Bruce Wingfield Van Dyke

Date of Birth

March 18, 1922

Date of Death

November 9, 2016

Bruce Wingfield Van Dyke b. March 18, 1922 d. November 9, 2016
Bruce Van Dyke grew up in Fallbrook, California and attended UCLA before joining the Army Air Corps to take part in World War II. He was a bomber pilot who trained cadet pilots and bombadiers, and stayed on after the war in the Air Force reserves, retiring as a major. During the war, he married his college sweetheart, Miki Harkness, and when the war ended he resumed his studies at UCLA. He changed his major, however, from physics to subtropical horticulture and his life revolved around plants from then on.

After graduating from UCLA with a degree subtropical horticulture in 1948, he moved with his young family to Carpenteria to take a job as instructor at Santa Barbara Junior College, and in 1950 moved into a house he built near Sheffield Reservoir. He left the Junior College after a few years and started his own horticultural services grafting, pruning, and spraying, and consulting homeowners and ranchers on plants. In the years that followed he was involved in almost every aspect of gardening and horticulture in the community. He was a horticulturist on staff at Lotusland for over twenty years, and worked on many other fabulous estate gardens in the community. He worked in all sorts and sizes of gardens and there are trees in backyards all over Santa Barbara that he grafted, gardeners throughout the county who learned how to prune their fruit trees from him, and countless friends who remember him for his good humor, kindness, and love of plants.

He was generous with his time and knowledge. From 1953 to 1996, he taught popular adult education classes in home gardening. He wrote a garden column for the Santa Barbara News Press for 33 years, and managed the Santa Barbara Orchid Show for 21 years and Santa Barbara Flower and Garden Show for 5 years. He was a board member and president of Santa Barbara Beautiful, served as a City Parks Commissioner for Santa Barbara for 18 years, a member of the City Street Tree Advisory Committee for 25 years, and was a trustee of the Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens. When the city of Santa Barbara stopped pruning the rose garden on Mission lawn, he drafted his good friend Duke McPherson, and the two of them started a volunteer pruning effort that has turned into a Santa Barbara institution in which hundreds of people take part. For all this he received many awards and acknowledgements including the Heritage Oak Award from Santa Barbara Beautiful for lifetime achievement.

He was also an avid hiker and made many summer trips to the Sierra Nevada. He swam regularly at the YMCA and made many friends there. He and Miki traveled extensively in Latin America, South East Asia, and Africa. He loved snorkeling on coral reefs, photography, and of course his own home gardens. Miki Van Dyke died in 1996 and in 2003, Bruce married Dorchen Forman, and lived the remainder of his life with Dorchen in her beautiful Goleta home surrounded by fruit trees and flowers. Dorchen rekindled Bruce’s interest in aviation and the two of them crossed the country many times in her Cessna 172.

Bruce is survived by his wife Dorchen, daughter Christopher, son Peter, grandchildren Papaya and Nicholas, six great-grandchildren, and many dear friends. The family wishes to acknowledge with gratitude the loving care provided to him at the end of his life by Elza Hernandez and her caregiver team, and in his last days by Santa Barbara Visiting Nurse and Hospice Care.

A memorial will be planned for a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to Santa Barbara Botanical Garden or Santa Barbara Visiting Nurse and Hospice Care.


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