Garden club marks 80 years of service

By Zoe Jovanovich | Sep 04, 2013
Courtesy of: Renee Ripley Diane Tinsley will serve as the president of the Mukilteo Way Garden Club this year. She is wearing a hat given to Jean Spencer when she was president in the early 1990's. The club will celebrate its 80th anniversary this year.

The Mukilteo Way Garden Club will celebrate its 80th anniversary on Sept. 9.

The garden club was founded on Sept. 9, 1933 in the home of Jessie Kaune on Mukilteo Boulevard.

Over 80 years, the club has promoted gardening and community service. Members also care for the Fowler Pear Tree Park in Mukilteo, identify historic trees for preservation, and support a number of local gardening projects.

Founder Jessie Kaune, from Missouri, was fascinated by the way plants grew in Washington. She planted a garden of flowers and vegetables, while her husband planted trees.

Neighbors came to admire the Kaune plantings, and eventually the women on the boulevard thought to meet as a club.

“It was basically neighbors inviting neighbors to share things in the garden,” said club president Diane Tinsley. “It [turned into] an educational as well as social and service organization.”

Before it was the Mukilteo Way Garden Club, however, members called themselves the Darlington Home and Garden Club.

As the club grew to include members outside of the Darlington area, it was renamed to the Mukilteo Way Garden Club.

The club used to be a women’s only club, and was described as very traditional.

Prospective members had to be interviewed and inducted into the club by a vote, women wore hats and white gloves to meetings, and no one was allowed to speak out of turn.

Also, following tradition, presidents were all credited with their husband’s name or initials.

“One of the things they say about the early club was that it was a lot more formal,” Tinsley said. “Parliamentary procedure was important.”

“Sometimes we still wear the hats,” she added. “It’s fun to try activities that were important to them back then.”

These formalities were soon “loosened up” with the help of member Jean Spencer, who passed away earlier this year. She joined the club in 1959 and was a member for 53 years.

Spencer advocated for change within the club, making it less formal. She was also the first president to be credited with her own name.

“It was recognizing women as individuals, and not just associated with their husbands,” said Kandace Aksnes, the club’s second vice president.

Spencer also coincidentally bought the house the club was founded in. As such, the Mukilteo Boulevard home has been with the club all 80 years of its existence.

As part of its community service, the club cares for the The Fowler Pear Tree, as it has done so for nearly 60 years.

The tree was planted circa 1863 by Mukilteo co-founder Jacob D. Fowler. The tree is now 150 years old, and still bears fruit. It is likely the oldest living pear tree in Washington state.

Garden club members created a tiny landscaped park around the tree, at 802 Mukilteo Lane.

“When we got it, it was just the tree and dirt,” Aksnes said. “So, when you go down to the park, everything you see there is the result of members over the course of 60 years turning it into what it is now.”

The club recently helped the city of Mukilteo take cuttings of the historic tree, and will be planting three genetically identical saplings later this year to mark its 80th anniversary.

Two saplings will be planted at the Rosehill Community Center and one at Pioneer Cemetery, where Fowler is buried.

The garden club also co-sponsors the biennial Mukilteo Quilt & Garden Tour of public and private gardens and handmade quilts. More than 900 went on the tour in July.

Proceeds from tours go back into the community, including donations to Compass Health, the Evergreen Arboretum in Everett, LaConner Quilt & Textile Museum and its own Horticulture Scholarship Fund.

Tinsley said that even though the club has grown and become less formal, its mission to serve the community has stayed the same for 80 years.

“There are a number of things people are doing now that are similar to what people were doing with neighbors back then,” she said. “As a dynamic service organization, we look at what people have done to make this community better for the future.”

For more information on the Mukilteo Way Garden Club, including how to become a member, go to www.mwgc.org.

Zoe Jovanovich is an intern for the Mukilteo Beacon.

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