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Dana Reed and Bill Rathfon are among Maui’s unsung heroes

By Staff | Dec 6, 2018

Busy Kapalua volunteers Dana Reed and Bill Rathfon plan to move to the Mainland in mid-August.

KAPALUA – When retired electrical engineers Dana Reed and Bill Rathfon moved to Maui from Colorado in 2008, they literally immersed themselves in the community. It was a stunning display of volunteerism, encapsulating values it takes some a lifetime to achieve.

In the short ten years they have lived on the West Side in Kapalua, their good works and outreach improved the quality of life for every single being on our island, both above and below the water.

“I have been on the board of the Napili Bay and Beach Foundation for several years. I am also a member of the Maui Nui Marine Resource Council and have served as the chairman of the Clean Water Committee. I have served as the West Maui coordinator for the Hui O Ka Wai Ola Project since it started in 2016. Currently I am working on quality assurance and data analysis for Hui O Ka Wai Ola. Bill is the data manager for Hui O Ka Wai Ola,” Dana detailed.

It’s a mouthful; and, for retired people, they have been busy, but Dana’s short clip on their activities only scratches the surface.

More aptly, Dana and Bill are lifelong learners, with their quest for knowledge leading them from goalpost to the next – all the while quietly endeavoring to make the world a better place wherever they have walked.

“I started taking marine science classes soon after we arrived, because I wanted to know more about the marine life I was seeing as I snorkeled. As I took classes and made observations in the water, I began to understand the importance of the ecosystem as a whole. Brown water events that happened on Maui troubled me, and I wondered what the impacts these brown water events were having on the marine environment,” Dana explained.

“I read journal articles and talked to experts about the issues,” Dana continued. “In late 2013, we began to see frequent brown water events at D.T. Fleming Beach Park, and we (both Bill and I) began to explore what was happening.”

West Maui County Councilwoman-elect Tamara Paltin met the eco-conscious couple “when we were having a lot of brown water events at Honokahua,” due to the runoff from the Mahana Estates development, she recalled.

The trio met over water samples on brown water days at the bay.

“I could call Dana up any time to come pick up water samples from me at work, or call Bill to get aerial (drone) photos of the brown water that eventually were regularly shown on the news after we sent them into the state Department of Health,” Paltin advised.

“With her (Dana’s) documentation,” Paltin observed, “the county actually stopped work on the project (Mahana Estates) until adequate Best Management Practices were put in place.”

Committed to the message that “clean water is crucial for successful coral reef habitats,” Dana joined forces with the Maui Nui Marine Resource Council (MNMRC).

Robin Newbold, the chair of the MNMRC, recognized Dana’s steadfast approach.

“Dana is one of the unsung heroes of Maui,” Newbold commented, “an enterprising hard worker who recognized the need for ocean water quality testing off our shorelines and persevered to set all of the necessary components in place to make it happen.

“Dana was a driving force in creating and leading our unique volunteer-based Hui O Ka Wai Ola water testing program and establishing the rigorous protocol, volunteer training and oversight to generate quality assured data accepted by the state Department of Health,” Newbold added.

With Dana in the lead, there are now 48 coastal water quality testing sites extending from Honolua to Ahihi Kinau, and Maui now has significantly more information about our coastal water quality, impacting our residents, visitors and marine environment, Newbold advised.

The couple’s talents have not exclusively been focused on the underwater world. Stemming from their enrollment in an adult Hawaiian language class, they have acquired a passion for Kula Kaiapuni o ma Nahi’ena’ena, the Hawaiian Language Immersion Program at Princess Nahi’ena’ena Elementary School.

“As an adult student in Kumu Liko’s Hawaiian language class and also being retired,” Bill explained, “I had time available to help where I could. As a software developer, I was drawn to the computers in the back of his classroom at the school and wanted to know how Liko utilized them in a classroom setting where Hawaiian is spoken. That led to helping him with his computers and their content.”

The experience was memorable.

“He (Liko) also encouraged members of this adult class to come in and spend volunteer time with the keiki in his classroom to immerse themselves with these students to help learn and speak Hawaiian. It is really special to have spent time with the keiki when they were in kindergarten and to see many of them continuing on in Hawaiian Immersion at the intermediate school and the high school.”

“‘Anakala Pila, as we affectionately called him in Kula Kaiapuni, was our main man when it came to photography and technology. He would come along with us on field trips and take photos of whatever we were exploring with the keiki and turn them into awesome videos. He helped us to establish a website as well as a Facebook page for our Hui Makua,” Kumu Liko said.

Paltin appreciated their aloha for West Maui. “They moved here with all these technical skills like engineering and computer knowledge and went right to work in our community helping with the immersion program at Princess and the environment.”

Sadly, Bill and Dana are returning to the Mainland in mid-August.

“We are leaving, because we would like to be closer to Bill’s parents who live in Pennsylvania, so that we can help them continue an independent, active lifestyle as long as possible as they age,” Dana said.

“We love Maui, especially the people,” she confided, “but it’s time to be nearer to our family.”

It is an understatement to say, “They will be missed.”

“Words cannot describe my aloha for Dana Reed and Bill Rathfon,” Ekolu Lindsey said. “They have embodied kuleana (responsibility), kokua (giving without any expectations of a return), laulima (working together) with aloha (love and compassion).”

“Your legacy on Maui will carry on,” Lindsey confirmed.