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Karel Havlicek


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#1 bgl

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Posted 18 April 2008 - 04:48 PM

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Karel Havlicek died very recently of a heart attack at his home in Hilo. Finding out about his death left me with a great sense of loss and sadness. Karel was definitely one of the greatest plant lovers I have ever known. Karel’s son, Pavel, is currently here on the Big Island and informed me that there will be a “Memorial gathering to celebrate Karel’s life”. It will take place at 12 noon on Saturday April 26th at Karel’s home in Waiakea-uka in Hilo and it will be very informal. If you plan on attending but don’t have the address, send me a PM. (The address is however listed in the HIPS roster).

I first met Karel in January 2001. This was at the Annual PSSC Banquet in Orange County, CA. I had been invited as the guest speaker, and showed slides of palms in Fiji, New Caledonia and Hawaii. After the presentation I talked with quite a few of the Palm Society members, many of whom were interested in information about Hawaii, and the possibility of moving here. I spent quite a bit of time talking with Karel, and shortly afterwards he made the decision to leave Dana Point, CA, and move to the Big Island. He bought a house on a one acre lot on Makamae Street here in Leilani Estates, and had hopes of buying two adjacent vacant lots. He had his entire plant collection shipped over here, and it was indeed a very impressive collection. Karel had an eye for detail that was beyond amazing and many times he would point to differences between plants that I had simply overlooked. And many times I still couldn’t see the difference, even after he explained it to me!

Unfortunately, the owner of the two adjacent acres decided to develop those two lots himself, so Karel started looking for a different property and ended up buying a 3 acre property with two houses in upper Waiakea-uka in south Hilo. I believe that was in late 2003. After moving there he added quite a few plants to his collection, and it should be pointed out that even though he was very much interested in palms, that was a very very small part of his fascination with plants.

Karel was a very unique individual and one of my best friends. We had numerous interesting conversations over the years, and most of the time they didn’t even involve palms. A few months ago we went out for sushi dinner at the Japanese restaurant in Hilo Shopping Center, and at least 90% of our discussion that evening was about religion and one’s life philosophy with, or without, the belief in a supreme being. Karel was two days younger than me, and we would often joke about that. We both turned 64 in late January 2008. Actually, more often than not, I would tease him about the age difference. As often happens when we talk about palms (and plants in general) the question of time would come up, and Karel would then typically make a comment about how old he was and might not live to see a particular palm grow to maturity. Being that I was the older of the two of us, I would quickly refute his statement that he was old.

I know Karel has many friends in southern California from his time there, and if any of our active SoCal Forum members happen to know someone who’s not active on PalmTalk but who knew Karel, please inform them. I have already heard from Palm Society members in SoCal who are thinking of coming over here for the Memorial.

Here’s a photo with Karel on the left, then a friend of ours (Aaron), me and Peter Messmer (a/k/a “Peter Palm”, owner of Hawaii Palm Company in Hawi here on the Big Island). The day was May 13, 2004, and the occasion was the visit, throughout the day, of more than 200 IPS members during the IPS Biennial here in Hawaii. Karel and Aaron assisted me during the day, acting as guides.

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#2 drpalm

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 08:41 AM

I am very sad to here about the passing of Karel. He was an old friend of mine and I will miss him.
I believe I was the reason for the start of his obsession with Bromeliads and maybe Palms.
He was in a nursury looking at a Palm to buy as a gift for a friend and another friend of mine told him I had the same Palm for sale at half the price. Karel came over and bought it and was taken back by my Bromeliads. He bought a bunch just as I was moving to Utah.
When I finally got back to San Clemente, in 1999, I was re-landscaping my recently puchased home with rare palms and bromeliads so I looked up old friends to get something to plant. I was able to go see Karel because he still lived in Dana Point a few miles away. He had become a full blown expert on Palms and Bromeliads and had a very nice collection going. I may be understating the expert part especially in regards to Bromeliads. He told me that he was sick of living in what he called Calaska (CA) and was thinking about moving to Hawaii.
I hadn't spoken to him in a while and was informed by Jerry Andersen that Karel had moved over there near Jerry's place. I was happy for him and not so happy for me still living in Calaska but I can't just up and run off to Hawaii although it has crossed my mine at times. I was trying to get Karel's number to give him a ring and say hi but hadn't found his number yet. I just found out about this forum and signed up a month or so ago. Yesterday I logged in for the first time to see if anyone had any Bromeliads for sale and saw this sad post about Karel right off.
When things like this happen it makes you really think about the past and old friends. I even had a dream about it last night.
Karel....where ever you are......I will miss talking to you with that funny European accent and that laugh. RIP my friend.
Dean Slater
San Clemente
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Dean Slater
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#3 bgl

