a hui hou
As the year ends, we remember those who left an impression
Maui County lost inspirational and hardworking individuals in 2017, from a toddler that touched the world’s heart while battling cancer to a man who fought off invasive species to women who sought to help others.
Other men excelled in their fields and worked tirelessly even though they were retired.
Here is a look back at some of the notable residents Maui County lost in 2017.
Trucker Dukes, 3
April 10, 2013 – March 3, 2017
Trucker, who battled an aggressive form of cancer, inspired millions of people worldwide.
The Haiku toddler spent the past few years undergoing multiple rounds of chemotherapy and radiation treatment and life-threatening surgeries since being diagnosed with neuroblastoma at the end of 2014.
When Trucker was 19 months old, a fast-growing tumor in his abdomen spread throughout 50 percent of his body. Almost a year later, just before Thanksgiving 2015, doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City discovered a new tumor in his brain.
The brain tumor was successfully removed, but the cancer never disappeared. Last fall, Trucker’s parents decided to stop treatments and bring him back to Maui to treat him nutritionally in hopes of a better quality of life.
Trucker’s story generated national headlines on NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox, and Hollywood celebrities and professional athletes have posted photos on social media in support of his fight and to bring an awareness about childhood cancer.
He also was named an honorary firefighter of the New York City Fire Department – one of the most storied fire departments in the world. Trucker’s father, Joshua, is a Maui County firefighter.
Paula Merwin, 80
March 10, 1936 — March 8, 2017
Merwin of Peahi co-founded The Merwin Conservancy with her husband, renowned poet W.S. Merwin, who has won the Pulitzer Prize twice.
The conservancy’s mission is to preserve the legacy of W.S. Merwin, his home and a palm forest the couple planted on an old pineapple field. There are more than 3,000 palms on the oasis for writers, artists and activists.
Paula Merwin, formerly Paula Dunaway, was a children’s book editor, according to a 1995 New York Times profile on the poet and the conservancy. The couple met for the first time in 1970 and again 12 years later at a dinner party in New York. They married in 1983.
She was engaged in politics, literature, art, cooking and fashion, the conservatory has said. Mrs. Merwin shared in and contributed to her husband’s vision of restoring the formerly barren patch of land in East Maui with a self-built home and rain-catchment and photovoltaic power systems.
May Fujiwara, 84
Died April 18, 2017
Fujiwara of Lahaina was a tireless advocate for senior citizens and a woman who fought for community needs in Maui County.
Up until her death, she was a member of the Maui Police Commission and president of the Lahaina-Honolua Senior Citizens Club. Its members are not afraid to voice their opinions before county and state politicians, oftentimes with Fujiwara as their representative.
She also was a longtime member of the board for Maui Economic Opportunity Inc. and was involved with LahainaBypass Now. She worked closely with the county’s Office on Aging and the West Maui Taxpayers Association.
At the county level, she was a former member of the Fire and Public Safety Commission and the Salary Commission.
Fujiwara pushed to build the Lahaina Senior Center.
John Severson, 83
Dec. 12, 1933 – May 26, 2017
John Severson of Napili was an artist, filmmaker and founder of Surfer Magazine.
He grew up going to the beach in Southern California. He earned a master’s degree in art from Long Beach State in 1956. He painted the beach, surfers and waves and became an art teacher. In 1957, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and a shift in assignment brought him to Oahu. He was assigned to mapmaking and was on the U.S. Army surfing team.
With a 16-mm Keystone movie camera, he began documenting the exploits of big-wave North Shore surfers.
His first film was “Surf!” It led to other films, including the environmental surf film “Pacific Vibrations.”
Using enlarged frames from his films, Severson created a 36-page booklet to promote his films. It later turned into Surfer Magazine.
He later sold the magazine and bought land Upcountry. He traveled through the South Pacific before settling down on Maui.
Lloyd Loope, 74
Feb. 4, 1943 – July 4, 2017
Loope was a conservation biologist for the U.S. Geologic Survey and worked at Haleakala National Park. He was instrumental on Maui in fighting against invasive species for nearly 40 years. Up until January, he was still writing research papers.
The Makawao man authored countless studies on native plants, mentored many young researchers and raised awareness of invasive species not yet on the state’s radar.
As the Maui Invasive Species Committee formed in 1999, Loope was tasked with putting together the first invasive species list for the organization to target. Many of the species and goals he laid out are things that the committee is still working on today. Loope also served as one of the chairpersons of MISC.
Loope raised statewide public awareness of quarantine issues at Kahului Airport. With the help of others a climate-controlled quarantine inspection facility at the airport was built in 2008.
David ‘Buddy’ Nobriga, 90
Dec. 7, 1926 – Nov. 8, 2017
Nobriga was a Hawaii cattleman whose career included leading the Wailuku soft drink and ice cream businesses, Maui Soda & Ice Works, and he was regarded by many as an expert in water systems.
Nobriga served on the Maui County Board of Water Supply for 20 years, many years as chairman. He also held positions on the state Commission on Water Resource Management and in the Department of Agriculture.
He served for 54 years with the West Maui Soil & Conservation District, including 50 years as its chairman. He led the creation of the Honolua watershed, which protects the Napili area from flooding and worked to clean up the ocean off of Kahana.
When his father, Manuel, retired from Maui Soda in 1971, Buddy Nobriga became president and 10 years later he was chief executive officer. He retired in 1998.
Nobriga also was known for his support of community institutions and causes, including St. Anthony Church and schools and the Maui County Fair and Jaycee carnival.
Nobriga served for decades with the Federal Land Bank Association of Hawai’i (now known as Farm Credit Services). He was a member for 36 years, 26 as chairman of the board.
He won and received many awards and accolades.
Nobriga’s grandfather Antone established the Nobriga Ranch as a family operation in Kahakuloa in 1930. In 1965, Buddy Nobriga and his father, Manuel, formed Nobriga’s Ranch Inc. Buddy Nobriga served as president and chairman since 1981.
For many years, Nobriga advocated for Hawaii’s cattlemen at both the state Capitol and in Washington, D.C. He lobbied for and provided language for many pieces of legislation, including laws that provided for the promotion of beef products and meat inspection. He helped form the Maui Cattleman’s Association in 1970.
William Iaconetti, 93
May 10, 1924 – Oct. 7, 2017
Dr. Iaconetti was a plantation doctor for Pioneer Mill in Lahaina when Hawaii was still a U.S. territory in 1955. In 1958, he was a co-founder of Maui Medical Group, where he practiced until his retirement in 1998. He was instrumental in the growth of Maui Medical Group and then Maui Memorial Hospital, both in Wailuku.
His obituary said that his greatest joy in being a doctor came from serving the people of Maui. He also loved being the team doctor for St. Anthony and Lahainaluna high schools.
The Napili resident was president of the Hawaii Medical Association in 1972 and Hawaii’s delegate to the American Medical Association from 1970 through 1980.
After retirement, he served on the Maui Planning Commission in the 2000s with the goal to protect and preserve Maui, his family said.
He grew up in Berkeley, Calif. He was a U.S. Air Force veteran.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at email@example.com.