Thea Steinmetz will almost certainly continue gardening as long as she lives. But she said she’s writen her last column on the subject.
Asked for a reason, the 79-year-old Westlake resident joked, “Too much water under the dam.”
Frequent trips to the East Coast to visit her eight grandchildren have also made it difficult to keep up with her semimonthly column, she added.
Steinmetz said her column has led to lifelong friendships.
“One of the great pleasures of the job I’ve had for 21 years was meeting the wonderful people that I had the chance to meet,” she said.
One perk of the job is that she was constantly learning new aspects of gardening.
Not that the native of Munich, Germany, didn’t bring an abundance of knowledge to the topic. Her grandmother was an herb expert who wrote books on the subject.
“She was forced to garden because she had 11 children,” Steinmetz said.
As a child, she watched from the window of a relative’s Munich apartment as Adolf Hitler passed by during a parade. Steinmetz met her husband, Art, a Cleveland native while the future attorney was studying overseas in Geneva. At the age of 19, she emigrated to the U.S. whti her new husband, a move she calls the best decision of her life.
Under the auspices of the Western Reserve Herb Society, Steinmetz traveled to Europe three times in the 1980s to study plants.
She first began writing articles about herbs for The Plain Dealer. Soon she became a regular on two local TV talk shows. In the 1980s, she appeared twice a month on WKYC-TV’s “A.M. Cleveland” and was a contributor for 17 years on WEWS-TV’s “Morning Exchange.” She also appeared on cable access shows across the country.
“I did cable shows before cable was cool,” she said.
Steinmetz began her association with West Life by submitting a gardening article to then-publisher Ed Pivcevich.
Gardening is growing in popularity, Steinmetz said, because people enjoy eating homegrown vegetables, which they know are always fresh. An increase in ethnic cooking has likewise resulted in increased interest in growing herbs called for in the recipes, she added.
“It’s the most satisfying hobby anyone can have, because you can eat what you grow,” Steinmetz said.
During the winter, Steinmetz said she did her gardening at the library by reading even more about the subject.
“The downside for me is, I’ve never met a plant I didn’t like,” she said.
Not even weeds, which she described as “plants for which benefits have not been discovered yet.”
Gardeners, for the most part, Steinmetz said, are very nice, down-to-earth people.
“I’ve always found gardeners to be very optimistic people because they’re always thinking about what they’re going to be doing next year,” she said.
Steinmetz said she’s not retiring to the rocking chair, but will spend her time traveling, reading and, of course, gardening.
A contributor to several cookbooks, Steinmetz said she plans to continue working on her book, to be entitled, “I’m Too Young to Be So Old,” which she describes as “a look at how to stay vital even though the years are adding up.”