died. She was 97. Chrietzberg was instrumental in preserving some of what are now considered Rutherford County’s most popular natural resources, including the Stones River Greenway System.
The analogy of planting seeds is a fitting metaphor for the dedicated conservationist’s life, said Cynthia Allen, president of the Stones River Watershed Association, which Chrietzberg helped found.
“She’s one of those people who works in the community and makes a mark. She plants the seeds as she goes with her passion and enthusiasm. She’s just infectious. (Her legacy was) like ripples in a pond,” Allen said.
Chrietzberg’s infectious nature is what helped former Congressman Bart Gordon garner support in the 1980s for his proposed greenway system in Rutherford County.
“She always had this soft voice that was making a strong case for open spaces, for trails, for quality of life. So the greenway really was a natural evolution of what she’d always been supporting. When I first proposed the greenway system, a lot of people thought that was boondoggle. Mrs. Chrietzberg was a strong and early advocate and helped to rally community support,” Gordon said.
“Over the years Mrs. Bertha guided me down several paths, literally and figuratively. From stopping to identify a wildflower to learning from her heart for conservation, her leadership and contributions to Murfreesboro will be long lasting,” Jackson said.
Mary Belle Ginanni remembered her friend as someone with a “happy countenance,” whose students “flocked to her.” Ginanni also recalled the numerous wildflower walks Chrietzberg would lead and “she knew the names of every one.”
Preservation efforts of the former Middle Tennessee State University instructor were far reaching, from Girl Scouts to Tennessee trails. She was involved in many environmental and naturalist organizations, including Tennessee Trails Association, Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association, Tennessee Native Plant Society, and Friends of the Greenway.
Honors include the Tennessee Governor’s Award for Excellence-Robert Sparks Lifetime Achievement Award (2007), Tennessee Environmental Educator’s Association Distinguished Service Award (1997), and the Tennessee Trails Bob Brown Lifetime Achievement Award (2011).
“Bertha was a true conservationist. Her love of the natural world inspired all of us who knew and worked with her. She lived her life with enthusiasm and wonder,” said Gib Backlund, a local conservationist and former chief of operations at the Stones River National Battlefield.
Susan Chrietzberg said she is grateful for the love of nature her mother instilled. She has countless stories of her mother’s generosity and compassion for others, as well as tales of her trail adventures. She recalled the time her mother had Girl Scouts plant nearly three dozen pine trees, only to visit the trees 30 years later and realize the towering arbors were the same seeds she’d planted years earlier.