KULA - Ali'i Arlington Chang, founder of Ali'i Kula Lavender, died in his sleep Wednesday.
The Kula resident was 69.
"Our hearts ache, yet we're comforted and inspired by Ali'i's love and his everyday actions that encouraged us all to live life fully and with aloha," said Lani Weigert, co-owner of the 13-acre lavender farm.
Ali‘i Kula Lavender farm founder Ali‘i Arlington Chang died Wednesday. He was 69.
Ali‘i Kula Lavender photo
"He was an old-school, strong-minded, often stubborn Chinese-Hawaiian farmer," Weigert said. "Yet he was a gentleman committed to an impeccable work ethic who was in tune with nature, a magnificent storyteller, and unbeknownst to him, a comedian who was a hoot to be around. Above all, he was wise and gifted."
The staff of Ali'i Kula Lavender had gathered at Chang's home Tuesday night for a crew meeting. "He cooked the most delicious and delectable roast with locally grown vegetables. We all had such an enjoyable evening together," Weigert said.
As it turned out, that would be the last time members of the farm staff would share an evening with Chang.
"Maui has lost one of its treasures. We'll miss him very much, but thankfully, his spirit will live on here at Ali'i Kula Lavender," Weigert stated.
Chang grew up on a 20-acre farm in Kaneohe, according to information provided by the farm. He learned from his grandmother, "who could grow anything placed before her and had a recipe for every crop."
Chang would often say, "She made me express art in whatever I did."
In March 1976, he opened Ali'i Gardens Nahiku in East Maui. Chang grew tropical exotic plants with Hana farmer Howard Cooper of Helani Gardens. In 1992, he purchased a protea farm in Kula.
In 2001, Chang was given a single lavender plant by famed Hawaiian vocalist Emma Veary, a longtime friend. The plant became the genesis for Chang's lavender farm.
"We were dear, dear, dear friends," said Veary, who described their relationship as being like sister and brother.
She said she brought him a piece of lavender from a trip to Oregon.
"I brought it home to him. He said, 'What's that?' 'It's lavender,' I said. 'What's lavender?' " she recalled him asking. Not long afterward, Chang called Veary and said, "Eh, tita. Let's go. We're going to buy lavender."
And it turned out that Kula had the perfect climate to grow lavender, she said.
Veary said she enjoyed spending as much time as she could with him when he wasn't working. "He was a workaholic," she said. "I will miss him very much.
"The man was a genius when it came to plants and agriculture," Veary said. "He loved it. He loved his work.
"There are few people who were as close as we were," she said.
A celebration of life will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 9 at Ali'i Kula Lavender, at 1100 Waipoli Road.
He is survived by his son, Forrest Koa Chang.
There are plans to establish the Ali'i Chang Foundation to provide scholarships for Native Hawaiians pursuing careers in agriculture and for agricultural education in island schools.
Scholarship recipients should embody the qualities Chang possessed, including a strong work ethic, as well as skills in growing plants, flowers, trees and food crops.