Margot Rochester, S.C. garden writer and speaker, dies at 72

COLUMBIA -- Margot Rochester of Lugoff, a master gardener and writer who shared her passion with readers of her books and newspaper columns, died Tuesday. She was 72.

Rochester, a retired English teacher who spent 28 years at Lugoff-Elgin High School, wrote a monthly column for The (Columbia) State's Home & Garden section. She was the author of "Earthly Delights: Gardening by the Seasons the Easy Way," which preached that gardening didn't need to be difficult to be rewarding. Her second book, "Down to Earth," will be published in January.

Rochester was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer three weeks ago, soon after returning from a garden writers conference in Portland, Ore.

Rochester tended a 1-acre garden at her home in Lugoff, often writing and speaking about ways to make gardening "easier without making it boring," she said in an interview when her first book was published in 2004. She spoke to garden groups around the Southeast, including York County master gardeners, sharing her knowledge and sense of humor.

Sandy McCombs, who came to know Rochester as a teacher 25 years ago. Rochester taught McCombs' daughter and son, now 41 and 38, when they were in high school.

The two, along with three others, formed "The Chums," a group of mostly teachers who met every Wednesday for dinner at the Lugoff House of Pizza and Subs. Rochester was a mentor to McCombs' son, Richard, who is now a college professor in New Mexico.

A native of Los Angeles, Rochester was a graduate of the University of Michigan. She earned her master's degree and Ph.D. in reading from the University of South Carolina.

She and her husband of 52 years, Richard, moved to South Carolina in 1956. They have two sons and five grandchildren.

Rochester was a past president of the S.C. Teachers of English.

The funeral is set for Friday at Grace Episcopal Church in Lugoff.