Prominent Maui County Voices Fell Silent in 2013

In 2013, Maui County lost talented physicians, a popular swim coach, artists, business people and a prominent attorney and community builder. Here are their stories and accomplishments:


Connie J. Adams

1951-Jan. 1, 2013

The watercolor artist had her work displayed in various galleries on Maui and around the world. Connie Adams also was a teacher, who shared her craft at Hui No’eau Visual Arts Center in Makawao, Seabury Hall and University of Hawaii Maui College.

She was an award-winning artist who, friends said, did not hesitate to try new techniques and to master new materials.

The Haiku resident, also known as Constance Scott, was a signature member of both the national and Hawaii watercolor societies.

Many of her paintings featured flowers and plans. On her website, Adams said: “Botany is my muse. It provides me with enough variation of shape, form, color and line to explore until my last days.”


Edna Pualani Farden Bekeart

Dec. 27, 1917-June 17, 2013

The last surviving sibling of the musical Farden family of Lahaina, “Aunty Edna” Pualani Farden Bekeart composed many “mele,” or songs.

She and sister Irmgard co-produced an album to accompany the children’s book, “Young Folks Hawaiian Time.” The album turned up 12 Hawaiian children’s songs, including “Sassy Little Myna Bird.”

Over the years, many artists recorded Bekeart’s music, including Amy Hanaiali’i and Loyal Garner. She also composed songs for organizations.

Bekeart, a former Kahana resident who died in Kaneohe, Oahu, also could play the ukulele and piano and taught hula at a hotel and at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

For her work, Bekeart received the 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts, the academy that sponsors the annual Na Hoku Hanohano Awards.


Arsene “Blackie” Gadarian

Sept. 18, 1921-July 21, 2013

A colorful character who was a longtime machinist, “Blackie” Gadarian would tell it like it is on any subject. He frequently wrote letters to the editor in The Maui News that were short and witty.

He owned and operated Blackie’s Machine Shop in Lahaina and his own bar, “Blackie’s Boatyard.”

During his years as a machinist, he made rolling stock for the Lahaina, Kaanapali & Pacific Railroad and custom brass work for the Hyatt Regency Maui.

The man, who wore black Keds, an orange shirt and black trousers, was a U.S. Navy veteran and served in World War II.

Although he could be gruff at times, he had a heart for the community and for children. He established a vocational scholarship fund for students at Lahainaluna High School.


Sasayo Susanne T. Hotta

Jan. 12, 1920-Feb. 21, 2013

As the proprietor and president of Gilbert’s Men’s Formalwear in Wailuku for 60 years, Susanne Hotta dressed thousands of high-schoolers for their proms and men for their wedding day.

Hotta, who admitted that she “didn’t know anything about business,” struggled after her husband died tragically in a fishing accident shortly after the business opened in 1949. She had been a stay-at-home mom with four children, ages 1 to 8.

She went to work, receiving help from a bookkeeper and wholesalers who provided merchandise on credit.

Later, her son who helped out with the business was killed by a drunken driver in 1979, adding more sorrow in her life.

“I prayed to God to help me,” Hotta told The Maui News in an interview in 2009.

Hotta continued to work. At 89, she had to be persuaded by her grandchildren to retire in 2009.


James A. Lawrence

Feb. 2, 1932-Oct. 21, 2013

James Lawrence, also known as “Jimmy,” was a retired Maui Police Department assistant chief who was known as a smart detective and even respected by some whom he put away.

He solved one of the more publicized murder cases in the last several decades – the 1977 murder of Ann Craddock, a waitress in Kaanapali. Even though a former boyfriend and his friend were indicted on murder charges, the woman’s body had yet to be discovered. Lawrence knew it was going to be a difficult case to try without a body.

Soon after getting a tip from a cellmate of one of the culprits, Lawrence and his two sons found Craddock’s body in Maalaea. Case solved. Both men were convicted and sent to prison.

Lawrence was respected in the community by victims and criminals alike.

A man serving time in the old Olinda Prison because of detective work by Lawrence made a coffee table and gave it to him. The prisoner said he gave the gift to Lawrence because the detective treated him with respect.


