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A fork in the road

By Staff | Sep 17, 2015

Longtime community volunteers Joe and Ruth McKay are moving to Oregon at the end of the month.

WEST MAUI – My friends Joe and Ruth McKay, who came to Maui in 1975 when there wasn’t a stoplight in Lahaina Town, will be leaving us at the end of September for Oregon. After raising two girls and getting them into college, the major fork in the road they took then became a blessing for our town.

Ruth and Joe’s foresight and hard work brought Lahaina many annual events that Lahaina enjoys today. Joe joined the Lahaina Yacht Club (LYC), where he and Ruth have been ongoing members for 40 years. In 2002, he was named commodore and has enjoyed leading and participating in numerous events.

Joe transferred to Maui in hotel management and was involved with the building of the Sands of Kahana. He was a project inspector and consulting engineer for the Kahului Airport, Maalaea Harbor and Lanai Harbor.

Ruth served as president of the West Maui Taxpayers Association (WMTA) upon her arrival and became a Hawaii real estate broker in 1979, working at Village West Realty and Lowson & Associates for 19 years. She is currently the owner of Maui USA Realty Inc., which she opened in 2001.

While Ruth was the president of WMTA, she worked with the Kapalua Land Company, which donated the land for what is now the Napili Fire and Ambulatory Station. Former Maui Mayor Linda Lingle advised that if Lahaina could build the station with donations, the county would put money in the budget and staff it. One of the largest fundraisers, the “Fireman’s Ball” organized by Joan McKelvey, helped achieve that goal.

Ruth obtained a second grant for building and procurement of Pohaku Beach Park in Kahana. This small beach park is often referred to as “S-Turns,” because of the curve in the road that used to be there years ago before it was straightened.

In the late 1970s/early 1980s, Hannibal Tavares won the mayoral special election and announced that he planned to close the entrance to Front Street at Lahainaluna Road and Papalaua Street from Honopiilani Highway. For Front Street businesses, this was alarming and a potential detriment to doing business on Front Street.

A savvy group, including Connie Sutherland, McKelvey and Donna Soares, approached McKay for help. WMTA ran full-page ads in the Honolulu newspapers, and Tavares dropped the initiative to close access to Front Street. Later, this group moved forward and began what is now known as the LahainaTown Action Committee (LAC). Although McKay never served on the LAC board, she did assist with the formation of the committee.

Prior to these achievements, Ruth, a 30-year member of Soroptimist International of West Maui (SIWM), was a strategic planner of what became a Lahaina favorite, the Lahaina Keiki Halloween Parade. The original parade had marched to Kamehameha Iki Park (Old Armory Park) next to 505 Front Street. After permits and permission for that location became difficult, the club moved and obtained permits for the parade to end at Banyan Tree Park.

The first official Halloween Keiki Parade was sponsored by SIWM and the Lahaina Rotary Club at the new location. They provided treats to all the keiki, and everyone received a ribbon for their costume. Back then, the event had approximately 100 keiki, while today over 400 children parade down Front Street sponsored and helped along by three Lahaina Rotary Clubs and SIWM.

Over the years, Maui and the McKays have had a long-standing love affair. Joe will tell you he loves the bikinis and the laid back lifestyle. Joe and Ruth are people who believe in giving and giving without a need for praise. Both are involved with the Women Helping Women task force and love giving others a leg up in the community. Both are humble and some of the nicest people I have ever met. They are returning to Lake Oswego, Oregon. They have a condo there and are excited to be with their daughter, son-in-law and, of course, grandchildren.