LAHAINA - As Lahainaluna High School students, teachers, administrators and staff return to campus next week to begin the 2014-15 school year, all will feel a distinct void.
After 30 years of service as an English teacher, Special Motivation Program leader, yearbook coordinator and, perhaps most significant of all, as the Lunas' student activities coordinator, Art Fillazar - affectionately known as "Uncle Fill" on the historic campus - has left LHS.
He considered retirement, but this summer Fillazar accepted a position at St. Anthony Junior Senior High School as director of admissions and student activities coordinator.
Born and raised on Maui, Fillazar graduated from St. Anthony School in Wailuku and went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Secondary Education and English with a minor in Spanish from St. Martin's University in Washington State.
He returned to the Valley Isle and soon took the SMP position at Lahainaluna.
It was a shaky start for the aspiring young educator, but he experienced a life-changing revelation at his first Lahainaluna graduation at the end of that first school year.
"As the boarders sang 'Yonder Lahaina Mountains' and the seniors sang the Alma Mater, I felt the mana - the spirit - of the school, and it was my sign that I should stay and probably what many others have experienced at graduation here," said Fillazar.
Thus began a most colorful and important leadership career in the development of the cultural programs of one of the nation's oldest public high schools.
Throughout those 30 years, he played active roles in coordinating homecomings, junior prom court dances, David Malo Days and leadership camps. Fillazar also served as a substitute dorm counselor.
One of Uncle Fill's fondest memories is the school's dominance of the Maui County Fair School Spirit Award. Lahainaluna won the top honor for the ten years that the program was featured at the event.
In effect, the coordinators of the competition retired the award to the unbeatable Lunas from the West Side.
"So much fun and creativity went into those competitions," said Fillazar. "Enthusiasm is contagious, and leadership is action rather than a position. No shame make 'A'; no one can beat Lahainaluna's cheering and screams - chicken skin!"
Fillazar worked diligently to ensure that all students felt that mana - that tradition that has been part of the school since the beginning.
He said he will miss this spirit of Lahainaluna and the historic campus.
"I hope that special feeling never fades; that feeling when we sing the Alma Mater and 'O Kou Aloha' that brings tears to my eyes. Tears of joy, pride, endearing memories."
Fillazar will stay involved with student activities, such as the Maui Youth Relay For Life. And he will definitely help Jayme Carlos transition into her new role as student activities coordinator at LHS.
"I hope all the teachers and staff help the students maintain the spirit and pride at Lahainaluna. Get involved with the students outside of the academic world by attending sports events, school assemblies, helping advisors and volunteering to chaperone for school activities," he said.
"Life is going over hurdles to reach the finish line, and finishing the race is what counts. I will miss everyone and will cherish my memories at Lahainaluna. A hui hou, Lahainaluna! Love you!"