Force of nature, Lovejoy honored for tireless service

Ann Lovejoy, 2011 Island Treasure recipient. - Brad Camp/ For the Review
Ann Lovejoy, 2011 Island Treasure recipient.
— image credit: Brad Camp/ For the Review

In reviewing an inventory of the accomplishments of 2011 Island Treasure recipient Ann Lovejoy, it may seem as if there’s been some kind of mistake – or maybe the Bainbridge Island Arts and Humanities Council, which oversees the annual award, has changed its policy. Maybe there are three winners this year – or four. Surely all this community goodwill could not have been generated by one person.

It’s no mistake, but Lovejoy, a veritable force of nature, isn’t sure what all the fuss is about.

“I’m deeply honored,” Lovejoy said from her home on Battle Point Drive. “But I’m surprised. I know many people doing more.”

The laundry list, or in this case the planting list, of her endeavors is diverse: former Executive Director of the Madrona School; founder and organizer of the Friday Tidies garden club; founder of the Sequoia Garden School; columnist for the Kitsap Sun following a long stint as a twice-weekly columnist for the Seattle Times; 2005 Kiwanis Citizen of the Year; Farmers’ Market busker for Helpline House; volunteer for the Puget Sound Blood Center, Rotary Club auction, 4-H, Cub Scouts; a regular blogger; active with the Interfaith Caregivers’ Group — all this in addition to the formidable job of being an American icon (of organic gardening) and writing 18 books. And as if that wasn’t enough, Lovejoy, mother of two, has been immersed in caring for loved ones. Her mother, who lives on Bainbridge, is getting on in years and her husband Bud Alger passed away in October after a four-year battle with cancer.

“Well, I don’t have a television,” Lovejoy said as a way of explaining her extensive community involvement.

She balances all the high-energy activity with plenty of quiet pastimes such as reading, fiber arts and music.

“A lot of what I’m interested in is restorative,” she said. “It brings a lot of strength.”

She’ll draw on that strength over the months ahead as she works through the grief of losing her husband. She’s seen enough winters to know that on the other side is a new spring.

The Bainbridge Library’s bio of Lovejoy refers to her as the “Mother Teresa of organic gardening.” For Lovejoy, it’s a way to give back. Always a voracious reader, she spent “a huge amount of time at the Concord Library” where she grew up.

She’s been a transformative influence at the Bainbridge library, serving on the board and establishing its garden.

After the 1997 renovation of the library left the parking lot “a mess” with a $650 landscape maintenance bill, Lovejoy approached then director Cindy Harrison to see about offering a 12-week mini-course in gardening that doubled as a work party to turn the gardens into the showcase they are today.

“Cindy said she wanted it to have legs, she wanted to make sure I’d stick around,” she said.

More than a decade later, the Friday Tidies converge, well, every Friday to trim, prune, plant, mulch, weed, deadhead and laugh.

The trick to public service, Lovejoy said, is that it’s not work if you love it.

“We look forward to Fridays,” she said.

For Lovejoy, community service is a no-brainer.

“Everybody ought to show up for One Call for All. When they put out a call for an ivy pull, why aren’t we all there?” she wondered.

The island relationships she’s developed are widespread: from work at the library, to various boards, to church, and Madrona. She even met Bud through her work with the Friday Tidies.

Bud’s first wife, Kathy Alger, was a Friday Tidy regular until she lost her battle with breast cancer. She turned to her friend, asking Lovejoy to “look out for my guys,” referring to Bud and their young son.

Lovejoy was happily single at the time, and when Bud later declared his interest in her she balked.

“But then I realized he was the most decent man I knew. I should give him a chance,” she said.

It was 18 months after they married that he was diagnosed with cancer.

“One of the gifts of cancer is allowing other people to give, too. To receive with gratitude. It’s about compassion and kindness whether you’re participating either direction.”

After decades of tireless service, Lovejoy will be on the receiving end of gratitude at the Island Treasure award ceremony Feb. 26 at IslandWood.

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