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Father Bill and Dr. Busaba Yip-Douglas: Mini profiles

By Staff | Dec 20, 2012

Busaba Yip-Douglas practices the art of Qigong.

LAHAINA – When a columnist sets out to chronicle the lives of remarkable people in Lahaina and on Maui, recognition soon comes that one can never catch up.

The list of growing interview candidates has stood at 50 for a long time. Lahaina News doesn’t have the space, and The Maui News has no interest in a column from me.

So begins two, maybe three, mini profiles at a time with Rev. William J. Albinger Jr. and Dr. Busaba Yip-Douglas. These two remarkable people preside over institutions at the opposite ends of Front Street, and both have had much reason to celebrate this year.

Father Bill is rector of Holy Innocents Episcopal Church, a bright white gem celebrating its sesquicentennial this year a few blocks from the Banyan Tree.

“Nothing beats this – 150 years,” said the popular priest, whose eloquent sermons and use of the Hawaiian language stand out among the town’s preachers and priests. Some 400 or more of his sermons can be found at “http://www.holyimaui.org”>www.holyimaui.org.

Father Bill happily greets a parishioner after mass.

Few beat the priest on diversity either. He is a former corporate lawyer, a former Catholic and a former combat engineer in Vietnam.

Holy Innocents had the first pastor who was Native Hawaiian. Albinger, a gay rights advocate, has had the same partner for 22 years.

“We were legally married in our home state of Massachusetts and had the same rights and obligations as our neighbors. We were treated equally under the law. Upon arriving in Hawaii, we became legal strangers to one another,” he said last year, testifying on the civil unions bill before the Hawaii Legislature.

“For our relationship not to be recognized legally in Hawaii,” Father Bill continued, “is a violation of our equal protection and rights as law-abiding, productive citizens of Hawaii. For people to say that our relationship is a threat to the family or anyone else is, in my opinion, beyond reason.”

Summing up his varied life – including dressing up as a missionary for a Lahaina Restoration Foundation Progressive Dinner – Father Albinger noted that “it is amazing what God has called me to do.”

Humble Busaba Yip-Douglas last August let tears flow easily at the unveiling of a handsome bronze statue of Sun Yat Sen, Chinese revolutionary considered the George Washington of China. Sen, schooled in Hawaii, was heavily financed in his revolutionary work by a Kula immigrant farmer.

The restored, century-old, Victorian-style Chinese social hall on Front Street – late Architect Uwe Schulz was involved in that restoration, too – is the place with the adjoining former cookhouse where Thomas Edison’s films of early Hawaii are shown.

Instead of passing by, visitors and locals would do well to stop in, see the temple and artifacts relating to the 60,000 Chinese who came here in the early 19th century and to meet the charming Dr. Yip-Douglas.

In humble, quiet descriptions, she tells the story of Sun Yat Sun and how immigrants built their own “Chinatown” in Lahaina just a century ago.

Telling Sen’s story “is my calling, especially now with the statue,” she said. It was Yip-Douglas who asked a Maui visitor who has placed 96 statues of Sen around the world whether Lahaina could get the 97th. She got it!

Greeting visitors one “Second Friday,” she asked them, cameras at the ready, “How much time do you have – 20 minutes? When I was very young, we always had a picture of Sun Yat Sen in the house. I did not know him much. I came here (to the Wo Hing Temple) and worked 20 years. I soon learned a lot more.”

Now, she said “telling Sen’s story is a calling of my ancestors to do my work here.” She likes to tell the history of this place to the locals and visitors who come from Taiwan and Mainland China, who want to learn about their roots across the ocean.

Yip-Douglas taught school in China but got burned out working 15 years in squalid conditions. Off to Canada, she ended up in San Francisco, where she earned a doctorate degree and came to Maui on a project. “Now Maui is my new university,” she concluded.