Mary Lou Weiss
Mary Lou Weiss (City of Torrance photo)

Mary Lou Weiss, a farm girl from Ohio who managed farmers markets in Torrance, Hermosa Beach and other South Bay cities for more than two decades and served on the Hermosa Beach school board for 16 years, died over the weekend. She was 75.

Weiss suffered cardiac arrest at her Hermosa Beach home Saturday morning and was pronounced dead at Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center in Torrance, said Jim Weiss, her husband of 41 years.

"The impact that she's had on Torrance and farmers markets in general in the South Bay area is just immense," said Jason Minter, Torrance's senior business manager, who worked with Weiss on various projects.

Weiss enjoyed farmers markets for the "community atmosphere and the individual people she got to interact with," said her husband, who grows orchids in Torrance and sells them at local farmers markets.

Weiss started the Hermosa Beach farmers market on Fridays in 1990, and a year later started working at the Torrance farmers market on Tuesdays.

She eventually added a Saturday farmers market at Torrance's Wilson Park in 1992, and together the markets gross more than $5 million in sales annually.

"She initiated the Saturday market and she built it into the third largest farmers market in Los Angeles County and she was very proud of it," her husband said.

"Within a month, we knew we had a winner," Weiss said in an interview about the Saturday farmers market. He once said patrons of the Torrance farmers market can find "everything but toilet paper." Even grass-fed beef pork, chicken and bison are available, she said.

Weiss started farmers markets in Rolling Hills Estates, Manhattan Beach, El Segundo, Westchester and other parts of Los Angeles County. She also oversaw 250 community gardens at Torrance's Columbia and Lago Seco parks, and was the volunteer coordinator for the city's Community Services Department, responsible for arranging an annual recognition dinner.

Weiss served on various state committees, including three terms on the State Farmers Market Advisory Committee. She recently helped establish a state training program for farmers market managers.

She was recognized for her years of service with such honors as the Torrance Parks and Recreation Commission Distinguished Staff Award and the Community Services Department Employee of the Year Award, both from the city of Torrance.

In addition to her work with farmers markets, Weiss served on the Hermosa Beach school board from 1985 to 2001, serving stints on the panel as president as well.

A vendor takes payment for goods at her fruit and vegetable stand at the Farmers Market at Wilson Park. Daily Breeze file photo.
A vendor takes payment for goods at her fruit and vegetable stand at the Farmers Market at Wilson Park. Daily Breeze file photo. (Robert Casillas / Staff Photographer)

Weiss was born in 1938 on a farm in Canal Fulton, Ohio. She loved doughnut peaches, which are flat with sweet, white flesh, her husband said.

She had planned to retire in August.

After retirement, Mary Lou and Jim Weiss had planned to take two cruises, to Alaska and the western Caribbean.

While she accomplished much in her life, there was one dream she never fulfilled.

"She wanted a red Corvette," her husband said. "She never got to get that."

In addition to her husband, Weiss is survived by a son, Steven, and wife Rochelle; a son, Brian, and wife Amanda; and two grandchildren, Nikki and Jake.

A public memorial service is scheduled for 5 p.m. Sunday at the Rice Mortuary chapel, Torrance.

The family asks that donations be made to a charity that supports women's issues, or to the Torrance Community Services Department to be used toward a tree or bench at Wilson Park.