Silas Rush Mountsier III gets up early most mornings and makes his way to the front room of his beautiful home on Nutley Place. Now 95, Silas often finds himself thinking about the people who have come through his doors and strolled through his spectacular garden.
“I enjoy having people visit my family’s home and seeing them enjoy it,” Silas said. “It’s been my life. Graeme (Hardie, his good friend and co-owner of the Mountsier-Hardie Garden) loves showing people the house and telling them stories from room to room.”
The Mountsier-Hardie Garden, a two-acre space on the property filled with sculptures, mature trees, hundreds of plants and flowers, and quiet areas of contemplation, is home to The Garden Party, which has become Nutley Family Service Bureau’s (NFSB’s) largest annual fundraiser in recent years.
The Mountsier family tradition of service and giving, however, dates back to the first half of the 1900s.
“My mother (Margaret Mountsier) was always involved with Nutley Family Service Bureau,” Silas recalls. “We had a big house with a beautiful property on Nutley Avenue so she would host fundraising events at our home. Back then, we called them lawn parties. The property was a treasure with a fireplace in every room. People thought we were very rich, but we needed the space because my mother was raising seven kids.”
Margaret was involved with the Women’s Auxiliary for decades and served as President from 1957 to 1959. She chaired the Camp Fund committee, which raised money for a summer camp, chaired a committee to revise the NFSB constitution in 1962, and served on the board of trustees for years. Margaret was very active in the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and was named New Jersey Mother of 1953 by the New Jersey branch of the Golden Rule Foundation.
Silas also learned the values of service from his father, Silas Rush Mountsier, Jr., a successful businessman who served as the head of the draft board for several years.
“During the war, my four brothers and two sisters and I would go with my father to deliver food to people in town who needed it,” said Silas, a U.S. Navy veteran. “My father wasn’t drafted because he had seven kids, but he believed it was his responsibility to make sure wives and children in town were taken care of.”
When Silas graduated from college, he was approached about joining the board by member Mildred Levin, a neighbor on Nutley Place who was planning to retire from the NFSB board after many years of service. Silas soon began a long tenure on the board, attending every meeting and contributing to the growth of the organization.
Silas recalls the need in the community for NFSB’s mental health center during this period, which evolved from the Child Guidance Clinic of Nutley and Belleville.
“During board meetings, parents would come in with children who needed help,” Silas said. “I saw that they were embarrassed and didn’t want anyone to know they were bringing their child to the clinic. We wanted people to know there was nothing wrong with asking for help.”
In addition to his work at NFSB, Silas helped found the Odyssey House, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation and mental health counseling center, which is now headquartered in New York City and has locations across the country.
Silas was one of the first members of the Nutley Historical Society and served on the Nutley Planning Board and the board of the Child Guidance Clinic of Nutley and Belleville. A member of Vincent United Methodist Church for 80 years, Silas taught Sunday School and served on the Finance Committee, Missions Committee, and Church Council.
Silas has made significant contributions to NFSB, the Nutley Public Library, the Academic Booster Club, the Nutley Educational Foundation, and other organizations. Just recently, Silas donated two trees that have been planted in front of the NFSB Mental Health Center on Chestnut Street.
Never one to seek the spotlight, Silas is also well-known for private acts of kindness and generosity, whether paying college tuition for local students or paying a family’s taxes so they wouldn’t lose their home.
Although his Nutley Place property, his family’s home since 1946, is generally not open to the public, Silas has continued to open the property to NFSB and his Nutley neighbors. The Garden Party has been a Nutley tradition since 2018 and one of the most anticipated community events of the year.
As NFSB celebrates 110 years of service, one can’t help but notice the parallels between the programs of today and 70-80 years ago. The Food Pantry still delivers food to seniors as Silas and his family helped Nutley residents during World War II. The Mental Health Center is still providing much needed counseling and has grown significantly since the pandemic.
Of course, the lawn parties of the 1940s and 1950s were the predecessors of The Garden Party. After all these years, Silas still enjoys seeing people discover the beauty of his home and garden for the first time.
As he sits in the front room of his home during the early morning hours, Silas feels a sense of gratitude and fulfillment for his experiences and memories with Nutley Family Service Bureau.
“Nutley Family Service Bureau has always been a ‘do-good’ organization that families could go to for services when they need help,” Silas said. “I’ve enjoyed doing what I can to help. I learned from my mother and father that it’s just the right thing to do.”