Family and friends remember Alex Ross
KAHANA – Alexander Dean Kalei Ross passed away on Feb. 27 at his home in Kahana with his wife Louise (Lou) Ross by his side.
He was 79 years old; they were married 55 years.
Alex was a citizen of the world, but his roots were firmly embedded in West Maui. He led a rich life and always shared the bounty.
“He made life an adventure,” his adopted son Larry affirmed.
Daughter (Jessica) Kailani Ross, number three in the Ross lineup of four, eloquently described his legacy: “Aloha kekahi i kekahi, love one another.”
“He lived it – didn’t just say it,” she added.
Born in Honolua in 1937, he was first hanai’d and then later formally adopted by his biological mother’s aunty, Anita Kekuulani from Lahaina, and her husband was Moses Kalani Ross.
“He was Hawaiian through and through,” Kailani told the Lahaina News; and Lou added, “about 85 percent.”
Alex grew up in Lahaina; “the Pacific Ocean was his playground,” Lou said.
He graduated from Lahainaluna High School in the Class of 1956. He was the co-captain of his football team, but a Maui Interscholastic League record majorly chronicled his high school years.
“He used to throw rocks at the mango trees to get the mangos; he had a real strong arm. He set the MIL record in the shot put throw, and that record held for 29 years,” Lou commented.
After graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps; and it was while he was on embassy duty in Rabat, Morocco, that he met his Gibraltar-born wife, Lou Ferrary, and married her.
Ross served two full tours of duty in Vietnam, unscathed. He was stationed on various Marine bases across the country, and the last foreign assignment of his 20-year Marine Corps career was in the Philippines, after which he retired in 1977.
“We came to Maui right away,” Lou observed. “There was never a doubt in his mind where he would go when he retired from the Marine Corps; it was going to be Maui.”
Then his aptly suited career in the hospitality industry began, first at the Royal Lahaina and then at the Kapalua Bay Hotel. But he was best known as the Ambassador of Aloha at the back door of the Hyatt Regency Maui, Lou recalled.
In 1983, he was named the resort’s employee of the year and won an all-expense-paid trip to Hong Kong.
After a successful 20 years, he retired from the Hyatt in 2002. Then the travel-bugged pair globe-hopped as much as they could from Europe and China to North Africa and Gibraltar and then back again.
Beyond his career and traveling years, he lived a life of quiet, yet determined, commitment.
“That’s the legacy he’s left me and left us – responsibility to the community. He’s always been a community person,” daughter Kailani explained. “From Lahainaluna to the responsibility with the people he served in the military with. He’s always had that sense of responsibility to others and that selflessness.”
Many local non-profits have benefitted, and his contributions were felt in many quarters.
It’s mind-boggling; and, to name a few, there was the West Maui Taxpayers Association (WMTA), Lahainaluna High School Foundation, Lahaina Restoration Foundation and Napilihau Homeowners Association.
He helped to author the 1983 Lahaina Community Plan as a volunteer on the Lahaina Citizen’s Advisory Committee.
“As much as he could, he would give blood,” Kailani continued. “He’d do it all the time; what more can you give?”
Fellow volunteers and community leaders acknowledged his strong presence.
Louisa and Rob Shelton have worked with him over the years – Louisa with the Lahaina Restoration Foundation (LRF) and Rob with the Lahainaluna High School Foundation.
“Al became a director (of the LRF) in the early 1990s, and he similarly shared his mana’o and stories from ‘back in the day,’ ” Louisa remembered.
“In recent years,” Louisa continued, “he proudly participated in Lahaina’s Kamehameha Day parades, whether marching or one year riding on the LRF float as he portrayed King Kamehameha, waving and acknowledging the crowd.”
“Al was asked to be on the (LHSF) board,” Rob explained, “because he had such a great connection with people. He reached out to various classes and really helped in connecting our alumni and community to the foundation.”
The Sheltons will miss Al. “We will always be thankful that Al not only touched our lives, but so many around him. His gentle, caring spirit and true sense of aloha should be a lesson to all of us,” said Louisa.
“Al Ross and his wife Lou were early staunch supporters of the WMTA,” Joe Pluta told the Lahaina News.
“Back in the early days, WMTA had so many things on its ‘to do,’ list, and Al and Lou always were pitching in to help achieve our goals.”
Another community leader, Ron Kawahara, recalled fondly his association with Ross: “I knew Alex since he and I served on the board of WMTA, 20-plus years ago. He was instrumental as a board member in pushing for the building of the Napili Fire Station.”
“I also served with Alex on the Lahaina Restoration Foundation Board of Directors. He embodied the true aloha spirit. He was always generous; always giving of his time. I’d never see him angry at anything. That was Alex – just a really nice guy,” Kawahara said.
Donna Soares was especially heartfelt in her recall.
“The one thing I will always remember is how stately he looked – all dressed in white as an Ambassador of Aloha. I will miss the warmth in his smile and his true love for Lahaina,” she said.
“I served with Alex for over 20 years on the Board of Directors for Lahaina Restoration Foundation. He never hesitated to remind all of us that Lahaina is a very special place, and he would never waiver from that. He had a very, very strong ‘sense of place.’ Both my husband (Butch Soares) and I will truly miss him. Even just his presence. God speed, Alika.”
Alex is survived by his wife, three children, ten grandchildren and two great-grandsons.
Visitation will be held from 8:30 to 10 a.m. at Maria Lanakila Church in Lahaina on Saturday, March 12. Mass will begin at 10 a.m. The burial will be held on Monday, March 14, at 1 p.m. at the Maui Veterans Cemetery in Makawao.