Remembering Thelma Montag

By Helen Purcell Montag

San Diego Botanic Garden’s longest-serving docent, Thelma Montag, passed away in Encinitas on October 15, 2020 at the age of 96. We all fondly remember both Thelma and her husband Dave, who predeceased her in 2014.

Thelma Montag

Thelma was born and grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where she attended school and received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Marquette University. She met her husband Dave before he joined the Navy during World War II. They were married shortly after the war in September 1945.

Thelma and Dave continued to live in Milwaukee for over 30 years, where they raised their three children and enjoyed a very active life with family and friends. In 1977, Thelma and Dave retired to San Diego, a city they had known from David’s Navy training days.
Always an avid gardener, and eager to widen her circle of friends in California, Thelma became a Docent at what was then Quail Gardens in 1982 and she continued to be an enthusiastic supporter of the San Diego Botanic Garden for over 35 years. Even at 96, and in the middle of the pandemic, she continued to join her fellow Docents and Volunteers at their virtual monthly meeting.

Thelma always had a large circle of friends, and found many events and activities to support, but she found her niche at the Gift Shop and the Fall Plant Sale’s annual baked goods sale. Many of us fondly remember Thelma enthusiastically drumming up bake sale contributions each year by reading a story of a lady who tried to pass off a cake as her own handiwork. Thelma loved working in the Gift Shop as well, largely because of all the people she had the opportunity to meet there. Her family and friends always enjoyed the stories she told about Gift shop visitors who came to the Garden from around the world.

Volunteers and Docents who knew Thelma Montag, or worked alongside her over the years, appreciated her zest for life, positive attitude, and the joy she derived from living each day to the fullest. She was an inspiration to all of us at the Garden.