“Love the land and it will love you back.”
Flora Komes always described her life as beautiful, and so it was, starting with her roots in Honolulu, Hawaii where she was born on November 7, 1911. Of Portuguese descent, Flora loved collecting shells, hula dancing and baking bread, a hobby that won her several blue ribbons at the local fair. Flora was also a born nurturer, whether it was tending a bird with a broken wing, a small, struggling plant, or a scraped knee.
She first recognized her call to nursing in fifth grade while reading about Florence Nightingale. At age 18, after graduating from McKinley High School, she left home, boarding an ocean liner bound for San Francisco to attend St. Mary’s Hospital School of Nursing. She took the last of her money and invested in a warm coat.
The “Cutest Little Fellow”
As a student at St. Mary’s, Flora met the love of her life, Jerry Komes, at a Halloween dance. A nursing friend set up the date, telling Flora she knew the “cutest little fellow” for her. Jerry was a self-educated construction engineer, who worked on both the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges. Though he knew he had met “the one,” Flora refused to marry him until she had graduated and secured a nursing position. On February 16, 1935, after having earned her postgraduate degree at Shriner’s Hospital, Flora married Jerry at morning mass at St. Agnes Church in San Francisco.
A Great Team:
“Hitch Your Wagon to a Star”
Jerry and Flora were quite a team. She was Jerry’s greatest supporter, moving with him throughout California and Texas as he pursued his engineering career. The couple had three children, Mike, John and Julie, and eventually settled back in San Francisco where Jerry had a job in international relations at the Bechtel Corporation.
The couple traveled extensively, and as the children grew, Flora tended her beloved garden and explored San Francisco’s many fascinating districts via the city’s extensive bus lines. Jerry was very successful at Bechtel, but he was always quick to say that his accomplishments were not his alone, but were possible only because of Flora.
When Jerry retired in 1976 he and Flora immediately began looking for a place to retire in Napa Valley. “It was a time in our life to change and have another interest,” said Flora. When they came upon the property at the end of West Zinfandel Lane in St. Helena, it was Flora who saw the magic hidden behind the decades of neglect, overgrown ivy, and the shifting rock walls of the old ghost winery.
“There are so many wonderful things about Napa Valley and St. Helena. I just fell in love with that property and that was it.” Jerry and Flora purchased the estate believing it to be the perfect place to grow grapes and become farmers. But when their son, John, proposed that the old winery building on the property be revived, Flora Springs became a new career for Flora, Jerry and their children.
An Inspiration: “Joy, joy, joy”
Although Flora Springs was founded by Flora’s children, John and Julie Komes, and their spouses, it was Flora’s spirit of generosity and love of nature that inspired the family as they began the new venture together. “My mother really lives up to her name; she loves things that are alive,” said Julie on the occasion of Flora’s 100th birthday in 2011. “She loves to plant things. Even to this day, people will bring her their dying plants and she brings them back to life.”
When she wasn’t playing dominoes with one of her grandchildren or friends, Flora could be found outside, planting flowers, trees and shrubs throughout the winery grounds and tending to her garden. She also loved looking out from her veranda over the vineyards and estate below, and could often be found there enjoying a glass of Flora Springs Merlot.
An Extraordinary Life
Flora died on October 29, 2012. There is an old saying in Hawaii, I ulu no ka lala i ke kumu which means, the reach of a tree’s branches depends on its trunk. Throughout her long and extraordinary life, Flora’s unconditional love and steadfast optimism for life’s promise and possibilities touched all who knew her. Her generous spirit and love for all living things will always be felt here at Flora Springs, in the spring blossoms, the summer fruit, and the fall harvests of the property she called home.