Dante Orgolini 
(1904 - 1978) 

It was the early 70's  and I was living in West Los Angeles working for the Department of Public Social Services' Appeals Unit in East Loa Angeles.  I had just ended a relationship after 3 increasingly difficult years and I was still getting over the disappointment.

I had learned to complete my field work (home visits) by 2 or 3pm and would spend the rest of the afternoon exploring sites from Huell Hauser's TV travelogue Los Angeles Gold looking for exotic and interesting distractions.

One afternoon, after arriving at Griffith Park Observatory's parking lot  and not really relishing another tour of the building, I discovered what looked like a trailhead leading up the side of nearby Mt. Hollywood.

At the top was a terraced and planted mini-park interlaced with dirt paths lined with abalone shells and quaint rock walls and benches.  In it's midst was an old Italian gentleman, down to suspenders and undershirt, working quietly with rake and hoe.  Becoming aware of my presence he put the tools aside and motioned for me to join him on one of the benches. Introducing himself as 'Dante' he began to tell me the story of what he said was unofficially known to him and his many friends as 'Dante's Rest'. 

After a breakup with a girlfriend some years prior he also had found himself wandering around LA with time on his hands.  One day he climbed this hill and just sat there all afternoon, doing nothing, waiting out his grief.  The next and subsequent days he returned.

As his broken heart mended he began to take notice of his immediate surroundings.  He was reminded of his boyhood on a hillside farm in the old country (Brazil) ... and like all people born in the country he began to rearrange things.  At first just a little picking up here and there. Next clearing some little paths  and moving larger stones out of the way.  Then just a few small bushes ... anise for seed, rosemary and oregano for scent on warm summer evenings.  Finally the  transplanting of a 3 year old Meyer lemon helped clarify  his growing intention ... he would create a garden for others to heal in as well.

By the end of the first year he had roughed out a plan and began seriously clearing brush, scraping real paths and lining them with stonework .  By then several people had noticed his efforts and started showing up to help.  More plants and trees were donated and work parties were held on the weekends culminating in wine and cheese suppers lasting sometimes late into the evening up there on the side of the hill.  The county Parks Department even donated several of their own large concrete benches and installed them ... tacitly accepting Dante's illegal takeover of their property.

Dante had been at his task for 10 years by then and several hundred people now gathered for his birthday every fall ... some were even talking of taking over for him when his own efforts came to an end *.

By the time he was through telling me I was moved to tears ... such a gentle old soul and such a beautiful gift to others.  What he was doing and the effect he was having on so many people was special and healing ... 

Later I discovered that Dante had immigrated to America to be an artist and that he had done mural work for the Santa Barbara courthouse as well as some film work in Hollywood. 

* And so they did ... here is the story.