The ballfields at the Lahaina Recreation Center and the hard court at Lahaina Civic Center were second homes to longtime Lahaina resident Joe Bento. As an administrator, official, coach and player, Bento spent over 30 years helping to run the West Maui Youth Basketball League, West Maui Little League Baseball and Maui County Adult Softball League, and his presence became part of the recreation force of the West Side.
That presence - although sometimes gruff and sarcastic on the outside, but always heartfelt on the inside - will now be sorely missed.
Bento - our friend and community sports compatriot, devoted husband and father - passed away recently in a tragic accident on family property in Honokahau Valley. Our deepest sympathies go to Joe's wife, Rose, and their grown son, Jojo.
Joe worked alongside Don Rosenthal in establishing the West Maui Youth Athletic Association, which became the driving force that led to the highly successful basketball, baseball and softball programs on the West Side that have become iconic of the character and togetherness of our community.
Rosenthal said, "Joe and Steve Ashfield were my right-hand men in running the baseball and basketball leagues for the kids. They helped me keep it alive and they did everything: keep score, referee, set up, break down - everything. I don't know if I could have kept it going without Joe and Steve.
"Joe was from the East Coast and had this rough exterior - he worked construction and at Lahaina Surf and at Sacred Hearts School - but he had a heart of gold. Every kid that played for him - be it in basketball or baseball - loved playing for him. He was gruff at times... he always told it like it is, and he would do anything for the kids. Rose would be there, too, helping out with the paperwork, and at times they would put in money out of their pockets to keep the leagues going," Rosenthal continued.
"I have the highest respect for Joe. He was simply the type of guy who would keep on giving for the kids no matter what. I hope the entire West Side community will remember and appreciate all that Joe Bento did for all of us. He was a humble guy and a good friend. We will certainly miss him."
Peace be with you, Joe. Aloha.