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E-M:/ Fw: Death of Mary Appelhof

Enviro-Mich Friends,
For those of who knew her, Mary was the epitome of practical hands-on-science, ever curious and always enthusiastic.  We will miss a dear friend! But her writings and teaching will continue to be shared via her publications and lessons.
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Friday, May 06, 2005 6:17 AM
Subject: Death of Mary Appelhof

Mary Appelhof of Kalamazoo died Tuesday, May 3.  Mary wrote the popular book "Worms Eat My Garbage", and was a guest speaker at MOFFA festivals and events.  She will be missed, but her enthusiasm for vermicomposting will live on in the many students and families (including mine!) that she influenced.
Carol Osborne, Michigan Organic Food & Farm Alliance

'Worm woman' leaves a legacy of teaching about environment

ewalker@kalamazoogazette.com 388-7777
Kalamazoo Gazette

A compost enthusiast who was known worldwide as the "worm woman," and known to her friends as a caring and ambitious environmentalist with a passion for nature and knowledge, died Tuesday.

Mary Appelhof, 68, of Kalamazoo, died just weeks after being diagnosed with a cancer of the abdominal lining.

Despite her declining health, friend and business partner Nancy Essex said Appelhof so loved to spread her knowledge, often of nature and biology, that she taught people as long as she had breath. Essex worked with Appelhof at the Portage publishing company Flowerfield Enterprises, which Appelhof had owned for more than 30 years.

Longtime friend River Artz said if you ran into Appelhof at a party, you'd get a lengthy account of whatever Appelhof had recently learned. She was always seeking knowledge and sharing it with others, her friends said.

Essex laughed when she recalled one of her favorite memories of Appelhof. About 20 years ago, a group of her friends were camping on Appelhof's property on Lake Michigan, and they sat in a circle like schoolchildren as Appelhof gave them a geology lesson by using rocks she found on the shore.

Appelhof previously taught at Kalamazoo Central High School. After leaving the teaching profession, she devoted a large part of her life to informing others about vermicomposting, the method of using worms to convert household garbage into nutrient-rich fertilizer for gardens and household plants.

Appelhof wrote "Worms Eat My Garbage" and "Worms Eat Our Garbage" and produced a video called "Worm Mania."

"She wanted to change the way the world thought about garbage," said Mary Frances Fenton, Appelhof's partner of 27 years.

Appelhof traveled around the world to places like Russia, Ireland, England and Australia to share her ideas about vermicomposting. In 2003, Appelhof organized a huge vermicomposting seminar in Comstock called "Vermillenium" that drew people from as far as Australia, Japan and Italy.

Friends say Appelhof was an award-winning nature photographer, trained to be an Olympic swimmer until she enrolled in Michigan State University (where she earned two master's degrees) and had earned such recognition in vermicomposting that a huge photo of her hung in the Smithsonian Institution above a worm exhibit.

Sharon Roepke, Appelhof's friend and director of the Kalamazoo Gay/Lesbian Resource Center, where Appelhof volunteered, said when she first met Appelhof, she was struck by how motivated she was to discover knowledge that would help the world.

"She had a passionate interest in biology, and this was her unique place in the world to make a contribution," Roepke said. "And she made a tremendous contribution."

Appelhof was born June 11, 1936, in Detroit. Her father was a minister and her mother was active in the church. She moved in the early 1970s to Kalamazoo, where she had lived since.

She is survived by two bothers, Alan Appelhof, of Beulah, and David Appelhof, of Minneapolis. Her funeral will be held in Beulah. A memorial service will take place sometime in the next month in Kalamazoo.