Thelma Peggy Williams, 78, nurse, vegetable merchant at markets

October 06, 2004|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Thelma Peggy Williams, a nurse and longtime vegetable merchant at area farmers' markets whose loquacious manner earned her legions of customers, died of heart failure Monday at North Arundel Hospital. She was 78 and a Glen Burnie resident.

Born Thelma Peggy Thompson in Little Rock, Ark., she was raised in Baltimore and graduated from Patterson Park High School in 1945.

She had her nursing training at the former South Baltimore General Hospital and worked there more than 25 years until retiring in the late 1970s.

In 1947, she married Charles H. Williams, and they had one child -- a son, Scott C. Williams, who became a farmer. Her husband and son survive her.

About 20 years ago, Mrs. Williams started helping her son at local farmers' markets, selling eggs from his 300-acre Gardener's Gourmet Farm in Uniontown, Carroll County.

"At first, she was known as the Egg Lady, until about 10 years ago when we stopped selling eggs," Scott Williams said. "After converting 70 acres to growing vegetables, she became known as the Lettuce Lady because she sold our vegetables at the Waverly Farmers' Market and the downtown farmers' market."

From 7 a.m. to 11 a.m., Mrs. Williams and her husband enjoyed the brisk pace at Waverly Farmers' Market on Saturdays and the downtown market on Sundays under the Jones Falls Expressway, where she greeted customers with a breezy repartee as she sold bags of fresh mesclun gourmet salad mix, along with herbs, green beans, lettuce and tomatoes.

"She liked people and everyone was always dropping by to see Peg and Charlie," her son said. "And she spent lots of time yakking with everyone."

When she wasn't tending her stand, she wandered about talking to other farmers and delivering bread, pies, cakes and pastries she had baked for them.

"She was just a gorgeous, good-hearted and helpful person," said Bill Early of Dundalk, a longtime friend and customer. "She was just a beautiful person. I cried when I heard that she had died."

Mr. Early's son, Wayne A. Early, is a Baltimore police officer assigned to the downtown farmers' market, and he was fond of Mrs. Williams.

"She lived for the farmers' market and was the life of the party," Officer Early said. "She couldn't wait to get down here so she could make her rounds. All the farmers here, including Peg, are a tight-knit family. And when she died, it was like losing a member of your family."

He recalled her kindness to the less fortunate: "If a needy person wanted something, she'd give it to them. She was the type who'd give you the shirt of her back."

Mrs. Williams also enjoyed cooking. "She made the best sauerbraten and potato dumplings," Scott Williams said yesterday. "And she made the best apple pies out of the apples the farmers gave her."

At Mrs. Williams' request, no funeral is planned.

In addition to her son and husband, who is a retired Arundel High School history teacher, she is survived by two brothers, Don Thompson and Bill Thompson, both of Mobile, Ala.; and two grandchildren.

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