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Thursday, August 20, 1998 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Mary Medalia, Market's `Herb Lady,' Dies

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

Mary Medalia, "The Herb Lady" to Pike Place Market regulars, had a special relationship with plants.

She talked to all plants, even cut flowers, her daughter said.

"She just treated plants with care and love," said Ann Lockhart of Bellingham. "The same with people. She loved talking to people.

"We never realized her wealth of knowledge. She was a walking garden encyclopedia. She had a sincere, deep love for plants and flowers."

Mrs. Medalia died Friday (Aug. 14) after a period of declining health, her family said. She was 92.

Born in Lussingrande, Austria, she grew up on Bainbridge Island. Her parents ran a farm and a store. Sometimes she helped deliver meat and produce via a horse-drawn wagon.

She married Marion Medalia in 1925, two years after graduating from Winslow High School.

Mrs. Medalia maintained a garden while rearing her family, and in 1948 she began selling flowers at Pike Place Market. She moved to Seattle in 1949, expanded her garden and ran several flower tables at the Market.

"This was when the Market had a `flower row' where the fish throwers are now and down the steps," her daughter said. "Behind the tables were lockers with chicken-wire where people stored flowers at night."

Mrs. Medalia branched into selling herb plants before their widespread popularity for cooking and medicine.

"Mom grew a lot of hostas (plantain lilies), too, before they became popular," Lockhart said.

Mrs. Medalia left the Market about 10 years ago. She kept a scrapbook of news stories on her work, and even had a type of lavender plant named for her.

Other survivors include her children Mary Nelson of Bainbridge Island, Veronica Johnson of Shoreline, Michael Medalia of Edmonds, Peter Medalia of Seattle, Steven Medalia of Shoreline and Joseph Medalia of Anacortes; brothers Mark Antoncich and Peter Antoncich, both of Seattle; sisters Joanna Hyatt of Seattle and Lucy Meehan of Olympia; 27 grandchildren; and 38 great-grandchildren.

Mrs. Medalia's husband died in 1957.

Remembrances can be sent to the Children's Hospital & Regional Medical Center (Seattle) Foundation, P.O. Box 5371, Seattle, WA 98105, and to the Market Foundation, 85 Pike St., Room 500, Seattle, WA 98101.

Copyright (c) 1998 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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