HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Arthur Whistler dedicated his life to studying the tropical plants of the Pacific Islands.
Along the way, he learned a lot about the people of the Pacific, too, becoming an advocate for indigenous populations working to preserve a way of life and their island homes.
In Samoa, he even earned the nickname “king of the forest.”
Whistler, who was a prolific author, well-known ethnobotanist and longtime University of Hawaii lecturer who’d inspired thousands of young scientists to discover the lives of plants, died in April at 75 years old.
He was Hawaii’s third coronavirus-related fatality.
Whistler got sick after returning from a trip to Washington state the previous month.
Colleagues, friends and family remember him for a true passion for his work and say he believed in the power of one person to make a difference. He had a zest for life, they said, and he never knew a stranger.
Angela Kepler, a longtime friend, told Hawaii News Now that Whistler worked with young Samoans for decades to teach them about forest preservation and the perils of logging.
Those who know him take heart that while he is gone, his work lives on.
For years, Whistler had collaborated with the National Tropical Botanical Garden on a manuscript cataloging thousands of specimens for the “Flora of Samoa,” which is due to be published in 2021.
“This flora, Art’s magnum opus, and the collections that he deposited in (the garden’s) herbarium will contribute enormously to our collective understanding of tropical species,” the botanical garden said, after Whistler’s death was announced. “Our loss is tremendous, but his legacy is greater.”