$200,000 Gift to ‘Imiloa Honors Patricia Ann Weber Lee

January 30, 2018, 1:30 PM HST
* Updated January 30, 2:25 PM
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The native garden in front of the restaurant at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center was recently named in memory of Patricia Ann Weber Lee through a $200,000 gift made by her husband, Francis Kainoa Lee, and their sons, Kainoa Christopher Lee and Keali‘iaea Kenneth Lee on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017.

Francis and Patricia Lee. Courtesy photo.

With this gift, ‘Imiloa is launching a campaign to fund the creation of an outdoor “classroom” to educate visitors about the natural and cultural history of the unique ecosystem represented by this garden.

The Patricia Ann Weber Lee Kῑpuka Garden is located in front of ‘Imiloa’s Sky Garden Restaurant, a unique setting which provides an unrivaled view of Hilo Bay and the Hāmākua Coastline. The site features an oasis of native plants retained during the center’s 2004-2006 construction, thus the name “kīpuka.” The garden is filled with 50 to 100 year-old hala and ‘ohi‘a trees which grew on top of the 1881 lava flow that covered the Mokaulele region of Hilo, famed in legends and chants for its multicolored ‘ohi‘a lehua blossoms. Beneath the garden lies its most dramatic feature, a partially collapsed lava tube.

“What a privilege for ‘Imiloa 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 ‘Imiloa Executive Director Ka‘iu 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 we’ve long aimed to fulfill.”

Patricia Ann Weber Lee (1946-2016) was born and raised in Philipsburg, NJ. She graduated from Juniata College in Pennsylvania, then traveled to Hawai‘i in 1969 in preparation to join the newly established Peace Corps. She became captivated by Hawai‛i and its unique culture and landscape, and ended up deciding to remain here, working at various jobs on O‘ahu, including serving as a dorm parent at Kamehameha Schools, Kapālama campus.


In 1974, she married Francis Kainoa Lee, a native of Hilo. In 1986 Pat and Kainoa settled in Waimea on Hawai‘i Island, where she began a 20-plus year career with Parker Ranch, gave birth to two sons, taught Sunday School and pursued her passion for gardening. It was Lee who was responsible for encouraging Kainoa, an avid paddler, to attend an early organizational meeting for the Polynesian Voyaging Society, which ultimately led to his participation as a crew member on the first historic voyage of the iconic sailing canoe, Hōkūle‘a in 1976. Kainoa Lee would sail a total of 4 voyages between 1976 and 1995. In May 2017, as the Hōkūle‘a’s three-year Worldwide Voyage was coming to an end, he traveled to Tahiti, where he was honored, along with fellow crew members from the original 1976 voyage.


‘Imiloa’s eventual vision for the Patricia Ann Weber Lee Kῑpuka Garden is to construct walkways and steps leading down to a lava-paved education terrace where visitors will be able to look into the lava tube and learn about the cultural and natural history of the kῑpuka and the plant communities that inhabit or survive lava events.

A landscape plan for the enhancement of the garden has been commissioned from Randall Monaghan, the landscape architect responsible for the original design of ‘Imiloa’s 5 acres of native gardens, featuring one of Hawai‘i’s largest collections of endemic, indigenous, and Polynesian-introduced plants. The estimated cost for construction is $500,000 and includes communications infrastructure to provide digital support for the outdoor learning station.


To augment the Lee Family gift and help complete the educational vision for ‘Imiloa’s kῑpuka garden, please consider a tax-deductible contribution to ‘Imiloa through the University of Hawai‘i Foundation.

For more information, contact Margaret Shiba, Director of Institutional Advancement, ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center at (808) 932-8921 or [email protected].

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