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Kinnikinnick Native Plant Society

Focusing on native plants and conservation in North Idaho


In Memoriam, Our Founder...
Lois Wythe Remembered


Posted: Friday, July 22, 2011 10:00 am | Updated: 10:50 pm, Thu Jul 21, 2011.

By JOSEPH HENRY WYTHE For the Bonner County Daily Bee

SANDPOINT — When Lois Wythe returned in 1977 to her native state of Idaho, she brought with her a great love for the Northwest and its people.

Upon the passing of Lois Wythe on July 21, 2011, many of us will pause to reflect on her loving contributions to our community.

Lois returned to Idaho with her husband, Joe, in 1977, settling into a temporary residence in Sandpoint they called “Intermezzo.” Lois asked Joe what he would like to do to celebrate Fathers Day in 1978. Responding, “Since you have been fussing about no local Quaker group here, why don’t we just sit down and start one.” Thus, the first Sandpoint Friends Meeting was held in the Intermezzo living room.

Lois and Joe each served on the Carmel Cultural Commission, and when they came here they joined with several other persons interested in the arts to form the Pend Oreille Arts Council.

Concerned about the various assaults on the earth, Lois and Joe became founders of the Panhandle Environmental League, later to be part of the Idaho Environmental League.

The small back yard at Intermezzo was surrounded on three sides by buildings painted white which reflected sunlight into the space, perfect for warming a vegetable garden. Here Lois began her experience in gardening by developing raised beds to produce bountiful harvests of organic vegetables in a small space.

Upon moving to the farm on Rapid Lightning Creek called “The Peaceable Kingdom,” Lois expanded her raised bed gardens. In addition to vegetables, fruits, and berries, she developed gardens of culinary and floral herbs. She sold her herbs from a shop on the Cedar Street Bridge, but later built a log cabin in her gardens where she could do both growing and selling. In addition, picnic tables were installed on the nearby lawn and walking trails were groomed along the creek and into the woods.

The shop and gardens became an attraction to locals and visitors alike. When families came to Sandpoint, the husbands would often go fishing, leaving the wives with little to do but go shopping. After that, they would go out to the Peaceable Kingdom for a pleasant day in the country. The place became so popular that a tour bus company requested permission to bring their passengers there; that’s where Lois drew the line.

Lois became a Master Gardener and was instrumental in getting an organic gardening section to be added to the course.

In her success in gardening, she saw the need for an outlet where she and other gardeners could sell their produce, and she founded the Sandpoint Farmers Market.

Her interest in growing things led Lois to found the Kinnikinick Chapter of the Idaho Native Plants Society, later to become the Kinnikinick Native Plants Society. Her suggestion to develop a native plant arboretum was quickly adopted, and the outstanding facility in Lakeview Park was dedicated in her honor.

For her community activities, Lois was chosen to be a Woman of Wisdom in 2001.

Her love of literature and poetry led Lois to do some writing of her own. She published 'Lines From Lois', a popular, quarterly newsletter featuring items of interest to Lois and, incidentally, everyone else.

However, it was for her classes and workshops in gardening and herbal lore that Lois will be especially remembered. The collection of handouts for those sessions became veritable encyclopedias of information about herbs and gardening. Newcomers to the community and locals came to her delightful studio/herb shop at The Peaceable Kingdom and later to another at the beautiful Unicorn Farm on the Lower Pack River Road.

Lifetime bonds of friendship were developed among those attending her classes and with Lois. This she considered her finest gift to the community.

Lois planted a Linden tree at Hattie’s Happy Hearts Country Kindergarten Preschool, a Waldorf inspired school, where her ashes will be spread.


A Tribute to Lois Wythe

Sandpoint's native plant arboretum has become a true regional treasure, a place to go for an introduction native plants and for quiet contemplation. But, because the trees, plants and serene setting take center stage, it’s easy to forget the dedication and hours of toil that have gone on behind the scenes to make this wonderful place possible.  Let’s take a moment to recognize Lois Wythe and the original team of  “straw bosses” she recruited for all their efforts in creating and maintaining this special place.

Lois’s dream for an Arboretum moved toward reality in the mid 1990's with her impassioned plea for others to join her in "signing away one summer morning per week for the rest of their lives.”   This produced 12 dedicated volunteers.   Through hard work and sheer force of will they endured the trials of selecting and acquiring a site, planning and coordinating all the details, and soliciting both community support as well as sponsorship.  With the bureaucracy behind them they set about creating, maintaining and continually improving a place where native plants, and our appreciation of them, can flourish.  Their never-ending work continues to this day. 

Their work quickly grew into creating the Kinnikinnick Chapter of the Idaho Native Plant Society, now the Kinnikinnick Native Plant Society.  Most of these individuals are still giving heart and soul every week to the arboretum, testimony to the loyalty and commitment that Lois inspires.  Many more carry on other work including local landscaping projects and conservation work.  We thank all these many volunteers for their dedication and perseverance.

The legacy of Lois’s dream, drive and passion will be the continued growth and strength of the arboretum and the Kinnikinnick Native Plant Society.  The dedication and ongoing efforts carried out by Lois continue to inspire new volunteers and bring about improvements to the arboretum and the society.  We salute Lois and support the fulfillment of her vision!