93-year-old Volunteer marks 35 years of service at Empire Mine State Park
Angie Slicker and her husband Glenn would often pass by Empire Mine on their drives between the Bay Area and Grass Valley in the early 1970s — and Angie Slicker was always curious about the land.
When the couple moved up to Grass Valley in 1978, three years after Empire Mine officially became a state park, she decided to act on that curiosity and sign up for a volunteer orientation at the park.
“I thought, I love history so I’m going to come over here and find out what’s going on,” Slicker said.
Thirty-five years later, the 93-year-old Slicker is the park’s longest serving active volunteer, having dedicated thousands of hours to maintaining the park’s land and sharing its stories.
“Her love of the park flows to everyone she meets,” said Ranger Greg Sherr. “She has touched the lives of thousands of people in 35 years here.”
Slicker hails from Wisconsin, and grew up in Milwaukee.
That’s where she met Glenn, who would become her husband of 70 years; the two teenagers were at a roller skating rink when Angie rolled up to Glenn and asked him to skate with her.
They were married in 1943, and Glenn was drafted into the military that same year.
“After he shipped out and went overseas, I came home and went back to work,” Angie Slicker said.
But she quickly decided that wasn’t what she wanted to do.
Instead, she enlisted in the Coast Guard, and was sent to Washington, D.C., where she served as a cook.
After both she and Glenn were finished with their service, they decided they’d had enough of the cold Midwest winters, so they packed up and headed for California.
Eventually, they settled in the Bay Area. Slicker went back to school and became a nurse, and the couple raised their four children in the East Bay.
It was curiosity that brought Slicker to Empire Mine State Park after she and Glenn retired and relocated to Grass Valley — but it’s her lifelong love of learning that’s kept her involved over the past three and a half decades.
“It was a big learning experience for me. And you know, you should never quit learning, and you should always try to do something for as long as you can, because that’s what keeps you young,” Slicker said.
It’s hard to find a volunteer role that Slicker hasn’t filled at Empire Mine. She’s tried her hand at blacksmithing, led tours and participated in living history performances; at one point, she was even sewing the yellow vests worn by volunteers.
Her favorite task by far was volunteering in the park’s rose garden, something that was her primary duty for several years.
The space first caught her eye as the area was being restored.
“I was doing tours and I was watching that, and I thought, ‘I’d like to try that,’” Slicker said.
To ensure that she could fulfill her duties as a garden docent, she borrowed a stack of books and began finding out everything she could about the roses in the garden.
That knowledge grew as she was tasked with creating a brochure on the garden for visitors. The pamphlet includes a brief history of the garden, a list of roses and a map of their locations and a description of several types of roses found in the space.
Slicker said the brochure is her proudest accomplishment as a volunteer. Though it was created nearly two decades ago, the pamphlet is still of value to visitors and volunteers alike.
“I use that for our training for new volunteers,” Sherr said. “It gets people started if they want to do work in the garden.”
Throughout the years, Slicker has spent so much time at the state park that Glenn, who passed away a couple of years ago, used to tease her that it had become her second home.
These days, she drives herself to the park to volunteer as often as she’s feeling up to it.
Visitors can usually find her sitting at a table near the front of the visitor’s center handing out information and answering questions about the park.
She claims there are still questions she gets from visitors that she doesn’t know how to answer — though, when pressed, she admitted she couldn’t recall a question that stumped her recently.
“It’s been quite awhile,” Slicker said.
She can’t really explain what it is that’s kept her so engaged at the park.
“I just have this pull toward this place,” Slicker said. “I just love it.”
Her 35 years of volunteering, she said, have been “for myself and for the people of California.”
So, of course, she plans to continue.
“I’m just going to keep on volunteering as long as I can,” Slicker said.
To contact Staff Writer Emily Lavin, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4230.
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