In Memory of my brother, Joseph H. Loewenhardt:
August 15, 1941 to August 7, 2016
Joe died when his glider crashed in the Pinenut Mountains of Nevada. I still have a hard time believing he is really gone to the great sky beyond. Everyone says, as if that makes it bearable or easier, he died doing what he loved. Of course, people hope to go that way. I hope I keel over in my flower bed with a trowel in my hand. But that doesn’t make his sudden and unexpected death any easier or more bearable. It just doesn't seem right that the youngest of the Loewenhardt siblings should be the first to die. He died a week before his 75th birthday.
Joe and his wife, Sue, had lived in Hawaii for over 50 years and only decided to move to Nevada at the beginning of last year because of her health and because Joe was attracted to Nevada for its great gliding skies. They lived on the rainy side of the big Island and the dampness exacerbated her asthma. They moved to Minden, Nevada July 15, 2016.
I had the good fortune to spend two months at their beautiful home on the slopes of Mauna Kea last winter. I now realize how precious that visit was, as we had time for good, deep conversations and many relaxing, fun times. I took pictures of all the beautiful flowers growing around their home and took care of their dog and fed the sheep their treats while they were in Nevada looking for a new home.
I am grateful as well that my son, Joe, his wife, Linda, my grandsons Casey and Ryan as well as my daughter, Morgan, her wife, Terese, and my niece, Marie were all able to come out to Hawaii and spend time with us. At a grand evening when we were all together, he again became the cameraman and took many photos.
Over the years since 1960 when he left Detroit, I counted up the number of times I have seen him. In total, it was a dozen times over the decades that spanned two centuries. Last winter was, by far, the longest visit and I really felt I got to know him a little better.
Joe left Detroit in 1960 when my daughter was about 6 months old. She is now 57 years old. In my mind, I can see him sitting in my kitchen as we said goodbye. My 19 year old kid brother headed for Hawaii to be stationed at Pearl Harbor. He and my brother, Hu, both joined the Navy after our mother died in 1953. Joe was twelve when she died.
After Joe left the service he stayed in Hawaii and worked as a television camera man, later as a producer and director for a local station. After he retired and they moved to the big Island, he took up real-estate appraisal work.
I didn't see him again until 1971 when my husband, Hank, and I visited him on Oahu. He had married Sue in 1971. That was such a fun visit. There were two family reunions in 1972 and 1982. Those were happy occasions except that our Dad died shortly after the first one and my sister, Margot died after the second one. Joe came to the reunions and to both of their funerals. I didn't see him again until 1984 when I visited them in Oahu with my sister, Lucy.
After that I didn't see him again until 2001 on my first visit to the Big Island.There have been six visits in this century. In 2007 he and Sue took a train trip across Canada. They ended with a visit to me in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In 2009 our Dutch cousin, Louise, her husband, Carel and daughter, Wendela, came to visit me in Ann Arbor, and Joe was there. On both of these visits he found a way to go up in a glider. In 2014 he came for my 80th birthday and resumed his role as cameraman. He took over 300 photographs at the party. In January, 2015 I planned a trip to Arizona and coincidently, Joe and Sue had also planned to be in AZ to visit an old Navy buddy. We spent a week together, which thrilled me. Winter 2016 was my longest visit to the Big Island and little did I know it would be the last time I would see him.
Joe lived an active life, getting up at 5:00 am every morning to take the
dog/s out for a walk or run. In his younger years he participated in an Iron Man Triathlon and ran in several marathons. He remained active in spite of a long and ultimately successful battle with prostate cancer.
In their earlier life on Oahu, Sue and Joe collected old bottles and ultimately amassed an Antique Bottle Museum collection that traveled to schools and civic buildings in the city. They enjoyed going out to construction sites after hours, digging for old bottles and had many funny stories to tell about their adventures.
He had an immaculate tool bench in his garage and knew how to fix almost anything. His goal on the big island was to live “off the grid” and he came close. He designed a rainwater collection system with a cistern. The water was used for the house as well as irrigation of the fruit trees on the property. He installed solar collectors on the roof as well as an on-demand hot water system. He loved his 1981 Toyota truck and several people eagerly put in bids for it when he put it up for sale prior to their move.
He and Sue loved dogs and ran the Kalopa Canine Resort on their property. Six dogs was the limit and they always had the run of the house. Their friends were sad when they found out that Joe and Sue were moving because there was no other place like it for dog care anywhere on the island.
Flying seems to run in the Loewenhardt genes. Joe had his pilot’s license for many years before he took up gliding. He was introduced to gliding in 1999 while on a trip to Germany. Knut Loewenhardt in Germany was the one who arranged for him to go up in a glider. That flight hooked him and he started thinking about buying his own glider soon after that trip.
I grieve for my brother. I’ll always remember him and celebrate his life. Though I only saw him infrequently through the years we had an undeniable connection. I could count on hearing his voice on my phone or voicemail when there was any kind of weather event predicted for where I lived. In Florida, that meant hurricanes. Now, in Michigan, it may be a winter storm or tornadoes. Instead of his voice, when I open my iPhone now, his face smiles out at me.