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Administrative Assistant Finds Time to Garden and Travel

By Kristine King
February 27, 2008

Chris Van Horn photo

In the past year, administrative assistant BJ Plantamuro has discovered Tai Chi, a hobby that she has admitted will be a lifelong endeavor. There is no doubt she will commit to it with similar dedication she has shown UNH for the past 30 years.

Plantamuro started at UNH in 1973 as an office worker in accounts payable.

"I worked there for about two or three years and wasn't much older then the students," Plantamuro says.

Later she took a job at the MUB, processing paper work for the two managers of the cafeteria. Plantamuro was then ready to break away from UNH, and in 1986 she left to see what the "outside world was like."

"It was fine," Plantamuro says, "but my life was changing drastically: divorce, kids growing up and new apartment. After eight years, I came back to UNH where at least some things were the same. I found a position in the office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs."

This is where, under three different provosts, Plantamuro has worked for the past 12 years. It is a demanding job that involves balancing calendars for many of the professionals in the office including the provost and executive vice president. She also schedules numerous meetings for different administrators and, each year, organizes the new faculty orientation. In addition to general office duties, Plantamuro also supports the dean searches, and this past year was a main support for the WSBE dean search.

"I find it interesting to work in the main administrative office. I really enjoy the environment and all my co-workers," said Plantamuro.

A graduate of Portsmouth High, Plantamuro attended UNH for a semester, majoring in marine biology. Her pursuit of a higher education was put on hold in 1967, however, when she married a Navy corpsman who was then sent to Vietnam. After his return, the couple had two sons and moved to Barrington.

Now, many years later, Plantamuro has returned to UNH not only as a professional but as a student as well. The renewed opportunity to continue her education is what Plantamuro enjoys the most about working here.

"I love the benefit of being able to take classes. I don't take them often, but when I do the experience is so much better than when I 'had' to take them in school," says Plantamuro.

Plantamuro has also taken and helped produce transformational courses for Landmark Education, Inc., a global educational enterprise offering courses that are innovative, effective and immediately relevant. The group's leading-edge methodology enables people to produce extraordinary results and enhance the quality of their lives

"I find it exhilarating to look into why I do what I do. The insights I've had about myself have helped me move through life and handle all its ups and downs," Plantamuro says.

"In the last 10 years, I have discovered gardening, a great, artistic way to be outside. I still don't always have luck keeping things alive so I've created a new garden project - I purchased a kit to make bricks," she says. "The kit came with letters (like little branding irons) so you can put sayings, dates, names, etc. on your bricks before they set up. I plan to personalize a brick for each of my family members."

She has also collected a lot of inspirational sayings that speak to her and will put them on some of the bricks, adding a personal touch to her garden. Another project she has in mind is to find plants that have the same name as her family members and incorporate them into the garden.

"This is a new project, so I only have a phlox called 'Nikki' for my daughter-in-law who was killed in a car crash several years ago. If anyone reading this has any plants named Charlotte, Sarah, Thomas, Gabriel, Nathan, Zachary or George, I'd love to know where you got them," Plantamuro says.

To get away from it all, Plantamuro and her husband make a commitment to travel to Mexico each year for two weeks of relaxation.

"The hardest decisions I have to make are, 'what bathing suit will I wear today and which restaurant shall we have dinner in?" she says.

Along with taking time for herself, Plantamuro dotes on her six grandchildren, two of whom live with her. Being a mother figure the second time around has its challenges.

"We always wanted girls, but now I'm not sure why-the drama is overwhelming," Plantamuro says. "Between homework, chauffeuring, girlfriend overnights, the music and singing so loud they could be auditioning, and constantly trying to tone down the make-up, I've come to really appreciate the sons I raised. But I am grateful to have them; they are all keeping me young."

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