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 10:59 AM

Dean,

Thanks for adding your memories. I hope others will do the same as soon as we get past these initial difficulties with the new Forum. And, in case you havn't noticed, I just posted a thread under Chapter News and Meetings about the Memorial Gathering for Karel on April 26. Just received the information in an e-mail from Pavel.

Bo-Göran
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#4 jdapalms

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Posted 20 April 2008 - 04:27 PM

I am also very saddened by the news of Karel's passing. I will unfortunately be unable to attend his memorial as I have to return to Calif. so I wish the best to Karel's family.

I met Karel around 1990 this was about the same time that I bought my Fallbrook property to start my nursery. Ed Green had told me about Karel and that Karel was collecting and buying interesting plants, well this got my attention and I asked Ed to take me over there to meet him. I recall that Karel had some of the most colorful Bromeliads that I had ever seen at the time. He had them meticulously lined up all around the house. He also had an old olive tree in the patio with Bromeliads mounted all over. I was impressed especially with his knowledge of plants. Karel was into all types of interesting plants but I know for a fact that his real obsession was his Aroid’s. He collected many rare types of palms, to many to mention. He also loved tree ferns. Over the years Karel and I have traded plants, talked plants and discussed many things about politics, religion and life, Karel was not afraid to die and he told me this many times.

Around the same time that I came to Hawaii to do my garden Karel moved here to Leillani Estates and as Bo mentions he later relocated closer to Hilo. I recall visiting him at his home to check out his place and as we strolled around his property looking at his wonderful collection of plants time meant nothing to either of us.
Karel was a one of a kind collector with an artist eye for detail that I always have admired and I am going to miss times like this, that I have enjoyed with him.
Rest in Peace Karel,
Jerry

Edited by jdapalms, 20 April 2008 - 04:40 PM.

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Jerry D. Andersen
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#5 el-blanco

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Posted 20 April 2008 - 04:54 PM

I.P.S. Members,

For those of us who knew Karel this news comes as a shock.

Karel along with our friend in Dana Point, "Calaska", Mark Gamell are the reason I know the difference between a Queen palm and a King palm.

I met Mark who lives in my neighborhood when I simply stopped by his house in awe of all the cool looking palms he had. At the time I was a new home owner wanting to trick out my "palace". I stopped by Mark's initially because I thought he might be growing palms for sale. Being a Flight Attendant who spent many layovers inn Hawaii I wanted that Tropical Look!!! Mark stated I had to meet this guy Karel who knows everything about plants...... and palms. So off to Karels we go. Needless to say I was impressed by what he had. Granted a lot of it was in pots (Bo, did he ever get anything in the ground?? - HA!).

From this meeting Mark, Karel and I forged a great friendship. He helped me learn about all kinds of palms and plants. We spent a lot of nights talking about not only plants but life in general and whatever came to mind. I took my guitar down on a few occasions. You should have heard him sing Beatles songs!! He was great company to be around. He adored my child and would come over to my house and hang as I was starting to get my garden into shape. My wife thought he was great too and he shared a few meals at our place. He lived about 1 mile from me...... as the crow flys.

When Karel decided to move to Hawaii he was dead set and made it happen. His house in Dana Point is at the bottom of a hill so the cold would roll down and sit right in his yard. He hated the cold. Ironically I drove by his old house about 3 weeks ago. The plants have all grown nicely that he planted.

Being employed by the airlines my wife and I got a 75% discount on Fed-Ex. I was happy to share this with Karel who proceeded to ship his massive collection to Hilo. If I was gone my wife would take the boxes for him in my place. HE SHIPPED A LOT OF BOXES. Muchas CAJAS!!!! I spoke to Pavel a few days ago and he stated he came across all the receipts that were about 3" high.

