June 8, 1977 was the first day Dan Lutkenhouse stepped foot onto The Big Island of Hawaii; it was also his birthday. He and I toured the island and were shown the property on Onomea Bay that is now Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. Dan fell in love with the beautiful valley-on-the-ocean and just could not forget it. He was in the midst of selling his San Francisco 48-State trucking company and he was not ready to retire at 55 years of age. Being a hard-working businessman all his adult years, he had to satisfy himself with a good reason to buy the 25 acres on the ocean. He decided about one year later, after many trips back to the Big Island from San Francisco, that he was looking at his calling for the rest of his life, and vowed to create a Garden for people to enjoy, and make his dream to preserve Onomea Bay, a reality.
We purchased the valley-on-the-ocean and later made The Big Island of Hawaii our permanent home. Dan spent every day for 8 years carving out what was an unbelievably overgrown, trash-filled valley into a Garden like no other. His innate love of beauty and amazing eye for capturing the essence of nature produced a Hawaiian paradise, world-renown today and acclaimed to be the most beautiful area in Hawaii.
Over 3,000,000 people have visited the Garden, and it has been filmed and photographed by the world. Most importantly, the Garden has brought peace, serenity and happiness to so many people, whose comments about their walks through the Garden are truly heart-touching. Horticulturists from academia everywhere explore the collections of rare, endangered and exotic plantings.
One could fill a volume with his accomplishments and good deeds, but he never cared about status or self-importance. How fortunate we all are to have been present in his time.
To fulfill his dream of preserving Onomea Bay while establishing a most beautiful Garden which would last forever, he later purchased land that surrounded the Bay and donated it, also, to Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. Now overseen by a small Board of Directors, it thrives, -and Dan’s vision, determination, artistry and creativity is felt everywhere you walk in the Garden.
….One can truly say that this man, Dan Lutkenhouse, left the world a better place.