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After tough start, Rosenthal enters golden chapter of his life

By Staff | Apr 18, 2013


This is a story that began 18 years ago on the dark side of the rainbow of life and slowly has brightened over that span to become a heartwarming manifestation of the richness of existence here in our village of Lahaina.

To be straight up, Malu Rosenthal – along with sisters Leilani and Loke – had a tough start in life. Neglected, physically abused and slipping down that dead-end alley to oblivion, Malu and his sisters found refuge when their grandparents, Phyllis and Don Rosenthal, stepped in to alter the course of their lives.

“With the help of a concerned friend who guided us through the process, we gained legal custody of Loke and Leilani, and we adopted Malu. They had a tough upbringing as their mom and dad had problems with the law, and we didn’t want them to become wards of the state,” Don explained.

“I had given Malu my telephone number and told him to call me if there ever was a problem with his mom or dad. He was three years old when he called me and said that his father had hit him. That was it. My son and I went over to their house, my son went in and knocked the guy out with one punch, and we grabbed the kids and brought them home with us. We then went through the process to legally have custody of them.”

Today, thanks be to God, it is a much brighter picture.

Leilani, the youngest, is a happy-go-lucky 14-year-old who is singing and dancing with life as a sophomore at Lahainaluna High School; Loke is a junior and standout on the Lady Luna basketball team; and Malu, now 18 and a senior, stands ready to move on to a golden chapter of his life with the family Rosenthal.

As would be expected from his early child development years, Malu grew up as a somewhat withdrawn personality. But, as the years went by, the slumped back started to straighten up, a dry sense of humor emerged, and a twinkling new Lahaina star started to appear.

Nurtured by the family’s strong Christian faith and the collective community care of Princess Nahi’ena’ena Elementary, Lahaina Intermediate and Lahainaluna High School, Malu has progressed to his senior year and stands on the cusp to the first four-year college education in his family’s history. He has earned a 3.0 cumulative grade point average at Lahainaluna.

The contributions by Phyllis and Don Rosenthal to the community through youth sports here on the West Side have been well-documented in this paper. But over the last five years, they have added golf to the list of athletic offerings for the youngsters here.

Malu took full advantage of the opportunity to learn the game and hone his skills at two of the world’s top golf venues – Kapalua and Kaanapali. Now, thanks to the efforts of coaches Sutee Nitakorn and Mike Jones, who are the directors of golf at Kaanapali and Kapalua, respectively, Malu has risen to be one of the top players in the Maui Interscholastic League and has led the Lunas to top finishes for four straight years. He is a three-time MIL All-Star and will likely be in the running for Player of the Year for 2013.

All this has led to an offer from Warner Pacific College in Oregon to attend the school as a member of its golf team. A Christian college near Portland, Warner Pacific is a NAIA school with a small town atmosphere – probably much like Lahaina.

“This is the best fit for me,” said Malu, who plans to major in business administration or sports management when he goes up there this fall.

“I owe so much to my grandparents for all that has happened to me – it is like a dream come true,” he said. “With going to college and all, I hope I can set the tone for the rest of my family. I also want all the kids here in Lahaina to realize that if I can get the opportunity, then they can, too. Then all of us can come back and give back to the community.”

Malama pono – to nurture in a motherly way all that is good and righteous.