THALASSA CRUSO HENCKEN
1909 England –1997 MA
Publicity photo sent to
AAFA by Thalassa
New Bedford, Bristol Co., MA—Sunday, 15 June 1997
WELLESLEY [Norfolk Co.]—Thalassa Cruso Hencken, formerly of
Marion [Plymouth Co.], known by gardeners everywhere as the Plant Lady, died on
June 11, 1997. She was 88. She was the widow of Hugh O’Neill Hencken of Boston
Mrs. Hencken, who was known professionally as
Thalassa Cruso, was born in London, England. She received her Academic Diploma
in Archaeology from the London School of Economics, London University in 1931,
and subsequently became Assistant Keeper of the Costume Collection at the
pre-war London Museum.
From 1966 until 1969, she wrote and starred in
“Making Things Grow!” for WGBH-TV. Following the success of that show she became
a regular guest on the “Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson, published four books
on gardening, and for twenty-two years, wrote a gardening column for the Boston
She also trained in field archaeology, and from
1933-1936 directed the excavation of Bredon Hill, an Iron Age fort in
Worcestershire, England. The report on this excavation established a basis for
much of the later archaeological work on British Iron Age sites, and led to her
election to the Society of Antiquaries of London in 1938.
In 1935 she married Hugh O’Neill Hencken of
Boston and Marion who later became Curator of European Archaeology at Harvard
University. During World War II, she wrote reports on American public opinion
for British Intelligence, for which she later received a special commendation.
After the war, Mrs. Hencken joined the Chestnut
Hill Garden Club and began her career in horticulture and the environment. In
1961 she was made a Garden Club of America Horticultural Judge. In 1962, with
two friends, she established the Amateur Horticultural Competition at the
Massachusetts Horticultural Society’s annual Spring Flower Show.
She was awarded the Medal of Merit by the
Chestnut Hill Garden Club, for the Garden Club of America, in 1969, the
Distinguished Service Medal by the Garden Club of America in 1970 a
Distinguished Citation by the Horticultural Society of New York in 1970, and
the George Robert White Medal of Honor in 1985 by the Massachusetts
Horticultural Society. She also served on the Boards of the Massachusetts
Horticultural Society and the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens.
She leaves three daughters, Ala Reid of York
Harbor, Maine, Sophia Stone of New Orleans, La. and Thalassa Scholl of Boston;
seven grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at two o’clock
in the afternoon on June 24th at the Church of the Redeemer, 379 Hammond
Street, Chestnut Hill.
NOTES: SSDI records show that Thalassa C. Hencken (SS# issued in MA)
was born 7 July 1909.
Her Alford lineage, starting with her mother’s
paternal grandmother: Frances Mary 1849 ENG4, Henry 1810 ENG5,
Henry 1782 ENG6, Samuel 1747 ENG7, Thomas 1703 ENG8,
Thomas 1672 ENG9, Richard 1641 ENG10, Thomas 1599 ENG11,
Matthew 1567 ENG12, Henry 1540 ENG13.
Henry 1810 ENG married his first cousin Frances
Oke Alford, so Thalassa has two Alford lineages. Her second lineage: Frances
Oke 1811 ENG5, Samuel 1776 ENG6, Samuel 1747 ENG7,
continued from first lineage.