A lot of Karels plants are in my garden. These are the ones too large to ship or trees he wanted me to take from his yard. In looking out now as I type he gave me a wonderful Cyphophonniex Nucele that has never missed a beat, Howea Belmoreana, Howea Forseriana that was a house plant of his near death (doing fine now), Livistona Muerelli, Parajubea Toraylii, Chatham Island Shaving Brush and a Chambeyronia....... all are looking great! My favorite plant he gave me was a Ficus Dammaropsis that continues to amaze me! Most of all he gave me, my wife and children a great friendship.

I talked to him on occasion and via email. He always wondered when I was coming to visit. Sadly I never did get to see him one last time.

Life is short! Live your dreams and live every day as if it was your last. I know Karel did! His moving to Hawaii was all he thought it would be and more! I am glad he got to live in a true zone 11 and grow whatever his heart desired.

Proverbs 3:5-6 states:
5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.


God Bless!

Jeff White
Dana Point, CA
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#6 bgl

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Posted 20 April 2008 - 05:38 PM

Jeff,
I'm fairly certain that Karel didn't get a single plant in the ground and this actually turned into a standing joke, with the mandatory "so, have you planted anything yet" question and Karel's response, which was easy to anticipate!
Bo-Göran
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#7 Dypsisdean

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Posted 21 April 2008 - 03:18 AM

I hope Bo didn't mind that I inserted that very old photo of Karel into his first post at the top of this thread. But anyone who knew Karel will certainly crack a smile when recognizing him as a much younger man. It is fitting that both photos now in Bo's post show him as I will remember him. A laugh and a smile were never far away.

I have known a lot of fanatic, obsessed, and absorbed plant collectors. At times I have felt like I am leaving sanity behind in my quest for that "must have" species. But Karel was on another level, and I always felt refreshingly normal after a phone call or visit with him. But I would always leave those encounters with a slight sense of inadequacy, and a long list of what I couldn't fit into the truck.

Karel and I left "Calaska" around the same time for the same reason. We found ourselves on the same island with the same obsession. So whenever I was to call or visit, I knew it wouldn't be quick. It was one "I gotta get going" after another, with the latest aroid ID controversy, communist Czechoslovakia story, or the meaning of life in between. In fact, in retrospect, I don't find it coincidental that during our last two visits he raised the topic of religon and his growing beliefs for the first time.

Karel was as unique and as interesting as they come. And it is with great sorrow that I realize he will no longer be sharing his knowledge.

During our last visit he asked me to take some photos of a few anthuriums he was particularly proud of. I should have taken better notes, but I was certain that I could always check back. I believe these are the true black Anthurium warocqueanum, an Anthurium regale cross that he was so interested in, and another Anthurium that I can't remember. These may give a slight taste of the great eye and an appreciation of beauty that was Karel Havlicek.
DSC_0015.jpg DSC_0007.jpg DSC_0003.jpg DSC_0003.jpg]
DSC_0008.jpg DSC_0002.jpg

Edited by Dypsisdean, 21 April 2008 - 03:35 AM.

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#8 madagascarbob

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Posted 21 April 2008 - 04:52 AM

I have hundreds of Karels bromiliads in my yard that he would trade for my palms .When he would see a palm he wanted he would get the shakes ! He's one of a kind and will be missed . Until we meet in glory my friend !
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#9 pogobob

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Posted 21 April 2008 - 11:41 AM

Karel was one of my favorite plant friends, always exited to buy,sell, or trade with. He would come over to my place and and start hopping around the garden and pointing out minute details in some of the palms that I would never have noticed. When he became interested in one specie or other it became an unstoppable mission for him to aquire it. He would show me his "wish list" of plants that was 50 pages hand written and always in his back pocket, with check marks,notes, phone numbers,names etc. His garden in Dana Point was truly a work of art and madness. I remember some of his earliest palm plantings in these strange flamingo mud nest like mounds that were hand sculpted from clay! He also had tubs, inflatable pools, and barrels of water everywhere to water his incredeble bromiliad collection, that was terraced all the way around and up the sides of the house! He was one of the most intellgent, interesting ,and kind human beings I have known. I too have some of his bromiliads, and I have a tall watermelon chambeyronia in my front yard that I dug from his place when he moved to Hawaii. One of Karels favorite words that I recall, was "Perfection". I am comforted in knowing that he has finally and truly has achieved Gods gift of this promise...Bob
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#10 Sapzurro

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Posted 22 April 2008 - 03:22 PM

I met Karel about 10 years ago and counted him among one of my best friends. His passing saddens me, but I wanted to share some of his "Karelism's", stories, and feelings about his life and attitude towards plants. He was definitely my mentor and friend.

