Kula chiropractor dreamed big and loved the adventure
Andrew Janssen remembered by his wife and three daughters
After Andrew “Drew” Janssen died in a traffic collision Christmas Eve, his family continued to feel blessed by him.
There were the Christmas presents he already had wrapped, including one in a “weird box” for his wife, Nikki. The box turned out to contain a piece of kiawe wood to give it weight and to keep her from guessing the real gift — a ring to replace one with a birthstone that she had lost.
“He’s such a jokester. He even told me he’s never going to buy me another ring,” she said. “It was really sweet to get gifts from him. It was a blessing.”
And there were stories shared by her and the couple’s 22-year-old triplet daughters, Savy, Sophie and Makena, who remember the longtime chiropractor as an adventurer, exercise enthusiast and dreamer who never gave up.
“My father didn’t just live life, he attacked it,” said one daughter.
At 11:16 a.m. Dec. 24, the 64-year-old Kula resident was wearing a helmet as he rode in a bike lane down Kekaulike Avenue and was hit by a pickup truck turning left onto Hapapa Road in Kula, police said.
Andrew was thrown from his bicycle and died at the scene, police said.
The pickup driver, a 56-year-old Kula man, had failed to observe the bicyclist who was traveling north in the opposite direction, police said.
Friends said Andrew touched many people, including those who contributed to a GoFundMe account for his family that surpassed a $30,000 goal in four days.
A ceremony celebrating his life will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday at Seabury Hall. Noting the significance of both the time and the Jan. 4 date, Nikki said, “He’s going to go forth.”
Andrew was born Dec. 2, 1955, in Iowa City, Iowa, and grew up in Seal Beach, Calif.
He first visited Hawaii in the 1970s, then moved to Maui in 1993.
His daughter Savy said she always tells her friends the story of how her parents met.
“My dad was sort of wandering around. He went to a lot of schools, took a lot of classes,” she said.
Andrew had worked in construction and at restaurants before taking a job on a ship. After he hurt himself on the job, he went to a chiropractor for the first time and decided, “Oh, my God, chiropractic is it. I need to do this.”
He had gone back and forth between California and Hawaii before moving back to California to attend Palmer College of Chiropractic in San Jose.
He and Nikki, who grew up in Orange County, met in 1985 and became friends when she lived along the beach and he played beach volleyball in front of her house.
“We skied and were in a group of friends,” she said. “We were athletic together.”
Both married other people, and Nikki attended Andrew’s wedding.
Later, after they both had divorced, they ran into each other and he suggested they go on a date. On their first date, Andrew told her, “I’m going to marry you.”
On their second date, he asked if she wanted to go to Maui for two weeks.
“And they did and loved it and decided to move here,” Savy said.
“He said he couldn’t live here until he found the right girl,” Nikki added.
After asking her if she would move to Maui with him, Andrew asked “if we could live in Kula, Kula or Kula,” Nikki recalled.
While Nikki worked at a preschool, Andrew had a chiropractic practice in Central Maui.
The couple married in 1994.
After their triplets were born, Andrew started Pukalani Chiropractic. “For a long time, he did both,” she said, before focusing on the Upcountry practice to be closer to home and the children.
The Janssens rode bikes on every island, raising money for cancer research, backpacked in the Sierra Nevada mountains in California and visited Prague in winter.
Andrew jumped off a Hana bridge at night “probably naked” and competed four times in the Cycle to the Sun race from Paia to the top of Haleakala, his family said.
Makena recalled how just before her commencement ceremony from Colorado College in Colorado Springs, her father decided they would hike the Incline, consisting of stairs going 1 mile “straight up.”
“It started hailing on us halfway up,” she said. “He’s, like, ‘We got to finish.’ “
By the time they reached the top, it was 45 minutes before the ceremony. “I had to leave him at the top and I ran all the way down,” Makena said.
She took the car and drove back in time to shower and get ready, while her uncle got her father. “I made it on time, which is what mattered,” she said. “It was so fun. I’m glad we didn’t just go to brunch and safely get there on time.”
