In the late 1970s and 1980s in West Maui, Shirley Gordon was well known as a Realtor and event planner who ran a vacation marketing company bearing her name.
"Everybody knew who she was back then," said Candace Horton, a Lahaina Realtor. "She was involved with a lot of big-name transactions. She was one of the first event coordinators. She always had her hands in everything back then. She was pretty much top of her game, big time."
Friends were shocked to learn that Gordon was killed in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., where she had moved last month to be closer to family members.
Moved to California in July
Police said Gordon was staying with a cousin when she was stabbed to death by the cousin's adult son in the early-morning hours of Aug. 14.
Gordon was lying on the couch in her cousin's apartment when Sean-Paul Andrew MacIntire stabbed her repeatedly with a kitchen butcher knife, said South Lake Tahoe Police Department Lt. Brian Williams.
Afterward, MacIntire woke his mother and told her what he had done, Williams said. "She called 911 immediately," Williams said.
Police who responded to the 1:45 a.m. call found Gordon lifeless, Williams said. He said lifesaving efforts were futile and she was declared dead at the hospital.
MacIntire, 32, who has a history of police contacts, mental health issues and violence, was arrested at the scene, Williams said. He said MacIntire admitted to the killing and has been charged with first-degree murder.
Gordon was 57.
"She was such a neat lady," said Kihei resident Barrie Warner, who got to know Gordon in 2010 when they became neighbors after Gordon moved from Lahaina to Wailuku. "She was so loved."
Although Gordon had health problems, "she never focused on what was going on with her," Warner said.
"She always wanted to help heal and love the people in her life," Warner said. "She was so comforting. She became such a good friend."
The two would go out to eat at restaurants, including Longhi's, owned by Gordon's friend the late Bob Longhi, Warner said. "He would never let her pay," Warner said. "He spoiled her whenever he got the chance."
Warner and others affectionately called Gordon "Shirl."
"She was quirky, really funny," Warner said. "She always had a smile."
Even after moving to Central Maui to be closer to the hospital because of her health problems, Gordon would make her way to the west side for church at Ka'anapali Beach Hotel, with help from a friend, said the Rev. Beverly Powers of The Living Ministry.
"They would sit in the front row, and Shirley loved to listen to the sermons and the songs," said Powers, who got to know Gordon a few years ago. "Her faith was what triggered me."
"Shirley was so precious," Powers said. "She was really a strong businesswoman. She would say to me, 'I can't wait to get better so I can come and help you.' "
In early July, after garage sales on two weekends to sell her belongings, Gordon left for South Lake Tahoe, near her mother and other relatives, Powers said.
When she spoke to Gordon on the phone a couple of weeks before her death, Powers said she could tell the move had been good for her.
On the Mainland, she went to birthday parties for two uncles and seemed to be feeling better, said her mother, Aline Gordon.
"She started to bloom," Gordon said. "She became very open and bubbly like she used to be."
Gordon was born Aug. 9, 1956, in San Rafael, Calif. She lived in Vallejo and the San Fernando Valley and attended middle school in South Lake Tahoe.
Later, she moved in with her uncle and his family in Lakeridge, Nev., where she graduated from Whittell High School. While living with the family, Gordon shared a room with the same cousin she had been staying with in South Lake Tahoe when she died, Aline Gordon said. "They were very close," she said.
Gordon attended San Diego State University. She was 20 or 21 when she moved to Maui, following the manager of the Chart House restaurant where she was working as a cocktail waitress, her mother said.
Eventually, she ran Shirley Gordon & Associates, working as a vacation marketing consultant to rent condominiums and provide other services for visitors. Aline Gordon said she met Robert Redford at her daughter's house when she was arranging a ride to a picnic for the actor and a friend, only to end up driving him herself. Another client was Michael Jackson's manager at the time.
A newspaper article said Gordon brokered what at the time was believed to be the largest condominium sale on Maui of a Kapalua Ironwoods unit for $1.7 million, her mother said.
Gordon got her real estate license after Jack Kelley of Whalers Realty talked her into doing property management for him, Aline Gordon said.
Gordon also helped with fundraisers and charity golf events, including a memorial tournament for Kelley, who had been her boyfriend.
Realtor Laurie Lowson said she worked with Gordon as a wine sommelier at Kapalua Bay Hotel, starting when it opened. "She was a good person," Lowson said. "She always had a lot of fun. She enjoyed life."
Arline Gordon said her daughter "never married, never had any children."
"But she was very loving to children, and she used to take her friends' little girls over to her house and have pajama parties," she said. "She liked to take care of little children. She was good with them. She liked taking care of older people, too."
A service for Gordon was held Saturday in South Lake Tahoe.
Family members plan to scatter her ashes in the ocean off Maui.
In addition to her mother, Gordon is survived by her brother Marcus Gordon and sisters Rosanne Gordon St. Onge and Sarah Byrne.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.