The Farm, quite literally, has lost its founding father.
Leonard Hunter—the forester who worked weekends growing vegetables with his kids and taking them to market, who saw the kids off to college, and who was there to be supportive when one of them came back to grow the little family business to a nationwide supplier of decorative evergreens for the holidays and dahlia tubers for summer gardens—died in Shelton April 10 after an extended illness.
Len, Andy, Rob and Jim harvest potatoes
in the early days of Lynch Creek Farm.
Len grew up in upstate New York, and came to Shelton to work in timber sales for the Olympic National Forest. He met and married local girl Colleen Shrum. As their three sons, Rob, Jim, and Andy grew, the Hunters decided to start a market garden to keep their boys busy. They sold their abundant produce at local farmers' markets, first Shelton, then Olympia. The Lynch Creek Farm operation morphed over the years as Andy and his brothers grew up, adding a significant floral component and, at the end of the season, Christmas wreaths.
As the wreath business began to grow and Len retired from the U.S. Forest Service, he involved some of his friends making wreaths, and a mail-order business began. Len made daily treks, often multiple daily treks, to the post office to mail wreaths and swags. Soon Lynch Creek Farm went online with its wreaths, centerpieces and other seasonal evergreen decorations. And Len the forester couldn't have been prouder as it grew, even when it took over his workshop, his storage buildings and his entire backyard. For a few seasons, he even signed on as cook, turning out hearty midday meals for the Lynch Creek Farm management team. Pot roast, spaghetti, pork tenderloin: Len drew on experience he'd racked up years before in the Forest Service.
Len did mail duty at Lynch Creek Farm and served for years as the messenger who brought in the muffins and pastries from the European bakery in Olympia each morning to Colleen's Lynch Creek Floral, by now a mainstay among downtown Shelton businesses.
Len loved historic logging photos, too.
In New York, Len acquired an appreciation of antiques, and in early retirement, he delighted in acquiring and restoring antique furniture, specializing in golden oak. His love of antiques included an abiding interest in antique tools, and not surprisingly, he specialized in hand tools from the early days of forestry and logging. He was generous in displaying his logging memorabilia and explaining the uses of the old tools to onlookers. Long a member of the Pacific Northwest Tool Collectors Club, he was quick to take off on the trail of an interesting misery-whip handle or an ax blade for his collection.
Circulatory disease and Alzheimer's increasingly impaired Len's ability to maintain his activities during the past year. He was a patient for the last weeks of his life at Alpine Way Retirement Apartments in Shelton, where his family appreciated the excellent nursing care he received.
A memorial gathering will be held at 2 p.m. Monday, April 22, at Faith Lutheran Church, at 1212 Connection Street (off North 13th) in Shelton. Len was a strong supporter of community efforts and the family has suggested contributions in his memory go to the Mason County Historical Society, the Shelton-Mason County Chamber of Commerce flower-basket project, or the Mason General Hospital Foundation.
His signature booming voice will be missed at Lynch Creek Farm. Someone else will bring in the mail and run the errands, and the business will continue to thrive and grow, but it won't be quite the same. Len Hunter was a bit of a local legend, and he'll be missed.