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Publisher of Sunset promoted 50th state

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Before jet planes opened up travel to Hawaii, Ambassador L.W. "Bill" Lane Jr. was creating pent-up demand by featuring the isles in Sunset magazine, the popular West Coast-based periodical owned by his family.

Lane’s love affair with the isles began when he and wife Jean honeymooned here some 50 years ago and continued until his death on July 31. The 90-year-old Lane died at Stanford (Calif.) Hospital following a brief illness and will be remembered in Hawaii and elsewhere as someone who lived a spirited, active and generous life.

A memorial will be held in Stanford Memorial Church at noon next Friday. A reception will be held afterward at Frances C. Arrillaga Alumni Center on the Stanford campus.

In the isles, Lane is best remembered for his efforts to put Hawaii tourism on the map. He is credited with being a founding member of what is now the Pacific Asia Travel Association and as one of the main benefactors of the University of Hawaii’s School of Travel Industry Management.

"He thought Hawaii was a fabulous destination and thought that people in the West should be able to know about it," said Karen Hamilton, who worked as Lane’s assistant for 30 years. "Sunset was a forum for people to read about something and actually do it."

Lane and his wife visited Hawaii often. They last visited in April to celebrate their 55th anniversary. The couple interacted with University of Hawaii students and staff during a TIM School reception held in their honor.

"This year’s visit was his final one, and we are deeply saddened by his recent passing," said Juanita Liu, dean and professor of the UH travel industry school.

During the reception, Lane met with students and shared his vision of tourism for the Asia-Pacific region and his thoughts on how tourism is one of the greatest promoters of peace, Liu said.

"He held their attention, and in this day and age to capture the interest of these young people was really remarkable," she said. "He was a sharp-minded visionary, and he was our largest donor at the TIM school. Words cannot describe how much he did for us."

When it came to tourism, Lane was a real pioneer, said Peter Fithian, owner of Greeters of Hawaii Ltd. Sunset readers learned about Hawaii’s natural attractions, culinary style and botanical delights, Fithian said.

"He convinced an awful lot of Californians to come to Hawaii," he said. "He was a very early promoter of Hawaii tourism."

Lane foresaw that with the advent of jet planes, tourism would grow into one of the most promising new industries, said Chuck Gee, a former TIM School dean who worked with Lane at the Pacific Asia Travel Association and became a longtime friend.

Lane championed environmental accountability and sustainable tourism decades before these movements became industry buzzwords, Gee said.

"He was way ahead of his time," he said. "He was brilliant, just brilliant."

Before his health declined, Lane had signed up to be one of the first space tourists and had been looking forward to readiness training, Gee said.

"He just loved an adventure," he said.

Lane had an almost lifelong affinity with tourism, which he saw as a means to creating world peace, Gee said.

"He wanted to promote understanding through tourism," he said, adding that Lane gave very generously of his time and money to make that happen.

Lane grew up in the shadow of the Great Depression. He was born in 1919 in Des Moines, Iowa. He was a civic-minded youth who first became acquainted with Hawaii while working as aide to the commandant, 12th Naval District, and a Navy gunnery officer on a troop ship in the Pacific during World War II.

Lane returned from the war to become co-chairman of Lane Publishing Co. and publisher of Sunset magazine. The periodical, which earned Lane the Publisher-of-the Year Award from the Magazine Publishers Association in 1974, promoted tourism, the environment and a healthful lifestyle.

Lane gave generously to schools and causes throughout the Asia-Pacific region and the U.S. West. He also supported his country, serving in some capacity in every presidential administration prior to the current one, beginning with President John F. Kennedy. Lane was appointed ambassador-at-large and commissioner general for the First International Ocean Exposition in Japan by President Ford, and as ambassador to Australia and Nauru by President Reagan.

He is survived by wife Jean Gimbel Lane; children Sharon and Robert Lane, and Brenda Lane Munks and her husband, Greg; grandchildren Jessica, Cristina, Bryan and Riley Munks, and Keighley Lane; sister-in-law Joan Lane; brother-in-law Homer Harris; brother and sister-in-law Art and Caroline Gimbel; and nieces and nephews Julie Lane Gay, Whitney Lane Miller, Arthur Gimbel, Diane Warnock, Dave Harris and William Harris and their spouses and children.

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be sent to the Peninsula Open Space Trust, California State Parks Foundation, Yosemite Conservancy and Portola Valley Open Space Acquisition Fund.

 

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