Jean Malmo, A Believer In Apropos Proverbs And A Nurturer Of People

Helen Jean Negus Malmo had a passion for proverbs.

Wherever she got them - and often they were from the Bible - she pressed them into service at every opportunity - charity meetings, lunch socials and business sessions.

With a resourceful manner and apropos proverbs, she nurtured people - particularly foreign students.

Her favorite proverb was one by which she lived: "Service is the rent we pay for the space we occupy."

Mrs. Malmo, an avid reader and exacting businesswoman who generally used the name Jean, always wanted to be known as a practicing Christian, not someone who simply believes, said her friend Nancy Aziz.

Mrs. Malmo, hearing of a drug death in the University District, the next day put together a panel to suggest solutions to the problems of street youth.

"She was a lady in every sense . . . a do-it-now person who never delayed any acts of kindness or expressions of support," said Aziz. "She thought that real wealth lies in human relationships."

Mrs. Malmo died of cancer last Saturday, March 9. She was 81.

Born in Portland but reared in Puyallup, Mrs. Malmo worked a few years as the Bon Marche's first female credit mananger.

In 1949 she married Clark Malmo, heir to a nursery business begun in 1893 by his father, Charles Malmo. The couple came to administer more than a dozen nurseries, including one where University Village now stands.

They also ran Seattle Wholesale Nursery, once the largest nursery on the West Coast, on 12 acres at Aurora Avenue North and North 147th Street.

After they sold Malmo Nurseries to the Pay'n Save Corp. in 1965, the Malmos continued with hybrid-rhododendron specimens at Malmo Wholesale Rhododendron Garden on Whidbey Island.

Outside the business Mrs. Malmo cultivated "people" projects. She earned many awards, including, in 1995, the Foundation for International Understanding Through Students Lifetime Achievement Award for promoting understanding between international students at the University of Washington and people of the Northwest.

Mrs. Malmo also worked for United Nations Human Rights Day and belonged to the University of Washington Board of Foreign Students.

"Whenever Jean stood at our `Double Tens' annual birthday luncheon and told about her year, it seemed she was a whirlwind," said Ellen Olson, founder of the social group to which Mrs. Malmo belonged (all members' birthdays are Oct. 10).

"She had so many activities and traveled to many foreign countries, being wined and dined with families of people she had helped."

Mrs. Malmo also served on boards at Seattle Pacific University and South Seattle Community College, and volunteered at her church.

She once told a Seattle Times reporter about her life, "It's never what happens to you, it's how you respond to what happens."

Survivors include a cousin, Ruth Huntley, of Schaumburg, Ill., and several nieces and nephews. Her husband died in 1985.

Services will be at 2 p.m. Friday at University Presbyterian Church, 4540 15th Ave. N.E., Seattle, WA, 98105. Remembrances may be made to the church scholarship fund.