Gloria Stuart (1910 – 2010) Longest living bonsai enthusiast in Los Angeles

Bonsai Gloria Stuart

Actress Gloria Stuart, longest living bonsai enthusiast in Los Angeles, appears at the Nanpukai bonsai display in the Nisei Week Japanese Festival on August 22 in Little Tokyo. She pauses before her bonsai tree, a French black oak forest which she planted in 1982. (Cultural News Photo)

Gloria Stuart passed away on Sunday, September 26, 2010

Cultural News, 2010 September Issue

As her 100-year-old celebration surprise, actress Gloria Stuart, longest living bonsai enthusiast in Los Angeles, was admitted as an honorary member of the Nanpukai, the most prestigious bonsai club in the U.S. Her French black oak forest was displayed at the Nisei Week Festival’s bonsai show on August 21 and 22 at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, Downtown Los Angeles.

Gloria’s bonsai on the Nanpukai display was planted in 1982 after she returned from France where she picked French black oak acorns while touring the royal forest surrounding the palace at Fontainebleau, near Paris.

In the 1960s, she was invited to a party at J.J. Cohn’s Beverly Hills home. Cohn, who was vice-president of M.G.M. Studios, was a member of the California Bonsai Society for many years.

There she saw beautiful trees in the middle of the table in Cohn’s house. Gloria instantly fell in love with the little trees, so she asked Cohn what they were and where he got them.

Cohn told her that the beautifully shaped trees were called “bonsai.” He told her about Frank Nagata, who taught the art of bonsai.

The following weekend, Gloria went to Frank Nagata’s Baiko-En Bonsai Nursery on Jefferson Street in the Southwest district of Los Angeles. Nagata was already conducting bonsai classes before John Naka who is considered the most influential instructor of bonsai in the U.S., started teaching.

Gloria began studying bonsai with Frank Nagata and later with John Naka and Frank Goya of Venice.

That is why she is the longest living bonsai enthusiast in Los Angeles.

In 2005, she traveled to Washington, D.C., to join the World Bonsai Convention. She made a great speech and inspired all bonsai enthusiasts who attended the convention.

On August 14, 2010, at the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, Gloria’s 100-year-old birthday was celebrated by three bonsai clubs to which she belongs:  the California Bonsai Society, California Aiseki Kai (viewing stone), and Baiko-en Bonsai Clubs. On this occasion, Gloria was admitted as an honorary member of Nanpukai, member of which are veteran bonsai artists selected by the late John Naka.

Gloria Stuart’s film career began in the 1930s when she appeared in over 42 films, including The Invisible Man, The Old Dark House, Gold Diggers of 1935, and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. At the age of 87, Gloria became the oldest performer ever nominated for an Academy Award for her role as the 102-year-old Rose in the 1997 blockbuster hit Titanic.

On her actual birthday July 4 of this year at an art gallery in Beverly Hills, Gloria celebrated her 100th birthday with James Cameron who directed Titanic and his wife Suzy Amis who played the granddaughter of Gloria’s character, the 102-year-old Rose.

On July 22, the Academy of Motion Pictures hosted a 100-year retrospective of her career hosted by movie critic, Leonard Maltin.

Gloria published her autobiography, I Just Kept Hoping, in 1999, and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2000. Among her many other hobbies beside bonsai, she loves kites and had a personal kite show in November 2009. She also writes haiku.