Andrew made inspirational “ride to 5” videos after bicycling from the family’s Kula residence to the 5,000-foot elevation of Haleakala. The videos would show the views with the message, “Today is the day to thrive on this ride to 5.”
He also created pet videos featuring the family’s animals, which at one time included Labrador retrievers. “He loved our animals,” which now include three chickens and three cats, Nikki said.
She said her husband also loved going fly fishing and ulua fishing at Plenty Kiawe in Kaupo.
“He was a storyteller and he talked to every single patient,” Nikki said. “He would come home and say, ‘I really like this guy. He’s a good guy.’ He loved everyone.
“He told everyone everything about us. Everyone knew everything about us and we don’t know them at all.”
Andrew would see 20 to 60 patients a day in his practice.
“It was hard to track because some people didn’t make appointments, a lot of people showed up,” said Sophie, who worked in her father’s office after graduating from college in May until August. “It was really entertaining. He would just fit them in.”
Some patients would bring bananas. “He was all about the trade,” Sophie said. One patient gave Andrew guitar lessons.
She said her father supported student athletes, whom he would treat for free. He was “uncle” to many youths.
“He would say, ‘Babe, we’ve got to see the game. I’ve got this patient playing,’ “ Nikki recalled.
Andrew read books about philosophy, health and the environment. He loved Ernest Hemingway and music.
When the girls were in middle school, his wife had Andrew drive them to school. He turned the rides into music education sessions, playing The Beatles and Paul Simon’s “Graceland” at full volume at 6:30 a.m. on the way to school.
Andrew refused to listen to rap and other “new music,” asking where the talent was. “He loved songwriters,” Nikki said.
He also listened and donated to Mana’o Radio. “He said you got to support what you believe in,” Nikki said. “Even when we could have used that money, he would donate. He was very generous.”
He also supported the Auwahi Forest Restoration Project and the Sierra Club.
At home, “he loved making us laugh,” Sophie said.
She remembered a hula her father would do. “Hula is a generous word,” she said. “It was a booty shake with some weird hand motions.”
Andrew was an early riser, starting his day in a hot tub fueled by a wood fire outside the kitchen window and warning his daughters not to look out while he was in the hot tub.
“He loved sunsets,” Nikki said. “That was always a big thing for us. We always made the time to do that, no matter what you’re doing.”
“His trust in people was something really special,” Nikki said. “If all the things that happened to him happened to me, I would not be so trusting or so positive. He was never brought down. He was, like, ‘This is just a challenge I need to rise up to.’
“It was never ‘Woe is me.’ It was, ‘OK, another day. Ride to 5. This is another day to be alive.’ “
Andrew’s dreams included starting a clinic in Kulamalu and opening a brewery.
“He was a really big dreamer,” Nikki said. “He always had a project. Every single one of his dreams, he never gave up on.”
That was reflected in his personalized license plates — NVRKWT for never quit, DAR2DM for dare to dream and GLSHFL for glass half full.
In California, he had a license plate LIVBETER.
Andrew was “obsessive about exercise,” which he considered important for mental well-being, Nikki said. He had notes for a planned book he titled “Walk To Happy.”
“He firmly believed if you worked out, you can change your life,” Nikki said.
When Andrew died, all three daughters were home for the holidays from California — Savy from Chapman University in Orange, where she teaches after just completing her master’s degree; Sophie from San Francisco, where she works for a consulting firm; and Makena, from Santa Clarita where she is in the graduate program in graphic design at the California Institute of the Arts.
“He was super proud of us,” Makena said. “Now we get to brag about him.”
After hearing Andrew’s oft-repeated stories about backpacking in New Zealand, salmon fishing in Alaska and hitchhiking across Canada, “the entire Canada,” his family anticipates hearing other people’s stories about him at the ceremony Saturday.
“I just keep telling myself I’m going to be celebrating him for the rest of my life,” Savy said.
In addition to his wife and daughters, Andrew is survived by his parents, Rosemary and Hal Janssen; and his brothers, Eric Janssen and Matt Janssen. Another brother, Derk, died about five years ago.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.