Hawaii flower patriarch
Ernest Watanabe dies at 91

His Watanabe Floral is the state's
largest wholesaler and grower of roses


By Rosemarie Bernardo

Ernest Watanabe, who earned the nickname, "the rose king of Hawaii," often donated flowers to various charities and hospitals to lift patron's spirits, said his son Russell Watanabe.

"It gave him great satisfaction and great pleasure to serve the community that way."

Watanabe, the largest flower wholesaler and rose grower in the state, died in his Aiea home yesterday morning. He was 91.

For years, Watanabe Floral Inc. has supplied many florists, hotels and organizations with flowers.

"He got into the flower business because he understood flowers helped people express their feelings," Russell Watanabe said.

"Customers of ours will remember him as one who loves to be out there and see customers satisfied."

Watanabe was born on June 10, 1911, in Maui. He attended McKinley High School and later the University of Hawaii at Manoa, obtaining a master's degree in chemistry.

He had a deep love for classical music. He displayed his passion as a violinist for the Honolulu Symphony. Russell Watanabe recalled how his father would wake up the children by blasting Beethoven's Fifth Piano Concerto.

He was an honest man who had great faith in God, he said.

Watanabe was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. From 1982 to 1984, he and his wife served in a temple mission in Japan.

Russell Watanabe further described his father as "determined," adding, "Even when the odds were very, very long, or seemed hopeless, he never gave up."

After World War II, Watanabe and his wife, Shizue, began growing roses on Bishop Estate land in Koko Head.

His daughter, Louise Davis, described her father as a definitive person who was "willing to work and make things happen.

"He set goals and attained those goals. For us, he was always a great example."

Though he was an industrious man, Watanabe always set aside time for his family.

"He was quite a remarkable person," Davis said.

Watanabe is survived by his wife, Shizue; sons Wesley, Russell and Leland; daughters Joann Watanabe, Susan Watanabe and Louise Davis of Portland, Ore.; 16 grandchildren and 1 great-grandchild.

Services are pending.

E-mail to City Desk


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