Word had it we were to have a guest speaker from way out west for that month's Master Gardener advanced training session, someone to help us learn to wrangle calls, often ornery ones, to our diagnostic hotline.
Out came a twangy-talking woman with big hair, even bigger balloon-assisted bosoms and a lasso on her hip. Josey Montana told us she'd just rode in on her pony special for us.
Yet as I watched this combination Annie Oakley/Dolly Parton character, there was a feeling of familiarity about her. Could it be, no it couldn't be. Was that Kae?
Well I'll be. Who knew. If there ever was a person who could be described as mild-mannered, it was Kae. Quiet, shy-seeming Kae had an alter ego and she was sassing us from up on the stage with an attitude I'd have never imagined in a hundred years!
But Josey was only one character, she could take on whatever was needed. For Herb Day, I asked her if she could become Mother Nature for me and hand out seed packets to our visitors. With a mischievous spark in her eyes, she said she had just the costume, a green bridesmaid dress that was so awful it was great. Somehow she didn't come off silly, but instead a beautiful "Parsley Princess".
Kae was the definiton of humble. I had no idea that in 2000, she was the one who helped to start the Plant a Row for the Hungry program in Sedgwick County, although I regularly donated my produce to the cause. She coordinated the program so that gardeners could take their surplus vegetables to area garden centers so that the Food Bank in Wichita would have access to fresh produce for the first time.
Besides the Master Gardener title, she was a founder of the Master Composter program and also a force for community tree planting. Her gracious smile greeted you at the extension building where she also worked in the horticulture office. And while I haven't walked through there in a long time since moving away, I feel I miss her there.
When I left Wichita I gave her my big wooden-shelved seed starting set-up. I hope she was able to enjoy it for awhile before getting sick. I only talked to her a few times recently and didn't know her illness had worsened. She had sounded so hopeful about her next treatment. Now I wished I had gotten to know Kae even better. She was a character with so much character.