Lanai residents are mourning the loss of their longtime weekend veterinarian - Nicholas Palumbo - who died in a Sunday afternoon plane crash on Oahu after returning from treating animals on Lanai.
Palumbo's youngest son, 20-year-old Tim, also died in the plane crash while traveling with his father. Officials said two bodies were found Monday amid the wreckage of a single-engine Piper Cherokee that crashed shortly before 2 p.m. Sunday at the 1,900-foot elevation near the Lanipo Trail above Maunalani Heights on Oahu. A Palumbo family member confirmed that loved ones were aboard the plane.
Kathy Carroll, one of the founders of the Lanai Animal Rescue Center, recalled Monday seeing both father and son around noon on Sunday when she brought two stray kittens for care. She described the Palumbos as "inseparable," and it appeared that they genuinely loved being together and working with animals on Lanai.
ALBERTA DE JETLEY photo
Nicholas Palumbo and son Tim are seen at their Lanai home, called Two Flags, in December 2008.
ALBERTA DE JETLEY photo
Nicholas and one of his hunting dogs, Daisy.
"He was much more than a veterinarian to us," Carroll said of the elder Palumbo, who was 81. She said he loved telling jokes and making people laugh.
"Oh my gosh, he's so beloved by this community," she said.
Carroll said she met Palumbo, the owner of The Cat Clinic in Honolulu, about nine years ago when she first moved to Lanai.
"I was just so touched by his touch, the way he deals with animals," she said.
Alberta de Jetley, a longtime friend of the Palumbos and a force behind the Lanai Animal Rescue Center, was devastated by the news of the crash and his death and shared an article she had written for the Lanai Times on the veterinarian.
In her story, de Jetley said Palumbo had served as the Lanai weekend veterinarian for more than 40 years and had logged more than 4,600 hours of flying by December 2007.
His passion for field-trial dogs and bird hunting attracted Palumbo to Lanai, according to de Jetley's article. He took care of the island's ailing animals originally as a means of justifying his countless trips to Lanai.
Palumbo was a tenured professor at the John A. Burns School of Medicine at the University of Hawaii in the Department of Comparative Medicine. He published 53 articles in medical and veterinary journals.
According to de Jetley's article, Palumbo had six children with his first wife, Pat; and two sons with his second wife of 20-plus years, Sue, who also is a veterinarian living on Oahu.
"Nick's a legend in Hawaii's aviation circles," de Jetley wrote.
She reported he flew his first plane solo in 1947 and has owned as many as 10 planes.
Palumbo's weekend home on Lanai was called Two Flags, located off the Kaumalapau Highway near the turnoff to Kaunolu. The home has a sweeping view of the Lanai coastline and is set back in a grove of silver oak trees.
Residents brought their pets to Palumbo between 9 a.m. and noon on Sundays.
"If the flags are up," de Jetley wrote, "Nick's open, but if you prefer not to take the drive down to check, you can call beforehand to make sure he'll be here."
Carroll said Palumbo served as an adviser to the Animal Rescue Center and was very supportive of the fledgling nonprofit's efforts on Lanai. She said nearly every furry creature and almost all four-legged friends on Lanai have been under Palumbo's care at one time or another.
"He's a lifeline for these animals," she said.
Lanai's community is too small to support a full-time veterinarian, and many residents appreciated Palumbo's willingness to be present on a part-time basis to help care for their animals.
Jocelyn Bouchard, chief executive officer of the Maui Humane Society, said she did not know Palumbo personally but knew of his reputation.
"I'm sure it's going to have a huge impact on pet owners on Lanai," she said.
Until a new veterinarian surfaces, Lanai residents will have to travel off-island to have their animals cared for.
"It was just so devastating to hear the news about doc," Carroll said. "It's unimaginable. . . . I mean, everybody depended on doc."
* Claudine San Nicolas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.