Francis and Patricia Lee

ʻImiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo is launching an effort to create an outdoor classroom to educate visitors about the natural and cultural history of a unique ecosystem represented by its native garden. The garden was recently named in memory of Patricia Anna Weber Lee, whose family donated $200,000 to the center.

The garden fronts ʻImiloa’s Sky Garden restaurant and features 50- to 100-year-old hala and ʻōhiʻa trees, which grew atop an 1881 Maunaloa lava flow that covered the Mokaulele region of Hilo. Beneath the garden lies its most dramatic feature, a partially collapsed lava tube.

“What a privilege for ʻImiloa to receive this generous gift in honor of Pat Lee, remembered by so many of us on the Big Island as our ‘Aunty Pat,’” said ʻImiloa Executive Director Kaʻiu Kimura. ‘We look forward to using the Lee family gift to begin transforming our native landscape gardens into an outdoor extension of our exhibit hall, a vision weʻve long aimed to fulfill.”

Lee was born in Phillipsburg, N.J., in 1946. She moved to Hawaiʻi in 1969 to join the Peace Corps but became captivated by the natural and cultural beauty of the islands and decided to stay. In 1974 she married Hilo native Francis Kainoa Lee, a member of the 1976 Hōkūleʻa crew that sailed back to Hawaiʻi from Tahiti. The couple had two sons, Kealiʻiaea Kenneth Lee and Kainoa Christopher Lee.

Donations to augment the Lee family gift can be made through the University of Hawaiʻi Foundation.

To read the complete story go to UH Foundation or ʻImiloa Astronomy Center.