Stephanie Quiroz/staff photo.
                                From left: co-leader of the Issaquah clinic Sarah Bergdahl, longtime volunteer Louise Luce, and co-leader Melinda Walhstrom.

Stephanie Quiroz/staff photo. From left: co-leader of the Issaquah clinic Sarah Bergdahl, longtime volunteer Louise Luce, and co-leader Melinda Walhstrom.

Garden has been mainstay in Luce’s life

How 94 year-old Louise Luce gained community and knowledge from the Master Gardeners Foundation

For 94-year-old Louise Luce, gardening has kept her alive and rooted in her community.

The Issaquah resident was born in Chicago and later ended up in rural Indiana with her family. Luce remembers growing up during The Great Depression, in the era of the Franklin Roosevelt administration. Along with her family, Luce lived in a house on a county road west of Hobart, Ind.

Recollecting memories, Luce said nobody had work and nobody was working. Despite the circumstances, she said her family had a garden in their backyard where they grew foods such as tomatoes, potatoes, and beets. That garden supported Luce and her family.

“I remember I had to pick potato bugs and tomato worms,” Luce said. “We didn’t have meat for a month. I remember we ate beets and carrots [that month]. I could walk home for lunch and we always had food — we always had something [to eat].”

Vividly, Luce remembers her first-grade classmates sitting in their individual desks during lunch time and they had nothing to eat — there was no food at their home for them to bring to school.

“I will never forget that. I can still see that,” Luce said.

Gardening has been constant throughout Luce’s life, all the way to age 94.

In 1984, Luce joined the Washington State University (WSU) Extension Master Gardener Program in King County, which is supported by the nonprofit master Gardener Foundation in King County. The program provides research-based education on urban horticulture to Washington State residents, according to the group’s website. Since starting in 1973, the King County Master Gardener program has been adopted in all 50 states.

As a Master Gardner, Luce was trained to be para-professional and volunteered to work in her community as a horticulture adviser and as a resource for other home gardeners. Through the program, Luce and other volunteers provide research-based information and education, tailored to each individual’s needs. Their resources come from the state land grant university and the United States Department of Agriculture.

In Issaquah, the Master Gardener volunteers set up informational booths (known as clinics) every week during the summer at the farmers market at the Pickering Barn, as well as at the Squak Mt. Greenhouses and Nursery. Master gardeners also engage in continuing education each year. The Issaquah foundation has about 30 members that annually donate over 25 hours of their time to volunteer at the clinics.

“It’s a great community builder,” Issaquah Clinic co-leader Sarah Bergdahl said of the program. “We really believe gardening and plants are very important for the planet.”

According to the King County Master Gardener Program, more than 600 Master Gardeners volunteered more than 40,000 hours in 2017.

And even at the age of 94, Luce still volunteers to complete her hours as a Master Gardener.

The King County Master Gardeners program is one of the largest in the world, and it holds passionate gardeners who serve their communities as community leaders, planners, stewards, fundraisers, philanthropists, and gardeners.

For Luce, the community she’s found in the Master Gardeners program has kept her alive.

“It opens up a whole new world of spin-offs into all kinds of other things,” Luce said of the program. “It keeps me alive. The sociability of this group and having something to think about that’s interesting instead of all the ugliness that goes on.”

Luce added she wouldn’t have it otherwise because she wouldn’t know what she would have. Gardening has been deeply rooted in Luce’s life. It’s supported her when there was nothing to eat and it has provided her a community that has kept her going for 35 years.

To learn more about the master Garden Foundation of King County, go online to www.mgfkc.org. To learn about the WSU extension master Garden Program go online to www.extension.wsu.edu.

94-year-old Louise Luce has planted fruits and vegetables her whole life. She said it supported her and her family when there was no food to eat during The Great Depression. Stephanie Quiroz/staff photo.

94-year-old Louise Luce has planted fruits and vegetables her whole life. She said it supported her and her family when there was no food to eat during The Great Depression. Stephanie Quiroz/staff photo.

More in News

Three candidates aim to fill an open seat on the Issaquah School Board

Suzanne Weaver, Joe Robinson and Layna Crofts compete for the Issaquah School District Director District 5 position.

King County Correctional Facility is located at 500 5th Ave., Seattle. File photo
King County jail’s leaky pipes have national implications

Lawsuit filed in King County Superior Court alleges Aquatherm has been selling faulty pipes.

VoteWA is a $9.5 million program that came online last May and is meant to unify all 39 county voting systems in the state into a single entity. Courtesy image
WA’s new voting system concerns county elections officials

VoteWA has run into some problems in recent months as the Aug. 6 primary election draws closer.

At the Issaquah clinic, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance patients can receive chemotherapy infusions, nutrition consultations, hematology and other services.
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance welcomed into Issaquah with ribbon cutting

After expansion into Poulsbo, National Cancer Institute-designated care center gets underway in Issaquah

Providence Point residents speak out in support for intersection improvements

Issaquah residents supported a traffic light on SE 43rd Street at a CIP public hearing on July 1.

Photo courtesy of Carolyn Kennedy
                                Tools4Schools will be having its annual school supplies drive Aug. 12.
ISF and Issaquah Food Clothing Bank partner again for Tools4Schools drive

Tools4School provided more than 900 backpacks to students during the 2018-19 school year.

Photo courtesy of Life Enrichment Options
                                The annual Challenge Race returns to Issaquah for the 22nd year on July 27 at the Issaquah Community Center.
Challenge Race returns to Issaquah

The annual event will take place at the Issaquah Community Center on July 27.

Pete, with his companion Nina, served as “the foundation” of the zoo’s gorilla program when he first arrived in Seattle in 1969. Photo courtesy of Dennis Dow / Woodland Park Zoo
Prop 1 would fund parks, zoos and open spaces

King County voters could approve the renewal and increase of the levy on the August ballot.

Issaquah begins long-term planning for the future of parks

Long-term master plans for three major Issaquah open space areas are in the works.

Most Read