B. Martin Luna

July 25, 1938-Jan. 20, 2013

Serving more than 40 years as an attorney in real estate and administrative law, B. Martin Luna had clients including developers of large projects in Maui County, restaurant owners and smaller landowners.

Those that knew him said Luna would guide the big and small clients through the government land use and permitting processes and was always willing to help anyone.

Luna was active in the Filipino community and chairman of the task force for the Binhi At Ani Maui Filipino Community Center.

The Wailuku resident also served as Democratic Party chairman on Maui.

In the mid-1980s, Luna was elected president of the Hawaii State Bar Association, becoming the first attorney from the Neighbor Islands to hold the position.


Dr. Robert H. Moser

June 16, 1923-Aug. 6, 2013

Dr. Robert Moser was Maui Memorial Hospital’s chief of staff in 1973. Prior to joining Maui Memorial, he served at many Army medical centers across the country, including Honolulu’s Tripler Army Medical Center.

The well-known physician moved to Maui in 1969, where he engaged in private practice in internal medicine.

He also worked for several years with doctors at the Hansen’s disease settlement at Kalaupapa, Molokai.

Earlier in his life, Moser was one of NASA’s original medical flight controllers for the space agency’s Mercury program, where he monitored the physiological and psychological performance of astronauts during orbital flight.

He also was editor-in-chief and director of the Division of Scientific Publications for the Journal of the American Medical Association in the early 1970s.

His last position prior to retirement was director of medical affairs for Monsanto’s NutraSweet Division in 1980. He retired to the mountains of northern New Mexico in the 1990s, though he and his wife later would establish a medical consulting company.

He died in Arizona.


Kazuma Okumura

June 10, 1908-Sept 17, 2013

Possibly one of Maui’s oldest people at 105, Kazuma Okumura believed in moderation and eating meals full of fruits and vegetables and having love for everyone, his family said.

Okumura was a longtime Olinda Road farmer and founder of the Okumura Bus Service.

He also set up a scholarship for students in Hawaii interested in Japanese language and promoted gateball exchanges between Maui players and players from Japan and Japanese cultural societies on other islands.

In 2001, he received the Imperial Decoration Award – The Order of the Rising Sun, Silver Rays – from the Japanese government for strengthening the relationship between Japan and the United States.


David Sakugawa

April 19, 1932-Nov. 25, 2013

A Maui road racing icon, David Sakugawa was one of the founders of the Run to the Sun event, where participants race from sea level to the Haleakala summit.

He also was a decadeslong coach and a member in the Valley Isle Road Runners from its earliest days and helped get the club started in 1970.

A pig farmer in Kula, he was a fixture at Maui County foot races at every level and was involved in many ways, including competing, organizing and advising.


Spencer Shiraishi Sr.

July 19, 1925-Aug. 29, 2013

Known as “coach,” Spencer Shiraishi Sr. was the founder and head coach of Maui Swim Club beginning in 1958. He coached and trained at least five collegiate All-American swimmers, many who set Maui Interscholastic League and state records.

Some of his swimmers made it to the U.S. Olympic trials and world meets.

He also was a Boy Scout leader and author, who penned his memoirs in “Plantation Life and Beyond, Adventures of a Boy Scout, Swimmer, Soldier, Coach and Boy Scout Leader.”

The Kahului resident was inducted into the Hawaii Swimming Hall of Fame in 2012.

Shiraishi was an Army veteran and a former chief engineer for Maui Publishing Co. when it owned KMVI.


Dr. John Withers

Feb. 6, 1934-March 3, 2013

John Withers was a former Maui Memorial Hospital general surgeon and plantation doctor.

He practiced medicine for Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. back in the days when medical records were kept on index cards.

He came to Maui in 1968 and worked for HC&S as a plantation community doctor and later started the Kihei Physicians Clinic. He was general surgeon at what was then Maui Memorial Hospital, where he served as chief of surgery and chief of staff.

From 1968 to 1978, he was a physician for the Maui High School football team. In 1983, he was named Hawaii’s Outstanding Physician of the Year.

He also was a longtime columnist for The Maui News, penning weekly columns titled “Two Aspirin,” which have since been complied into books.

He was a part-time Colorado and Kihei resident after his retirement.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at