homepage logo

Don Rosenthal has fond memories of his 40 years in Lahaina

By BY WALTER CHIHARA - | May 21, 2021

Don and Phyllis Rosenthal have retired and relocated to Oregon with several of their children and grandchildren.

LAHAINA — In 1973, Red and Ione Rosenthal decided that enough was enough. The snow, ice, wind and freezing temperatures of Minnesota had taken its toll on the family of mom, dad, and their six children, so they packed their belongings and left White Bear Lake and headed west to the dreamscape and warmth of the island of Maui.

However, one of their children was an aspiring professional baseball player trying out for a Minnesota AA team in an independent league in California.

Don Rosenthal was a strong-armed 18-year-old right-hander at the time and was following in the footsteps of his dad. who also was an accomplished pitcher.

But the tryout was short-lived as Rosenthal injured his throwing shoulder and turned his focus to military service in the United States Marine Corps. He stayed in the Marines for three years before deciding to join the rest of his family in Lahaina.

He met the woman that would become his lifelong partner in 1979, and they were married soon thereafter.

Children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren soon followed for Phyllis and Don Rosenthal.

He worked at several Kaanapali resorts as an auditor before he found his true calling with the Maui County Department of Parks and Recreation.

With his lifelong sports background in baseball, hockey, football and soccer, Rosenthal fit perfectly into the burgeoning West Maui family community working in parks and recreation. Youth athletic programs across the board were taking off throughout the year in Lahaina, and concerned local leaders soon joined forces for an organized future for the kids.

In 1983, Rosenthal was among the founding group of the West Maui Youth Athletic Association that would provide organizational leadership for youth sports here in Lahaina.

The WMYAA solidified West Maui Little League Baseball, West Maui Youth Soccer Organization, Lahaina Flag Football, and, most prominently, the West Maui Youth Basketball League and Lahaina Junior Golf.

Under Dandy Don’s direction, the WMYBL and LJG have grown to become two of the most respected youth sports programs not only here in Maui but across the state as well. Recreation directors look to West Maui Parks and Recreation as a model for youth sports programs.

In particular, the hoop dreams that reside in the house that Don built at the Lahaina Civic Center during the winter months in the WMYBL provide inspiration and healthy activity for some 450 keiki every year.

Kids from age four to 14 are provided a model pathway of basketball and sportsmanship in the program that leads to further successes in high school and beyond.

Make no mistake about it: the WMYBL prepared young kids with a foundation in the sport that has brought high levels of success to both the boys and girls basketball programs at Lahainaluna High School. Several Luna graduates have continued success into the college ranks as well.

The LJG program has provided a similar impetus for young golf enthusiasts here on the West Side. The blueprint that Rosenthal and the WMYAA set is a highly productive guideline for young girls and boys to nurture their games at the world-class golf courses at Kaanapali and Kapalua.

Don and Phyllis have retired and relocated to Oregon with several of their children and grandchildren.

They both have fond memories of their 40 years in Lahaina, and, in particular the happy days in the Lahaina Civic Center and at the Lahaina Recreation Center park.

“It was always nice to see everyone get together for fun. To see so many smiles; seeing the families cheering for the kids was always the best. Sportsmanship as the number one priority as the nicest thing of all,” Don concluded.

From generations of the Lahaina community, thank you to Don Rosenthal for all you did to help the kids to a happy life!