February 2019 – Marta McDowell, who writes about horticulture and garden history, was the featured speaker at the 7th annual Norma’s Literary Luncheon on February 7, 2019. Her charming talk, entitled “The Pen and the Trowel,” focused on how love of gardens and gardening infused the literature of great women writers, including Harriet Beecher Stowe, Emily Dickenson, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Louisa May Alcott, Beatrix Potter and Laura Ingalls Wilder.
“I have always loved gardening and reading so I wish I had known Norma Melchor,” McDowell told almost 200 rapt guests at Sharon Heights Golf & Country Club. Norma, an avid reader and book club member for more than 50 years, was known to love her apricot trees and roses, and she filled her home with fresh cut flowers. McDowell quoted wonderful passages from the authors’ novels and letters, illustrating her remarks with slides of their gardens and her own. “My garden is overcrowded because I read too much,” she joked.
The luncheon raised more than $160,000 for El Camino Hospital’s Free Mammogram Program, which provides free breast screenings to uninsured and under-insured women. Dr. Silaja Yitta, director of breast imaging and intervention noted that, despite numerous advances over the past 30 years, there are still disparities in breast cancer survival based on socioeconomic status. “Preventative care tends to be less frequent in lower socioeconomic patients, as a result they present with more advanced disease,” she explained. “The Free Mammogram Program bridges this gap.” It is also completely underwritten by philanthropy.
The Melchor family generously sponsored the luncheon and three generations attended. Event Chair Judie Wolken thanked them “for growing a family of readers who continue to engage with El Camino Hospital.” She also acknowledged her “wonderful committee members Betsy Dawes and Mary Scrivner for helping this event blossom.”
Each year, Norma’s Literary Luncheon honors the memory of El Camino Hospital champion and benefactor Norma Melchor, and raises funds for health care programs that benefit women and families. The next luncheon will take place on February 6, 2020. Novelist Lisa See, author of The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, will be the featured speaker.