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Susan Nassif and her husband, David, share their love of Madison, the state capital of Wisconsin and home of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It is where David worked in medical research and where they later had two children—a daughter who remains in Madison and a son who relocated to Oregon.

However, 20 years ago the couple moved from the cold and snow of the upper Midwest to Hawthorne, Florida, just east of Gainesville. The city of Gainesville appealed to them because of its similarity to Madison—a culturally focused, diverse, university town. And when David’s mobility changed in 2017, the couple moved to the nearby community, The Village at Gainesville.

A connection to the outdoors

A self-described “jeans and T-shirt girl,” Susan gained an appreciation for nature from her mother, who was a lifelong birdwatcher. “I grew up in the country and I was constantly outdoors,” Susan explained.

Today, to share her love of the great outdoors with her neighbors at the community, Susan formed a nature group and invited everyone to enjoy the beauty surrounding The Village at Gainesville campus and the nearby natural settings. Participants walk the campus trails and plan trips to off-site locations, such as the Sweetwater Wetlands Park and the San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park. Her neighbor, Dan Schmidt, takes photos of the campus and the field trips, and he shares the images with fellow community members.

Susan is also a member of the Garden Club where she is helping to revive the butterfly garden through the selection of nectar-rich flowers that attract butterflies and support butterfly reproduction. When not leading nature efforts, Susan enjoys digging in the soil of her own flower bed at The Village at Gainesville’s community garden. “We used to grow vegetables, but the growing season is so different from Wisconsin that we stick to flowers now,” Susan shared.

A love of nature and volunteerism

Susan heightened her interest in nature by working as a “naturalist instructor” at Morningside Nature Center, a 416-acre nature park in Gainesville where she led classes on nature, wildlife and the living history farm. She also volunteered at the Florida Museum of Natural History, which houses one of the world’s largest collections of butterflies and moths.

Although she treasured these experiences, Susan remains committed to her work at the Haven Hospice Attic Resale Store where she has volunteered for 13 years. “You get to meet people whose lives were positively affected by hospice,” Susan said.

Lifelong learning

One interest that draws Susan indoors is her zest for learning. She’s excited about The Village at Gainesville’s engagement with the University of Florida and SantaFe College and the ability to audit classes for free. She has already taken a cultural anthropology class at the college and hopes to enroll in more courses.

When not immersed in nature or academics, Susan takes a two-mile walk daily throughout The Village at Gainesville campus and participates in aqua aerobic classes in the community pool. “I love The Village’s outdoor spaces and large campus,” she exclaimed.

To experience the splendor of The Village at Gainesville’s 104-acre, expertly landscaped campus and meet many of our vibrant residents, give us a call at 352.548.3507 to schedule a visit or request additional information.