I had about 10 bromeliads, some Kings, and Pigmy Date Palms. I met a bromeliad grower who knew this Czech guy who lived in Dana Point and sold bromeliads. Turns out it was Karel and he lived 2 miles from my house. I went over to his house to buy some bromeliads a couple of times and after about a month or so I was over there every few days or so talking to Karel about palms, cycads, and bromeliads. He opened my eyes to what could be grown here in Southern California. Well, under his tutilage, I ripped out about 99% of the common stuff and was then off to feeding my addiction to the tropical look with the help of Karel. 1st "Karelism" "If I want to see a King or Queen palm, I will look at them in someone else's yard, they are common, get rid of them." Every other weekend or so we would go to some palm collectors house to find something rare or unusual. This how I met Louis Hooper and many others. I went to the palm banquet with Karel and met Bo also at this time.

Karel and I talked at length about moving to a warmer climate and he finally had the guts to do what many people only dream of. I remember going over to his house several times a week to help him pack plants to ship to Hawaii and go eat Thai food. We talked a lot about plants, but many of our conversations were about politics and his dissident days in Czechoslavakia. He told me the current Prime Minister of the new Czech Republic wanted him to be in his Cabinet. Karel's response, "I told him no because I would not be able to grow palms there."

I remember going over to the Big Island to see my sister in Kona, my dad in Kohala, and Karel in Hilo. I still laugh about the time we went to see Bo's Garden (he had just planted the Coco de mers from the Seychelles). Bo and Karel were arguing about some sort of difference in some detail in some palm species that I could not even notice as I was getting eaten alive by the mosquitoes. He noticed all of the smallest details that I never even saw. Many people do not know he was a world renoun artist. I saw a book written about his art work one day and mentioned to another Czech that Karel was a friend. Their mouth dropped open and they said, "You know Karel Havlicek? He is very famous in the Czech Republic."

Karel was the type of friend you could call after not talking to him for months and it was like you had just talked to him the night before. I miss not being able to talk to him about some inane plant question. He was going to come plant hunting with me in Colombia. I guess I will have to pick up some rare stuff up in the jungles and put it in my yard in memory of Karel. It is all of our loss the he is gone. I hope Pavel reads this because Karel said to me on more than one occasion that raising Pavel was the greatest success of his life. Good-bye Karel.

Mark Gammell
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#11 palmazon

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Posted 22 April 2008 - 07:57 PM

Karel hosted Kevin Weaver & I at his place back in December 2005 - he was an exceptional guy and his collection was phenomenal. He wouldn't allow me to take his portrait - "Too ugly..." he said, "take pictures of my plants instead." Everything in his collection was special and had a fascinating story connected to it. Regarding his art, he told us about some renderings he did for National Geographic - the underwater mating sequence of some aquatic turtle, impossible to photograph. To top it all off, he treated us to sushi; Kevin (who won't eat anything not on the menu at Denny's) got treated to a sampler of everything. He didn't want to offend Karel by not trying it at least, so he managed to take a bite (which he chewed for the next 45 minutes or so). Karel ended the evening by insisting we visit the next time we made it over so we could see his plants actually in the ground. He was an interesting fellow - I'm saddened by his passing.
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#12 BS Man about Palms

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Posted 24 April 2011 - 10:12 PM

an unintentional bump for an unusual reason. Just a unique coincidence on the timing...


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#13 bgl

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Posted 24 April 2011 - 10:54 PM

Bill,

Thanks for the bump, unintentional or not. Brought back lots of memories, all good! :)

Bo-Göran
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#14 Palmzilla

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Posted 15 May 2011 - 11:06 AM

I remember going over to Karel's place when I was just a little fart. Back then I didn't even care about plants but was always happy to go hang out with him with my dad. He was one kool cat!
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