Friends, family mourn well-known Hawaii scientist who died after contracting COVID-19

Updated: Apr. 3, 2020 at 5:09 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Friends and family identified Hawaii’s third coronavirus-related fatality Friday as a well-known scientist and author who traveled the world to teach people about plants.

Arthur Whistler, 75, died Thursday in the hospital, weeks after testing positive for COVID-19.

Whistler was sick when he returned to Hawaii from a trip to Washington State on March 4 and went to an urgent care facility. He was not tested for the coronavirus despite being symptomatic.

Three days later, paramedics were called and he was transported to Kaiser Moanalua.

He had been on life support since March 10.

Friends and family said Whistler traveled the world for many decades, especially to Samoa and Micronesia, and wrote a number of books. His titles included “Rainforest Trees of Samoa” and “Plants of the Canoe People.”

Art Whistler during his travel missions
Art Whistler during his travel missions(Alice Campbell)

Friends say he was affectionately given a title by the indigenous people he worked with.

“King of the forest, that’s what they called him,” said Angela Kepler, another author and longtime friend.

“The last 20 or 30 years he’s been very keen on training young Samoans to know about the forest. The forest has been logged mercilessly over the last 50 years.”

Art Whistler in Samoa last year
Art Whistler in Samoa last year(Alice Campbell)

At the time of his death, Whistler was an adjunct professor at the University of Hawaii’s Department of Botany.

Kepler said her friend will be remembered for hiking the mountains of islands in search of rare plants and educating people about the benefits and uses of their varieties.

Kepler said he was in good health, an avid tennis player and swimmer.

Art Whistler at work
Art Whistler at work(Alice Campbell)

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