Friday, January 5, 2001
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Posted on: Friday, January 5, 2001

UH arboretum's Ranjit Cooray dead at 57

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

Ranjit G. Cooray, the educational and volunteer program specialist at the Lyon Arboretum in Manoa, died Wednesday in Honolulu. He was 57.

Cooray was born in Sri Lanka and received an undergraduate degree in botany at the University of Ceylon. After moving to Hawaii, he earned his master’s degree in botanical sciences from the University of Hawaii in 1974.

He worked on the Big Island for an Ohia rain forest study.

In 1990, Cooray returned to Oahu and joined UH’s Lyon Arboretum as its educational specialist, a position he held until his death. In addition to his regular duties, arboretum interim director Clifford Smith said, Cooray was a skilled cook and taught a course on his native cuisine.

"His curries at arboretum parties were a piece de resistance," Smith said.

Cooray also led walking tours of Chinatown and pointed out the best places to get ethnic foods and ingredients.

"He guided groups around downtown markets where he delighted participants with the aromas, recipes and tales of the spices, fruits and vegetables on display," Smith said.

Cooray is survived by his wife, Kusuma, an associate professor at the Culinary Institute of the Pacific at Kapiolani Community College.

A memorial service will be held Sunday from 2:45-3:45 p.m. at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Kapahulu Avenue.

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